TV & Radio

Friday 25 July 2014

Here is the new-look news

Jazzed-up bulletins hit the screens after €1.3m makeover

Grainne Cunningham

Published 10/02/2009|00:00

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Colm Murray, Eileen Dunne and Una O'Hagan during rehearsals in the new RTE news studio yesterday
Presenter Bryan Dobson during the 'Six One' news

RTE has just spent €1.3m on a fresh look for its news bulletins and, apart from a jazzy opening and some interesting background shots, perhaps you didn't really notice.

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The national broadcaster simply hopes that viewers will "enjoy the news more . . . without really knowing why or what kept their attention", according to Ray Purser, director of operations at RTE news.

But if a few dedicated news junkies say 'wow', "that would be the best compliment we could get", he added.

Despite the heroic humility, the tension was palpable at Montrose yesterday as the flashy, dynamic format was unveiled for the first time on the 1pm TV news, with encores on the 'Six One' and the 'Nine O'Clock News' broadcasts.

Thankfully all went more than smoothly. Instead of the tired old format, newsreader John Finnerty presented the bulletin against a background which appeared to be a busy working newsroom obscured by frosted glass, while the reporting was aided with dramatic large-scale photographs and bright, new graphics.

Later in the day, bulletins featured a beautiful vista of the capital city, displaying iconic features such as the Pigeon House towers and the Belfield campus tower, or was it? Actually both the newsroom and skyline images are composite shots, and the subtle movement in the background is computer-generated.

The revamp has seen the old studio increase in size by 70pc, simply by knocking the wall to the old control room, which has now moved across the hall.

New hi-tech screens installed to the rear of the studio offer added depth while ensuring access to different backgrounds, improved graphics and greater latitude for using photographs, video and graphics.



Value

According to Cillian de Paor, managing editor of television news, the screens, although expensive to install, provide enormous scope for offering more and better images. "News is very high quantity -- if you see the same set every single day for years, the eye becomes very familiar with it."

He added: "The real value of the screens is that the investment is up front but it is cheap to operate."

Now that the system is installed, different graphic images can be used, at very little cost, to update the background display for coverage of specific events or to update the overall look, he explained.

Defending the spend on the project, Mr de Paor said "for us, €1.3m is a lot of money" but added that the capital was "from a surplus the organisations had from last year and the year before" and was allocated before the downturn.

The timeline for the project was very tight -- approval was granted in September 2008; the news team moved out of the old studio to allow for the necessary renovations on December 19; and the new-look studio was only ready for practice runs eight days before it went live yesterday.

Of the €1.3m, €500,000 was spent on the necessary building renovations. There is a new moving camera on a track which runs around the entire studio, offering a greater variety of shots. Instead of the jaded 'talking heads' set-up, correspondents can deliver a report standing in front of explanatory graphics, just like the weather is delivered now.

The 3D feature of the background screens offers increased depth, particularly in studio situations and means each programme can have a different look "which is a very big plus", according to Mr Purser.

With this new format, he believes RTE has taken a "quantum leap" so it is now as good as the best. "Certainly, there is a competitive challenge but we are not trying to reinvent the wheel here. It has to be reliable."

Asked if he expected ratings to rise as a result of the revamped news format, Mr de Paor said: "That would be nice."

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