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Fox News Super-Sizes Studio

The former home of New York City's Dish of Salt restaurant is the newest place from which Fox News Channel will dish dirt. The 3,600-square-foot studio, dubbed Studio D, is the largest of the four studios the news net has in New York and will be the home for Fox & Friends, Cavuto on Business, Dayside With Linda Vester
and special events like election-night coverage.

Fox showed off the new studio to the press last Wednesday at a party attended by network heavies like Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.

According to Warren Vandeveer, Fox News Channel vice president, engineering and operations, the six-month project involved a tight schedule, tight budget and the usual travails that pop up in the effort to turn a space in a New York City office building into a TV studio. One problem in particular: the required removal of a column that would affect the studio space. It's the same problem CNN ran into when it opened its most recent studio, and Vandeveer faced a similar challenge when he helped get CNBC's Fort Lee, N.J., facility operational.

"Whenever you do a project in midtown Manhattan and try to have the building be something it isn't, like a TV studio, it's not easy," he says. "Keeping to a timetable and a budget while also working in an occupied area were the challenges."

The "occupied area" involved part of the Fox News newsroom. The studio is located on the street level, and the newsroom is located on the concourse level, with part of it directly below the studio. While construction crews looked to keep demolition and welding work to off-hours, Vandeveer points out that, unfortunately, there really aren't off-hours for a 24-hour news channel.

Any disruptions, however, were offset by the end result: a studio large enough to handle special events that can bring on-air talent together in a way that previously wasn't possible. The space was operational on May 12, with Dayside
being the first program. It was soon followed by Neil Cavuto's program and is expected to have Fox & Friends on the premises within a month.

The new studio also has a new control room. It has updated versions of gear found in the other control rooms, such as the Thomson DD35X10 production switcher. The other rooms have DD35s, but the X10 gives improved functionality, such as built in digital video effects, enhanced timelines and more inputs.

"Our technical directors that are familiar with the DD35 can get all the capabilities out of the X10 feature set with only a little bit of training," Vendeveer explains. The built-in DVE will be used alongside an external Accom DVEous DVE. The external unit has more framestores and more capabilities, Vendeveer adds.

One of the ways the new control room differs from the others is the use of four 67-inch Clarity AP/LCD displays driven by Miranda's Kaleido display processor. The Miranda unit allows the four Clarity units to be configured to display up to 32 video inputs in either 4:3 or 16:9 mode. Each input also will display tally and undermonitor information, virtually re-creating what would typically be a monitor wall with standard monitors and much less flexibility. For example, the Kaleido system will make it possible for Fox News to reconfigure the wall for 16:9 events that may appear on the Fox network.

"If you build a 16:9 facility and use it for 4:3 most of the time, you'd be compromising the plant," says Vandeveer. "But now we can do 16:9 out of this control room because the cameras, switcher and monitors can all handle it."

The facility is based primarily on Thomson gear, with four Thomson LDK200 studio cameras mounted on Radamec pan/tilt/zoom robotic heads. The cameras are manned by operators during live programs but can also be controlled robotically from the control room.

On the audio side, Studio D features the first digital audio console at Fox News. A 48-channel Calrec digital console (with a matrix allowing mapping of 128 inputs) makes it easier to set up because it doesn't need to be repatched for each program.

The new studio provided an opportunity to revamp other operations at Fox News. The graphics equipment used by the four studios was relocated into one location, and the network is currently upgrading and relocating master-control operations.

"Most of the graphics gear is the same as it was before. but we greatly improved the layout of it," says Vandeveer. "We used to have four little graphic suites, but now we have nine individual rooms and a common work area for the Chyron, Quantel Paintboxes, VizRT, and other gear."

Fox News also added dub stations so that it's easier for the graphics department to grab video frames for use in graphics.

For the master-control upgrade, the Thomson Saturn master-control switcher will add a third channel, providing better monitoring of VBI and closed-caption information.