New WBTV news set holds a mirror to Charlotte’s image (Charlotte Observer) Mark Washburn Toggle

WBTV_CO_2A new set, the first since 2008, brings dramatic changes to the station’s newscast


Never mind that the rich wood floor is really vinyl and the stonework around the fringes is really foam. It looks good and fools the eye, and that’s show business.

WBTV (Channel 3) this week unveiled its new news set, its first major update in seven years. It’s sleek and bright and has exactly the kind of feel the station was looking for.

“It matches the image Charlotte has of itself,” says news directorDennis Milligan. “It’s new, it’s modern, it’s clean.”

At 20 feet wide, the set’s most commanding fixture is a mini-billboard-size screen behind the anchor desk. It can project slides or live feeds.

On Tuesday, technicians noticed an unusually crisp full moon creeping up over uptown as viewed by Channel 3’s tower cam and used the image as the anchors finished the evening newscast. In the mornings, the same camera and same angle have filled the screen with a rising sun for the early newscast.

LED illumination carries the station’s signature blue tone throughout the set. It is brightened a little for sunrise newscasts and deepened for the evening shows.

“Can you imagine people who worked here years ago seeing this?” says anchor Maureen O’Boyle. This is the third set she’s occupied since coming to WBTV in 2004. “This is like the Jetsons.”

WBTV isn’t saying what the new set costs, but such makeovers typically can run to a half-million dollars or more. It was produced by the Orlando-based firm FX Design Group.

Overall the place has a high-tech ski-lodge vibe, minus the fireplace.

Three floor cameras are robotically operated and a photographer can move around with a hand-held camera during key newscasts. A boom camera and another overhead are being discussed.

“I call this set the Yosemite shot because there’s not a bad picture you can get in Yosemite,” Milligan says.

Creative services director John Rice said he wanted to retain the warmth of the old news set and infuse it with more contemporary tones. Unveiled in 2008 after Raycom Media bought WBTV, the old set had as its centerpiece plastic crystalline sculptures of the Bank of America tower and four other major uptown skyscrapers.

(Picky viewers noticed that the plastic Duke Energy Tower wasn’t anatomically correct. It was being built when the set was designed, and the sculpture didn’t include the distinctive opening carved into the skyscraper’s slanted roof.)