How ‘NBC Nightly News’ is evolving its use of Studio 1A as the news cycle demands

On its third night in Studio 1A, “NBC Nightly News” made a few tweaks to the on set graphics — while also showcasing some of the challenges its design team might face in the future when prepping imagery for the video walls.

The first change on the Sept. 15, 2021 broadcast was subtle — instead of a mostly solid blue background on the curved 40-foot video wall in one corner of the studio, anchor Lester Holt stood in front of a graphic that had oversized outlined letters of the “Nightly News” logotype on it at the very top of the broadcast.

All told this only on screen for seconds. 

That outlined text element was not, however, added to any similar simple blue graphics except for the one shown on the flat video wall behind the anchor desk visible just before going to the first break.

During the top story, the LED panels installed over the column to the far right of the curved video wall also sported an off white graphic with gold outlined letters; previously this was dark blue with gold lettering.

The graphics, including the gold toned background, behind anchor Lester Holt shown right before the first break earlier in the week of Sept. 13, 2021.

This lighter graphic also appeared on the video panels that run behind that freestanding flat video wall in the area closer to the “Today” home base. 

The change obviously makes that panel stand out more, but also means some of the “richness” of that background is lost. 

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On Sept. 15, 2021, the gold was switched to off white with gold lettering. It also appears the lettering on the blue panels was punched up a bit.

The nature of news cycles also meant that Sept. 15’s top story didn’t lend itself as well to video wall data points as the broadcast used on night 1 and night 2.

Instead, “Nightly” lead with the U.S. gymnastic team’s testimony on Capitol Hill over how their concerns about sexual abuse at the hands of a now convicted team doctor allegedly went unheard — which is a story rooted more in human emotion than data.

To their credit, NBC producers pivoted well and instead used three different video walls to showcase photography of the victims as well as “pull quote” style graphics taken from their testimony.

However, the challenge of that 40-foot curved video wall’s ultra wide landscape aspect ratio became more apparent when the broadcast displayed solo photos of the doctor and some of the gymnasts. 

Unlike the dramatic imagery of devastation left by Tropical Storm Nicholas, shots of people are a bit more challenging to use in this type of space.

By compositing individual shots of gymnasts with blurs between each shot, the ‘Nightly News’ graphics team was able to fill the full width of the screen. The blurs help make it clear that the imagery had been altered and is a widely accepted practice for this type of presentation. However, this shot also shows how careful design and camera blocking is important — Holt is nearly covering the woman on the far right while the one on the left was cut off until the camera adjusted slightly. It does appear the designers left some ‘padding’ on the right for Holt to stand in front of, but the camera angle didn’t quite work out. 

In this video, the network barely managed to avoid cutting off the law enforcement officer’s eyes. It also added solid colors matching the walls of the room the photo was taken in on either side and blended the photo into them with a gradient mask. 

Similarly, this view of the convicted doctor fades gently off into black as it extends camera right behind Holt. This image in particular appeared a bit scant so it’s possible that a text headline was supposed to be inserted but didn’t make it on air for some reason. 

Since weather wasn’t a major story, Al Roker was not in studio for a report, so after introducing the top story, Holt moved to a seated, rather than standing position, behind the small anchor desk positioned near where the “Today” desk normally sits.

He previously would stand during a toss to and from Roker, who delivered his forecast using the flat freestanding video wall; standing was apparently necessary so that Holt could step out of shot.

During Sept. 15’s second story on coronavirus vaccines, the network did use the production area video wall to showcase some updated data about the toll of the pandemic.

COVID-19 vaccines have undergone extensive testing and monitoring to ensure their safety. Scientific research has shown COVID-19 vaccines to be very safe and highly effective in decreasing the likelihood of contracting the illness and, if one does become sick, symptoms are less severe and less likely to lead to hospitalization or death. For more information about COVID-19 and coronavirus, visit the CDC website. You can locate a free vaccination site or clinic near you at Vaccines.gov. As with any medical decision, you should always discuss your options with your doctor.

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