WFLA’s primary home for the last 14 years is getting a massive makeover
Late last week News Channel 8 anchor Gayle Sierens walked into the same studio she has for more than a decade and grinned like a kid on Christmas morning.
"Gosh, it feels like we're at the network,” she said as she smiled. “It does. It really does.”
Behind her, half a dozen production crew members were carefully putting the finishing touches on WFLA-TV’s brand new, state-of-the-art news set. It debuts today (Monday) on News Channel 8 First at 4.
"The set's built for the future,” said WFLA General Manager Brad Moses as he stood on the freshly painted, polished floor. “There are opportunities to expand it, change it, to modify it."
The set is the first major overhaul of the studio since WFLA moved from Jackson St. to Parker St. in 2000. Moses said staff designed it with the goal of telling a more visual story in a way that’s never been done in the Tampa Bay market.
"It's got technology in it that's going to work great for breaking news and social media,” Moses added. “We're going to be able to present news in a new way, a dynamic way, that helps us tell the story better."
It took a little less than a month for a small army of people to make that transformation. Production teams transplanted the old blue background and wooden desk viewers have come to know so well into a studio next door. They then closed off the area to paint the floor, install state-of-the-art LED systems, and huge monitors that shed a whole new light into the studio.
"That's another thing about this set is that it transforms,” said News Channel 8 Today anchor Gayle Guyardo. “When it's day and when it's morning time, we might cast in a light orange hue. At night the lights will start going to different colors. So it's a living set. It's a breathing set. It moves with the day and that's really the best part about it as well."
An integral part of the new set is a touchscreen that will help anchors and reporters interact with the audience by demonstrating content and showing them what’s happening in the community.
"I think the role of the anchor has changed from just the talking head in a box,” said anchor Keith Cate. “You do have to interact with technology. You have to interact with other people who are around you. I think the viewer expects more movement than they have in the past. They want to see the anchor moving around, showing them things."
Getting that technology to look perfect on-air has been a painstaking process. WFLA’s production and anchor teams spent a good part of last week into the weekend perfecting shots, lighting and practicing on the set. It’s a place where the team has spent so much time these last 14 years, yet they can barely recognize it now.
"This studio looks huge,” said News Channel 8 Today anchor Rod Carter. “I had a chance to go to New York to cover the Today Show once and it's funny - our studio is probably 5 times the size of their studio. It is incredible. I think when people see the different things this set can do, they're going to be pretty amazed by it."