What's new on the sets

 February 17, 1998 | Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)

 | Page: C1 | Section: C1
626 Words | Readability: Lexile: 1050, grade level(s): 6 7 8 9

When area TV stations promise viewers more depth, they may not be talking about the scope of their news coverage. Experts say that what viewers see on the screen may be just as important as what they hear. As two stations -- WRCB Channel 3 and WDEF Channel 12 -- complete the remodeling of their news sets, clearly there's more going on than what meets the eye. Delivering the news in a viewer-friendly fashion takes a page from Art & Science 101. Getting the right balance depends on a large measure of chemistry, blended with a bit of psychology and a dash of interior design. "People don't really watch the news to look at the sets or the graphics," says George Andrus, senior design consultant for the Express Group, a San Diego-based broadcast architectural design firm. "People watch because they make a connection with the anchors. But you can't discount what those two elements do to support the anchors." Channel 3 found that out when for a couple of weeks the remodeling work left them with only a curtain as a background for newscasts. "People hated the blue curtain," says news director Bill Wallace. "We got lots of calls about that." The 12-year-old set was given minor facelifts through the years, but the decision for the overhaul grew from a simple need for carpet in the newsroom. By the time the initial consulting was done, Channel 3 was in line for not just a new set, but an updated newsroom in another part of the building. Work on the newsroom is still going on behind the scenes. In the new set design, the city of Chattanooga plays a paramount role. Four photos of the skyline, which rotate, depending on the time of the newscast, provide a backdrop. Brick and wood also were given prominence. "We were really anxious to give it a Chattanooga feel," Wallace says. "This is a lot like some of the other architecture going on in Chattanooga." One of the strongest features of the new set, Wallace believes, is something that may not even consciously register with viewers. "It has a lot more depth," he says. "It's hard to get a three-dimensional look on TV, but this set is built on different levels, which helps that a lot." The eye-catching difference at Channel 12 is the CBS eye that hovers between the anchors. For Channel 12, a perennial third in the market, the new set is one of the first steps toward the station's reinvention. It's a no-frills approach that gives the set a streamlined look. "I believe that we now have the cleanest, slickest, freshest look in the market," says general manager Jim Grimes. Getting to that point was not a guesswork game. The station invested "large sums of dollars" into market research and talking to viewers, Grimes says. He hopes the blue skies, puffy clouds and the gleaming blue CBS eye forming the backdrop for the anchors indicate blue skies ahead for the station. "We can almost feel the momentum," Grimes says. "We get calls every day from viewers congratulating us, telling us they like what they see. That's pretty pleasant." Andrus of the Express Group wouldn't be surprised. Viewers like blue. Only WDSI Fox 61 doesn't use blue as the backdrop for its newscast. "Blue is a hard color to get away from," Andrus says. "It's very pleasing to the eye, very relaxing. It always looks good behind a talent. The way you use it, with texture and lighting, can create mood and atmosphere." Not planning any changes -- at least anytime soon -- is WTVC Channel 9, which completed its own redesign 14 months ago. "A new set is kind of like buying a new car," says news director Steve Hunsicker. "An ugly car can get you where you need to go, but a pretty car is a lot more fun to ride in. And we still like ours."

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