‘Saturday Today’ uses video walls to attempt to create D.C. version of Studio 1A in NYC

NBC News‘ Saturday edition of “Today” switched things up May 21, 2022, in an attempt to recreate the “window on the world” look its weekday version uses in New York City.

Back in December 2020, NBC moved “Weekend Today” to Studio N5 in its renovated Washington, D.C. bureau, at least partially as a way to accommodate co-anchors Kristen Welker and Peter Alexander, who are both based in Washington and had been traveling to New York every weekend to anchor from Studio 1A

The show took advantage of the large, horseshoe-shaped LED video wall array installed in the space to showcase graphics that mimic the mullions of windows along with with the scenic banded credenza found in Studio 1A, which is just above the actual color-changing LED banding installed in N5.

Behind the windows are simulated planters with the “Today” logo along with a cityscape of Capitol Hill. The feed is a video loop with subtle motion of vehicles and other elements visible.

The new look extends the faux windows to the two side segments of the video wall as well. Along the top of the LED array is a band of angled graphics that mimics the curved LED header that borders home base in 1A and can be used to display the date.

Alexander was out May 21 with New York-based Joe Fryer filling in.

The show continues to display a vertical panel between anchors that is presumably meant to simulate the real LED panel found in Studio 1A.

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Before switching to the May 21 look, Saturday “Today” editions used a heavily angled and layered design inspired by the graphics package the show introduced in May 2021. This design included filtered images of the Capitol.

When “Today” first started originating from N5, it used a sweeping cityscape of Washington along with banded accents that matched the graphics package that the time. Also included was an orange band of repeating “Today” logos.

One of the slightly ironic parts about this virtual view of the Capitol is that one of the reasons NBC News and other networks are located in the North Capitol building is that it provides real, unobstructed views of the building through its windows.

In this ‘MSNBC Reports’ screenshot, Hallie Jackson is shown anchoring from in front of one of the real windows in Studio N5. The blue and yellow MSNBC graphic on the right side of the picture is an LED column used to hide the structural supports of the building.

Studio N5 has two real windows with an LED column between though the left video wall covers another stretch of glass.

For years prior to the advent of affordable LED video walls, NBC and other networks in the building relied on the real life view of the Capitol visible through the windows as the background for both live hits from the space or entire programs, such as when “Nightly” used the space.

Over time, however, more and more seamless LED was brought in, including the option to cover the windows completely with a rolling video wall or have the real view partially visible.

A version of the view shown on the video wall could actually be achieved for real from the space, at least to some extent, although it likely wouldn’t be as wide or bright, due to the film installed on the real windows to help control sunlight and protective the sensitive gear inside. 

For what it’s worth, NBC could have achieved the exact same look in a bunker six stories underground as long as it had a video wall — rather than pay what is surely big bucks for a prime location.

It’s also worth noting that since N5 is on the eighth floor of the building, even if the view of Capitol Hill was real, those simulated planters would somehow have to be floating in midair or attached the side of the building in some sort of bizarre engineering feat. 

In January 2019, a fire broke out in the building and heavily damaged NBC’s space in the upper levels.

Later that year, NBC announced that it had signed a lease to rent more space in the building, including a windowed first floor suite, to create a new bureau and news hub in the city. This included moving its bureau out of the longtime Nebraska avenue space that it shared with local owned station WRC.

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Prior to the renovations and move to North Capitol, NBC only had studios and small office and technical operations in the building.

NBC also has street-level views of North Capitol and some of the buildings in the area from Studio N1, one of the new spaces it created in the 2021 renovations and is normally home to “Meet the Press.”

The space was designed to have real streetside views that can also be covered with sliding LED panels or a large, gold relief map of Washington, D.C.’s street system, though since it’s at a lower level, it’s likely this wouldn’t achieve as dramatic a view of the Capitol.

In addition not using N1 for “Today” means NBC does not have to deal with potential crowds gathering outside of the studio like what happens in New York. Corralling and controlling the crowds requires security and the streetside windows have attracted the occasional flashers, streakers and even an unfortunate slashing incident

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