CNN Delegates ElectionCoverage to D.C. Control Hub

New center and studios will pump up network’s political reporting

Why This Matters

Designed for Elections

CNN isn’t saying much about the look of the studios it is building for its new CNN Election Center in Washington, D.C. But massive monitor walls and touchscreen graphics that have been the centerpiece of its recent coverage will play a major role.

When combined with the new control room, which was designed to handle the graphics- and data-heavy election coverage, the two largest studios will be able to display visuals on large threemonitor walls, including “magic walls” from Perceptive Pixel with touchscreen capabilities to manipulate and highlight a wide array of election data.

“We could not do the studios as we have planned with three huge video walls without the new control room that gives us the ability to manipulate the images, graphics and video all over the wall,” says Matt Speiser, CNN senior director of operations.

The studios also offer an enormous area for election coverage. For regular newscasts, the two largest studios will be separated by a glass wall, but it can be taken down for major events, providing additional flexibility in the way the network will display and handle Election Night coverage, notes Sam Feist, Washington bureau chief and senior vice president at CNN. A smaller third studio will be capable of handling additional programs and newscasts.

“We designed the studios so they would be adept at handling political data, poll results, election results, focus group results, exit poll results—all the things that are not only important on Election Night but fit in with our daily Washington programming,” Feist says. —GW

As part of an ambitious plan to center its coverage for the fall 2012 elections out of Washington, D.C., CNN has completed a massive state-of-the art control room and is gearing up to build three new studios in its D.C. facility that will go live in September as its new CNN Election Center.

The effort is notable both for the new technology it will provide CNN during its election coverage and as a savvy editorial strategy. In 2008 and 2010, the CNN Election Center was hosted out of the network’s New York studios, with links to D.C., Atlanta and other locations. This time around, headquarters will be located in D.C., with significant additional editorial contributions coming in from New York, Atlanta and other sites.

“The elections are the most important event we will cover this year,” says Sam Feist, Washington bureau chief and senior vice president at CNN. “Our election teams are all based in Washington, so we think this facility coming on line this year gives us more " exibility, and, frankly, the ability to produce what we expect to be the most extraordinary Election Night we have ever produced.”

At the core of the new Election Center is the new Control Room A, which is designed to handle daily newscasts as well as big events such as Election Night and the inauguration, which Feist calls “our Super Bowls.”

During those premier occasions, the size and flexibility of the new control room will offer CNN a number of competitive advantages, notes Matt Speiser, CNN senior director of operations.

“It is a state of the art system, the best control room at CNN, that will allow us to do a lot of things we would struggle to do in a regular control room,” Speiser says.

The control center occupies the space of the old Larry King Live studio, covering about 1,250 square feet. It has 20 seats and can easily be expanded to handle more people for pivotal events such as Election Night, and three rows of wide seating.

Currently, the all-HD control room, which went live this month, is handling The Situation Room, John King USA, State of the Union and Reliable Sources. In August it will be used as the hub for CNN’s convention coverage. “That will be our first major event,” Speiser says.

But its real capabilities will be most evident when coupled with the new studios being built at the Washington facility over the next few months. When these go live in September after the conventions, CNN will significantly improve the visual quality of its newscasts and offer a much wider array of research, data and graphics, says Feist.

Illustrating the amount of data, feeds and information CNN will be able to deploy is the fact that the large production monitor wall inside the control room is capable of displaying more than 400 images across the wall’s 30 largest monitors.

Key vendors for the control room include a Sony MVS-8000 production switcher, Vizrt for graphics, the Vista Spyder system to control the distribution to all the video signals for the massive monitor walls in the new studios and the Euphonix MaxAir audio console.

CNN is also using an Evertz system for managing the monitor walls inside the control room and TV Logic to control producer monitoring. NEC and Samsung supplied those monitors.

Other vendors include Mode-AL, which provides the wall support system, Blue Sky speakers, Image Video for Source ID and Tally, Enco for audio playback and RTS for the intercom system.

Next to the new Control Room A, CNN has also built a smaller Room C, which will provide added " exibility in coverage. “That will allow us to control the monitor walls during shows that demand a lot of wall control,” Speiser says. “It also gives us a small control room for pre-tapes and the ability to free up the major control room if the production doesn’t require it.”

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