Studio F: Bringing unique geometry and a bright palette to ESPN

Ahead of this year’s college football season, ESPN revamped its Studio F in Digital Center 1, which has played many roles over the years including serving as the home to “SportsCenter” for over a decade.

The new Studio F set design departs from the wood, brick and leather motif that has become a signature of many sports spaces.

Working with Joe Ferretti, ESPN’s director of studio design and development, 3C Studio, Inc. and designer Camille Connolly explored modern architecture for the set’s inspiration with an eye towards those projects that make a statement through their unique geometry and flowing lines.

“Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid’s works were prominent in our research. It’s not hard to be completely inspired when studying at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles,” noted Connolly. “Like a lot of the research, we made each scenic piece a stand-alone element that echos the form – almost like waves.”

Modern architecture, of course, is not only showcased through art museums and civic buildings but has become popular in the world of sports as well with recent stadium projects – such as SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium – featuring flowing designs mixing glass, steel and dramatic curves.

ESPN Studio F

Studio F during college football coverage on ABC.

The set’s palette is also flexible through its use of light tones. Brushed aluminum, white marble and light wood laminates allow for the space to take on many different appearances depending on video display graphics and lighting cues.

“Part of what thrills me about this set design is the light, bright nature of the materials and the way they accentuate the structure of the scenery and take light beautifully,” added Connolly.

Studio F with lighting cues for “The Point,” a new NHL program airing Thursdays on ESPN2.  Photos courtesy of ESPN Images.

Lit by ESPN’s internal team, the space includes a variety of wash lights to dramatically hit the set’s floor and wrap-around perforated mesh panels with pops of color while integrated cove lighting hits the “wave” segments.

Designed with programming flexibility

Studio F serves as the primary wraparound studio for ABC’s college football coverage – providing a home for pre and post-game along with halftime updates – and will serve a similar role for college basketball.

The studio is also set to host NHL coverage this season with shows such as “The Point” originating from it as part of ESPN’s new broadcast rights agreement with the league.

Along with display technology and lighting cues, the studio has flexibility built-in through scenically swappable pieces that can transition between sports.

Three tracking plexiglass panels are located on both sides of the main LED video wall with different logos including sport-specific and ESPN branding. Optional floor graphics can also be applied to further brand the space.

The main desk, meanwhile, allows for branding through its unique v-shaped LED display created using DesignLED AmFlex titles. Designed to accommodate two to five, the desk can expand with two wings to add additional talent positions and even shoot in the round.

The LED panels on the desk and around the studio, including the five curved video displays, were supplied by AV Design Services.

The set’s casual seating area is designed to play multiple roles from an augmented reality backdrop to a demo area.

The area’s riser includes an internally lit coffee table as a marquee element with a variety of configurations possible depending on production need.

An additional area of the set includes a touchscreen display for review of key plays while a unique pipe and plexiglass bookcase allows for sports-specific props.


Layering in augmented reality

This season, ESPN has leaned heavily into augmented reality for its college football coverage, with Studio F providing a key foundation.

These AR graphics, including teases for upcoming games and key player stats, take full advantage of the set’s integrated lighting to match team colors and provide a layered design package.

This setup uses Vizrt for graphics output with camera tracking from Mo-Sys’s StarTracker, with ESPN’s creative services team providing design.

Project Credits

Set Design – 3C Studio, Inc.
Studio Development – Joseph Ferretti of ESPN 
Lighting – ESPN Lighting Team
Integration – ESPN
Fabrication – Blackwalnut
AV Technology Provider – AV Design Services
LED Studio Technology – DesignLED