Inside CFCF’s new Studio 12

The new anchor desk in Studio 12

After a year of planning and months of construction, CFCF’s newscasts officially moved into their new Studio 12 home today. The noon newscast was the first to inaugurate the studio. CTV Montreal has been doing its newscasts from a temporary set in their newsroom since early July.

The new studio was designed from scratch, is larger (or at least it feels that way) and has plenty of new features. The most striking change besides the design is the fact that it has windows. This studio was designed as a storefront, allowing cameras to see out and potential viewers to see in. (Management there isn’t sure how this will work out – they don’t expect any Today Show-style sign carrying, but you never know.)

The studio is also “HD-ready”, which means cabling is HD-compatible and great attention has been made to detail that wouldn’t have mattered in standard-definition days. But the word is that getting high-definition cameras and editing equipment is still a year or two away.

I got a chance last week to tour the new studio as final preparations were being made to launch it, under the condition that I wait until now to show you photos.

The weather desk is to the left of the anchors instead of the right

The weather desk gets a significant upgrade. For one thing, there’s an actual desk there, allowing the weather presenter to work while on the set instead of having to go back to the newsroom.

The green screen used for actually presenting the weather hangs on a rail, which allows it to be moved out of the way should the newscast decide to show the weather by just pointing a camera out the window.

One thing that might be disorienting for long-time CTV viewers is that, because the weather desk is to the left of the anchor desk (from the camera’s perspective), the positions of the weather and sports anchors during the newscasts will swap. You’re going to see Lori Graham on the left of the anchor desk foursome instead of the right. (News Director Jed Kahane says he’s ready for the onslaught of calls complaining about this.)

A giant screen will be used for reporter and anchor stand-ups - here, Todd van der Heyden and Mutsumi Takahashi get instructions from Operations Manager and Chief Director Dave Maynard, who is in charge of the studio project.

On the other side of the anchor desk is a small stand-up desk next to a giant plasma screen. This can be used for on-set reporter debriefs, as well as show openings with the anchors standing up and video running on the screen next to them.

Todd van der Heyden thinks the desk looks like a console from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The guy on the left is making the making-of video.

The new cozy corner has new chairs

Beside the weather desk is the new “cozy corner” used for informal interviews (mainly during the noon newscast). The concept is similar to before, only now instead of a kind of lame shelves-and-a-wall background, there’s a window with traffic outside.

One difficulty, though: This window faces the corner of Papineau Ave. and René-Lévesque Blvd. On the other side of this intersection is a giant Radio-Canada billboard, and behind it, the Maison Radio-Canada. But camera angles will probably be able to avoid showing those things on the air.

Another desk, which wasn’t setup when I was there, will be used for more formal face-to-face conversations.

This desk will eventually be used for cooking segments

And this desk, which arrived just as I was touring the studio, will eventually be used for segments about cooking and nutrition (mostly pre-taped, for the noon newscast). It’s on wheels so it can be moved into and out of position.

This studio cost more than $1 million to produce, and it’s most definitely a lot more style than substance. But it looks pretty cool.

Oh, and as far as they’re as for their old studio, which is just a short walk away in the building, well, it looks like this now:

CFCF's former studio is being turned into an RDS studio

From this angle, we’d be looking at the sports and anchor desks, with the old cozy corner and weather to the right. Clearly, that’s long gone.

I’m working on a larger story about this new studio that will come out in a couple of months. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts about the new digs below.

30 thoughts on “Inside CFCF’s new Studio 12

  1. AlexH

    First off, the main set is incredibly “Bell-CTV generic”, in keeping with the long term goal of removing any local identification from each city’s newscast. It’s nice and modern and all that, but it is so much like the sets seen everywhere else that it is pretty hard to say anything that is impressive about it.

    While it does have some new features to use (like the cozy corner and the standup area), I suspect that most of them will get tested, tried, and then ignored as they are often incredibly awkward and odd in the context of a newscast. Making the “formal” news less than formal is one of those things that most people just don’t seem to get along with. Many seem to find the whole “stand up anchor” stuff to be a little off putting.

    As for the windows, didn’t TQS do this and it pretty much didn’t amount to much?

    The biggest plus for CTV is that more and more of their stuff is generic across the network, which means that they can pretty much film segments in any city, and it all looks the same. I wouldn’t be shocked to see it become another way for the network to cut back on local staff, by using more generic stories sourced across the country.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      First off, the main set is incredibly “Bell-CTV generic”, in keeping with the long term goal of removing any local identification from each city’s newscast.

      The set is designed to fit the feel of the CTV network, and takes some elements from CFTO in Toronto. But it’s also not a copy. It’s a local design with a network feel.

      While it does have some new features to use (like the cozy corner and the standup area), I suspect that most of them will get tested, tried, and then ignored as they are often incredibly awkward and odd in the context of a newscast.

      The entire newscast is an exercise in awkwardness. But the cozy corner was used in the old studio constantly for the noon newscast. I don’t suspect individual parts of the set will be abandoned unless there’s an overwhelming technical reason to do so. As it is the stand-up interview area and cozy corner aren’t meant to be used very often.

      As for the windows, didn’t TQS do this and it pretty much didn’t amount to much?

      There was some discussion comparing this to TQS. The biggest difference is that the windows aren’t behind the anchors. There’s really little functional use to them (beyond being able to see the weather at a glance).

      The biggest plus for CTV is that more and more of their stuff is generic across the network, which means that they can pretty much film segments in any city, and it all looks the same. I wouldn’t be shocked to see it become another way for the network to cut back on local staff, by using more generic stories sourced across the country.

      While using packaged reports from other stations is common practice (and has been for years), it’s very rare that any report includes video from inside the studio, so these two issues really aren’t that related. Calling the newscasts “CTV News” and using the network logo everywhere definitely help with seamless copy-paste though.

      Somehow I doubt they’re going to build a $1-million studio just to have everything done elsewhere.

      Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          in Fagstein hours isn’t that like the supper-hour?

          That’s silly. Midnight is supper hour. 3am is bedtime. And these days I’ve had to be up earlier than usual to do things like go to TV stations.

          Reply
  2. Dennis

    Nice studio, but why is the desk so big, makes the on air people look smallish. Still no high definition. Can someone tell CTV montreal that HD was introduced a few years ago. I can’t watch anything that’s not HD. Imagine watching a hockey game in regular format, not ! Get with the times CTV.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Nice studio, but why is the desk so big

      Because they have up to four people sitting at it.

      Still no high definition. Can someone tell CTV montreal that HD was introduced a few years ago.

      Believe me, they’re well aware of that. But they don’t have the budget yet to replace all their field cameras, their studio cameras, their master control and all their editing equipment with HD. That’s still a year or two away.

      Imagine watching a hockey game in regular format, not !

      That’s the reason RDS’s coverage of hockey games was given priority in the conversion to HD. Local news is one of the last things to get the upgrade, and it’s expensive because there are so many local stations and each needs substantial capital investment to make the upgrade.

      Reply
      1. Apple IIGS

        [blockquote][blockquote]Still no high definition. Can someone tell CTV montreal that HD was introduced a few years ago.[/blockquote]

        Believe me, they’re well aware of that. But they don’t have the budget yet to replace all their field cameras, their studio cameras, their master control and all their editing equipment with HD. That’s still a year or two away.[/blockquote] That says a lot about Montreal on the whole. This is the most watched newscast in the city, possibly the province–aired on a major network no less, yet they cannot afford CURRENT DAY TECHNOLOGY?

        Could you imagine Toronto’s local newscast broadcasting using video equipment from the the previous century? That would be unheard of!

        Of course we’re talking about the city that using THE old rolling stock on planet earth for its subway system. What other cities in the world are still using subway cars that are older than the first moon landing? Or commuter trains that were pre-World War 1? (anyone remember those? They were so old when retired, they were put directly into a museum!).

        Everything about this city seems outdated, old and worn out. I won’t say anything about our roads or hospitals. I suppose our newscasts should fit the bill.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          This is the most watched newscast in the city, possibly the province–aired on a major network no less, yet they cannot afford CURRENT DAY TECHNOLOGY?

          Both Radio-Canada’s and TVA’s local 6pm newscast get higher ratings than CFCF. And the 10pm newscasts on the French networks, which are carried nationally, also have much higher ratings.

          CTV News at 6 is the highest-rated anglo newscast in Quebec.

          As for “current day technology”, what does that mean exactly? A helicopter is current-day technology, but CTV doesn’t have the budget for that either.

          Could you imagine Toronto’s local newscast broadcasting using video equipment from the the previous century? That would be unheard of!

          Toronto is a different animal entirely, because it’s the flagship station. Much like Montreal on the French side.

          Of course we’re talking about the city that using THE old rolling stock on planet earth for its subway system.

          Since the metro system is publicly-owned and CTV News is a private TV station, I really don’t see how those two things compare.

          Reply
        2. Kevin

          @Apple IIGS
          It may be counter-intuitive, but being the number one station by a very distant margin is part of the reason why CFCF has *not* gone HD.

          Simply put, there’s no incentive to put a newscast in HD. It’s an expense without any payoff, so why bother?

          In a competitive marketplace newscasts would have a reason to tout better technology, and that’s why you’ll see most stations in Toronto/Vancouver/Calgary have gone HD. But when your closest competitor has less than 5 percent of your audience, there’s no point.

          And in addition to all the technical changes that people have pointed out, any station broadcasting in HD also has to add staffing levels: People on TV need makeup, which can be self-applied in a pinch with the current cameras.
          When you go HD, you need to have a makeup artist on hand for every broadcast who knows how to use an air brush.

          Reply
          1. Apple IIGS

            @ Fagstein & Kevin

            Granted those are all valid points, and they certainly explain why Montreal CTV News is not filmed and broadcast in HD (side note, I still can’t help but think of it as anything but Pulse News!). Still, for I just see the bottomline here: Montreal’s flagship English news broadcast appears, quite literally, behind the times. It looks outdated.

            That was my point, that so much of Montreal just seems old and behind the times compared to other major cities in North America. Be it the subway, television, roads or bridges. Just shows how times have changed for this city, that was once leading edge.

            Reply
  3. Babu

    The new set sucks. Could the set be any more corporate? They should have just saved the money it cost to build it and just have the letters CTV covering the entire screen for an hour.

    Reply
    1. R.

      That made me laugh. But that aside, I like the new set. I’m also fascinated by the behind the scenes of a newscast… The life in master control. Want to give us an insight from your day today? :-) (Been reading for a few months, but never commented.)

      Reply
  4. Jim C.S.

    This is the old new studio or the new old one ? I don’t see much difference with the old one. 1 million for that ? That is a joke. It is. For 1998, it would look awesome. For 2011, it is just boring.

    I love visiting Newscast Studio to see what tv stations across the US have. Olbermann’s new studio looks like 2011. For sure, it is built for a national network, but still is has that fresh feel.

    http://www.newscaststudio.com/photos/thumbs/lrg-3631-253634_10150280186798554_25682108553_8979276_7945563_n.jpg

    An other good example ? V tele new studio featured in Mario Dumont show and also news reports in the morning. It is bright, is had a real giant screen (made out of more than 12 hd flat screen) and it looks gorgeous.

    The TVA Nouvelles ones ? Clearly inspired by Fox Reports on Fox News. But the way tv screens were placed in the studio, a lot smaller than the Fox news ones, make the on-screen results look bad. It is unfortunate, because this studio had some potential. I will let them learn how to work with their new toys, but for now it doesn’t look that good…

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    Reply
  5. Fassero

    Well, I can’t call it a “Bell-CTV generic”. What it is is a hybrid of the old Citypulse News and MuchMusic “environment” that existed in Toronto until CTV bought CHUM (that area, located in the downtown entertainment district, is now the studio for “ETalk”) and, as Steve kind of alluded to, the CFTO setup in East Toronto (which started when Sandi Rinaldo joined their evening news back in ’89 albeit that didn’t last too long.)

    I have no idea what the window will bring but if the station ever brings in somebody with a little more youth appeal than Ian MacDonald, I’m guessing there will be something. Or maybe they can have Cher as a guest. Wouldn’t there be a stampede coming down from the Gay Village? :)

    HD? Actually, I’m hoping it doesn’t happen so fast. I’ve seen what happens with way too many on-air female personnel at CTV when HD looms and it tends to involve surgical wizardly (usually with disastrous effects). I don’t think I’m nearly prepared to deal with Matsumi Takahashi with a full-blown facial freeze (at least).

    Reply
  6. Kate M.

    It’s also the orphaned “as far as” – not just the “they’re”. As far as what? The expression is “as far as x is concerned” but it often loses that trailing piece, making it even more meaningless. “As for their old studio…” perhaps?

    Reply
  7. The Original Anonymous Coward

    As for the talk about not being able to afford the HD transition — it should be reminded that Global actually sold off stations & assets to partially pay for their HD swapover in Toronto. You are talking about replacing EVERYTHING in the signal path from capture, storage, edit, & transmission.

    Just storing the hideous amount of video is a monumental challenge… Put it into laymen terms: how much does your digital PVR hold now that HD programming is available to record? From hundreds of hours for SD to maybe 50 hrs of HD now?

    Reply
    1. AlexH

      Yeah, but when you stack that up against Bell racking up a billion in profits, it seems sort of petty not to get it done. Heck, Bell is big enough to do a 20 year bond issue to raise capital if they needed.

      As for the SD to HD storage issue, what is the going rate for hard drives today compared to, oh, 10 years ago? 2TB drives are solidly under $100 at this point, compared to maybe 120 gig for the same price 10 years ago. Any increase in required storage has more than been offset by price decreases.

      Reply
  8. Ibrahim Imiru

    Sheesh, a lot of negativity on this board. I for one am excited about the news set, and happy that there are still some anglo institutions, like CTV, remaining in this city. But I guess all the criticism shows that people still care!

    Reply
    1. AlexH

      Trust me, if Bell could legally do it all from Toronto, CTV Montreal would just be a website and a few closets with local reporters submitting stories to the mothership.

      You should more be happy that even the CRTC, which kowtows to the big media companies at every turn, at least has the institutional balls not to give in on that.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        Trust me, if Bell could legally do it all from Toronto, CTV Montreal would just be a website and a few closets with local reporters submitting stories to the mothership.

        Nothing legally is stopping Bell Media from doing what Global did to its Montreal station, outsourcing the directing and master control and leaving only journalists, anchors and a few technicians. I think the fact that they spent $1 million on a new set is an indication that they are investing in this station.

        Reply
        1. AlexH

          I think you can only draw that conclusion if you ignore how Global got into the Montreal (oops, should I say Quebec City) market, and how they always used the threat of the big boys to convince the CRTC to allow them to do things on the cheap. Bell cannot gut the local affiliates any more than they have because the CRTC is standing in their way. If the last of the production headed down the highway, there would be an outcry, there would be hearings, and in the end, Bell would likely lose.

          Remember, local programming is important. :)

          Reply
          1. Fagstein Post author

            they always used the threat of the big boys to convince the CRTC to allow them to do things on the cheap.

            I don’t see any evidence that the CRTC has made any exceptions for Global Montreal. Both CFCF (CTV) and CKMI (Global) are required to broadcast 14 hours of local programming a week. Global meets this requirement by rebroadcasting its news programs in the early morning, which is legal because the CRTC doesn’t require all those hours to be original. The union representing Global employees did complain during a 2009 license renewal that the shift of operations outside the city violated its license requirements, but the CRTC concluded there was “insufficient evidence” that this was the case. A rather odd decision, if you ask me.

            The issue wasn’t dealt with in any substantial way in the last renewal hearing. The decision is here.

            Reply
  9. Richard

    I have to say, I really find it odd and distracting the way they have them standing up at the beginning of the newscast. They don’t look comfortable, it doesn’t look natural, and doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose. I quite dislike it.

    Reply
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