Channel 5 News
Converting a basement into a state-of-the-art newsroom
If you want to see one of Swift’s most recent projects in action, just tune in to Channel 5 news. Everything you can see – and plenty that you can’t see – was designed and built by Swift in just 14 weeks.
The newsroom and studio used to be store rooms in the basement of a building owned by Channel 5’s owners, Northern & Shell. Previously, Channel 5 had rented a news studio but the station was keen to build its own studio in its premises in the City of London. The opportunity came when Channel 5 awarded the contract for its news programming to ITN. Part of ITN’s bid was a commitment to produce distinctive news programming operating from a bespoke state-of-the-art newsroom and studio incorporating the last graphics, technology and desktop editing facilities. The studio uses Virtual Reality technology which is ‘invisible’ to the camera operator. In effect, this is a virtual studio.
It was Swift’s job to transform the old store room into a high-tech newsroom.
Swift completed the high-profile design and build job for Channel 5 and ITN in just 14 weeks – the 250 square metre studio and associated newsroom came online in November 2012 and is now fully functional.
The sound of silence
The first step was to assess the sound requirements. TV studios must be so silent that you can hear a pin drop – there must be no possibility of noise pollution. Yet the building is centrally situated in the heart of the City of London and surrounded by traffic, so achieving the necessary level of sound insulation was always going to be a challenge. For the first two weeks of the contract, Swift employed a noise consultant to check noise levels day and night. Armed with all that data, they could work out how thick the walls and partitions needed to be in order to achieve a studio with no noise pollution.
There are three cameras in the news studio, two of which are operated robotically so it’s essential that the floor is absolutely level – otherwise, the heavy, unmanned cameras will roll across the floor. This proved one of the major challenges to the whole contract. The solution? Using water to find the absolute level of the floor and then measuring with lasers between a series of pegs driven into the floor. The result is a silky smooth concrete floor that’s absolutely level to within 1mm tolerance – no easy feat.
Cool under pressure
Newsrooms generate lots of heat so air conditioning was a key part of the programme. But air conditioning can be noisy. Another of Swift’s key challenges was installing silent air conditioning – a specialist but essential part of the contract.
In a perfect world, a purpose-built studio would have a separate lighting room but the building simply didn’t have enough room. An additional problem was the low ceiling height, leading to limited head room – both these issues influenced ITN’s decisions when choosing the lighting for the studio. Tungsten lighting is used along with a bank of cool fluorescent lights to fill in any gaps. In addition, there’s a dimmer bar which is balanced by other bars that are fed directly from an uninterruptible power supply.
Ben Wickham, Studio Director, Five News, said:
“It has been quite a transformation!”
Paul Flook, Hd of Broadcast for ITN said:
“For such a time-compressed project there was little room for error. With a building having such a major transformation there are always worries over design desires conflicting with practical constraints. Fortunately the project delivery team cohered very quickly and there were never any problems, just resolutions.”