City Montreal finally launches its flagship show Breakfast Television on Monday. This week, I was among those invited to the new studio in the Rogers building on McGill College Ave. to take a peek.
(I also spoke to Executive Producer Bob Babinski for a feature story that appears in Saturday’s Gazette about the state of morning TV in Montreal.)
I was quite surprised by its size of 2800 square feet. It certainly doesn’t look like the kind of thing you’d find on the 8th floor of an office building, and its impressiveness even gives CTV Montreal’s new studio a run for its money.
The studio is on the northeast corner of the building, and the anchor desk is positioned so that the view behind it is the mountain, McGill University and McGill College Ave., though somewhat obstructed by buildings like the former Maison Astral.
City takes advantage of this in the positioning of the anchor desk, so that you get the mountain in the background. The desk sits on a raised platform, with audio and other connections wired in behind out of sight.
To the left of the anchor desk is an open space with a 15-screen video wall (only the centre nine are actually used for video). Here, they can setup yoga mats, musical acts, or anything else that requires a large amount of open studio space.
City has made it clear from the beginning that it wants the show to be about Montreal, its culture and two linguistic communities. Here we see a hint of that in the decor (though shouldn’t it be Sainte-Catherine, or Saint Catherine without a hyphen?)
Giant video walls can be used for different things. They can be simple set decoration, they can provide visual support to an anchor standing in front of them by showing graphics or video, or they can be used in transition shots when you want to show off the set with by having a camera move around in it.
We’ll see what City has in store for this one. At more than 150 inches diagonally by my estimate (not including the six static panels), it’s 50% larger than the 108-inch giant plasma screen in CTV’s studio (which they don’t seem to be using much anymore, sadly).
The touchscreen next to the video wall (it’s on wheels so it can be moved elsewhere) is Elias Makos’s new toy. As the new media commentator, he’ll be presenting information about trending stories online, viewer feedback and tech stories once an hour.
Of the four English-language television stations in Montreal, this is the only one with a studio couch. CTV has its comfy chairs, but even then there’s a physical and psychological separation between host and interviewee that you won’t see as much here.
The space between the couch and the table in front of it leaves plenty of space for leg-crossing, but don’t try doing a crossword puzzle or working from a laptop.
One of the surprising things about this set is how much of it is mobile. The couch, the touchscreen, the presentation desks, even some walls can be moved around to give the set a different look, make space for something or rearrange things for an unusual demonstration.
The set has three studio cameras on tripods with wheels. Two have prompters in front. The third can be taken outside the studio, so if Catherine Verdon-Diamond wants to do her weather from the street, she can do that.
Each of the three cameras has a body behind it. This is different from Global and CTV, whose studio cameras are robotic and remotely controlled.
A fourth, fixed camera sits in a small room with a green screen.
Behind the scenes
Among the people working there will be Catherine Verdon-Diamond, who will be preparing her traffic and weather maps.
For all the open space of the studio, the control room is a bit cramped. There’s barely room for the six people working here. But it still looks pretty cool.
More from the studio
Breakfast Television airs 6-9am weekdays on City Montreal. Its first show is Monday, Aug. 26.