Change is coming Election Night to Fox News Channel—no matter who wins the presidency.
FNC is launching two new HD control rooms Tuesday, one teamed with the news channel (featuring Brit Hume) and one with Fox broadcast (featuring Shepard Smith), along with a new virtual reality studio, and it plans to use those tools soon to expand HD production across FNC.
Since FNC's HD (720p) kickoff in May, only a few shows, including the morning "Fox and Friends," have actually been running in HD. With the new facilities, not only will Election Night come in HD, but all FNC's primetime offerings are expected to upgrade as well by the end of the year, said Jay Wallace, FNC vice president of news editorial product.
It's a major step in what's been a busy year for FNC; the channel has also moved to an all-tapeless workflow, replacing old cameras with P2s.
The Fox effort Tuesday will feed five major program channels: FNC, Fox broadcast outlets, Fox Business Channel (which was born in the HD format), Fox Radio and the (mostly) online "Strategy Room."
The smaller, virtual reality studio will include a greenscreen for chroma-keying and two cameras to help make it look like a 6,000-square-foot space. FNC Chief White House Correspondent Bret Baier will head that desk with "Balance of Power" segments that will look at results, especially the House and Senate races and the new composition of Congress.
The virtual reality studio is there to complement but not dominate coverage. "You try not to stay in it for long periods of time," Wallace said. That's because there are so many other things going on, and so many actual people, the production doesn't want to lose perspective with too many virtual moments.
After the election, that studio will be used for weather reporting and other graphics-intensive programming.
Starting in the primaries, FNC began the Strategy Room,where its analysts could talk amongst themselves as results came in. FNC would occasionally switch to that conversation, and then, when it switched away, would remind people that they could continue listening online. FNC did it again during the political conventions and will do the same Tuesday from 6 p.m. to midnight (Eastern) with a rotating cast of anchors and analysts, dropping into the television channels as desired.
Wallace called that venture a success, with its future applications yet to be determined.
Viewers will also be treated to a giant-screen "Launch Pad," powered by a 42-inch plasma touchscreen. Wallace said this will serve as a "water cooler" spot for the talent, who can manipulate the screen to graphically present different scenarios as the results come in.
FNC will also have an outdoor set—fortunately for producers and anchors, there's no rain in the Tuesday weather forecast for New York.
Even with all the technology, if it's 3 a.m. and analysts are busy trying to do math to figure out who's winning the election, Wallace said some talent might go to a low-tech tool—pen and paper—to demonstrate what's going on.