In today’s TVN Tech, “NECN’s New Look: Fresh, Functional, Flexible,” I focused on how the New England regional cable news operation made the very most of its limited space through the innovative use of technology and smart design ideas.
However, as with so many of the feature articles that I write, there’s more to the story than I can cover. Thank goodness I have Playout as a forum to get in the rest of the story.
Like most renovations of existing television operations, the NECN project had a fundamental problem: How to keep its operations intact while tearing out and rebuilding an operating facility.
To tackle the problem, NECN Chief Engineer Kris Kalanderi rolled three large trailers into the parking. The 60-footer and two 50-footers would serve as the temporary home on NECN’s newsroom, including the work area for its more than 50 journalists, assignment desk and graphic artists.
“That was a tough time for everybody — with everybody going in or out to certain hours of the night,” says Kalanderi. “Our producers and writers start at 1 a.m. and over 24 hours they recycle all day long.”
NECN prepared for the interruption by shooting footage of its old set, and using a chromakey to insert its anchors over the video of the old setup while the renovation was ongoing.
“We wanted it to seem to the viewer like nothing had changed while we were under construction,” says Susan Pascal, NECN brand and marketing director.
Pulling off the move of existing ENPS newsroom computer terminals and graphics stations from the old newsroom to the temporary digs in the trailer was quite a feat, Kalanderi says.
One night in late September 2014, five NECN engineers, including Kalanderi, worked till the wee hours of the morning moving 55 computers from the newsroom to the trailers, which were outfitted with rented desks and furniture.
“That was a really tough task,” he recalls. “It was more like a SWAT team. You just move in there and it has to be done.”
When the next shift of journalists arrived in the morning, they found their computers all installed and operating as expected in the trailers, he says. “There were no changes. They had the same settings [and] the same workflow.”
Working in the close surroundings of the trailers added to the pressure normally associated with news operations. “It was really crowded in there. You entered, and you felt the pressure,” says Kalanderi.
But that added intensity became a thing of the past when Kalanderi’s “SWAT team” reversed the process and moved all of the ENPS and graphic artists’ workstations back into the newly renovated newsroom, he says.
“It was quite an adventure,” says Pascal. One that the journalists, graphic designers, engineers and operations people at NECN are happy to see completed.