Happiness is a Warm TV

WRAL’s new set — with a 20-foot LED screen — will keep anchors on their toes

WRAL’s new high-tech set got quite the first-day workout on Thursday.

The new set, which is shared with WRAL’s sister station WRAZ-Fox 50, made its debut on WRAL’s noon newscast on Oct. 31, and thanks to extended coverage in the evening because of severe weather warnings across the Triangle and extended viewing areas, viewers got extra time to check it out.

The centerpiece of the new set is what can only be described as a ginormous LED screen.

According to information provided by Capital Broadcasting Company, which owns NBC affiliate WRAL and WRAZ Fox 50, the set has “what is believed to be the largest local news LED installation in the country.”

The set has two LED screen arrangements that will be used for weather and breaking news, with the giant LED “storytelling wall” measuring 20 feet wide by 11 feet tall.

A new must for anchors: comfortable shoes

The new set design comes with some changes for how the news is delivered: while standing.

On Twitter on Thursday, one viewer asked morning and noon news anchor Renee Chou about the standing and Chou responded: “Because the morning news runs over so many hours, we will have chairs for part of it. But much of it will be standing!”

Nearly all of the regular newscast is delivered while anchors stand in front of the 20-foot LED screen.

During Thursday evening’s extended weather coverage, cameras followed meteorologist Mike Maze as he walked to different groups of screens and to the weather center to report updates and show radar images on the giant screen.

Maze posted on his WRAL Facebook page on Friday that he had foot and leg pain from all the standing the next day. The solution: a cushioned mat. Maze added, “For all the folks worried about us standing up instead of sitting, Deb and David are getting these too.”

And it’s not just on-air talent staying on the move. Another tweet from Chou on Friday morning showed a camera man strapped with what Chou described as “an extra 50 pounds of equipment” to deliver steadicam shots.

In addition to the new set, WRAL, a station known for its early adoption of new technology, says its newscasts will now be shot with 4K HDR (high dynamic range) technology. (WRAL was the first commercial TV station in the nation to broadcast high-definition TV back in 1996.)

WRAL/WRAZ vice president and general manager Joel Davis said in a news release that viewers now expect anchors to also be “explainers,” and that the new set will help with that.

“This set will provide new ways to visually tell and explain stories,” Davis said. “We wanted our anchors to have every option and opportunity to do this with a bold and energetic presentation. The new set contemporizes our look, but more importantly, allows us to give our viewers a better experience.”

Stations must keep up with changing technology

Late last year, Raleigh-based Spectrum News of Central NC, part of a larger national network of 24-hour news stations owned by Charter Communications, nearly doubled its footprint at its Atlantic Avenue location. The expansion included major renovations to its studios (including a revamped weather center with a 13-foot LED wall) and additional staff.

A few months before the Spectrum renovation, the WTVD studio on Fayetteville Street underwent an expansion and renovation, which meant the entire ABC11 morning news team was able to relocate from Durham to downtown Raleigh.

The Walt Disney-owned station still counts its home base as the Liberty Street newsroom in Durham, but its Fayetteville Street studio, which opened in 2005, has become more and more important over the years.

ABC11’s studio upgrades included giant monitors for visual storytelling and augmented reality features.

Brooke Cain: 919-829-4579, @brookecain

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Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and answers CuriousNC questions for readers.