Fox News set for high-tech Election Night

New technology, HD studios on tap for network's coverage

NEW YORK -- It's going to be a busy Election Night made even busier at Fox News, which will christen two HD studios, a raft of new technology and broadcast five live streams out of its Sixth Avenue headquarters.

Key to telling the story Tuesday night and early Wednesday will be the newly built Fox News studio on the 12th floor, where for the first time the channel's main anchor team, decision desk and correspondents showing real-time results will be clustered. Down the hall is another studio for Fox Broadcasting, where Shepard Smith will broadcast the network's results. Both will have the latest technology the channel has developed to impart maximum information, Fox News senior vp Joel Cheatwood said.

The Fox News studio is at the center of it all, where anchors Brit Hume, Chris Wallace and analysts will sit with a big rear-projected screen showing results over their heads and an information crawl going across the bottom. Behind them will be the decision desk. To the left, "The Launch Pad," where Megyn Kelly will be stationed. And in a glassed-in area behind the decision desk is the "Bill-Board," where Bill Hemmer has a souped-up version of the touch screen that he's been using since the beginning of the primaries. In another part of Fox News headquarters, Bret Baier will be using virtual reality technology to show the composition of the new Congress.

Launch Pad will put a lot of control into the hands of Kelly, who will be able to access exit polls, video and state results and provide them on a 10-foot or so high screen.

"What it does is take the various data points, videos and live shots and calls them up instantly and combine them for instant presentation onscreen," Cheatwood said. "Megyn can call up all the information she feels is pertinent to the story." It will be the first time the Launch Pad will be used, developed by production partner Reality Check, the same company that Fox Sports deploys to illustrate NASCAR telecasts.

"It's an excellent presentation tool," Fox News political director Marty Ryan said.

The Bill-Board is back and even more granular with county-by-county results as they come in as well as how each voted in 2000 and '04. Hemmer has been studying county-by-county data in his off time for many months and Friday was practicing for the board in front of the camera. He's excited by the possibilities.

"The program and software is enormously detailed," Hemmer said during a break. "If you're going to tell a story with so many numbers and so much planning, this is the best tool."

But Cheatwood said that no matter how visually appealing the set or the technology on Fox News or other channels, the key takeaway is how much data viewers get when they watch.

"When we build a new set, how much information it delivers is the primary mandate," Cheatwood said. "The day of pretty furniture is gone."

The virtual reality portion of Fox News' coverage will be called "Balance of Power," with Baier situated in another studio keeping track of how the next Congress is going to be populated. Each time a race is called -- and this will likely be the second story of the night, after the president is elected -- either a red or blue seat will be filled in on the screen.

"It's going to be larger than life," Cheatwood said.

There will be five separate live feeds, quite possibly the most for any conglomerate: Fox News, anchored by Hume and Wallace; Fox Broadcasting, anchored by Smith; Fox Business Network; the Strategy Room Webcast; and Fox News Radio. Smith's studio, which will be used for the first time Tuesday but will be where "The Fox Report" calls home afterward, has a high-tech look that is different from Fox News' studio. The key feature will be what Fox is calling "The Cube," a huge digital box of screens that will show video and data. Smith also will have appearances by Kelly and Hemmer.

The Strategy Room, which has been a 24/7 feature of primary nights during the conventions and debates, will originate in front of the network's headquarters. Cheatwood said he expects that the webcast will be a popular spot for passersby to hang out and watch the election results, drawn by a huge screen on Sixth Avenue showing Fox News.
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