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As WNET Marks a Golden Age, Here’s a Look Behind the Scenes at Thirteen’s Lincoln Center Studios

In continuing our series about WNET’s 50th anniversary celebration, the public broadcaster reaches the milestone with new digs. The studios at Lincoln Center were built in 2010, leading to the move of WNET from its antiquated facility near the West Side Railyards on 34th Street. The Lincoln Center locale has no room to fit office space. Regular Thirteen staffers recently moved to the updated WorldWide Plaza on 49th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.

At Lincoln Center, passersby notice the street-level studio directly behind the number 1 subway station, the first such studio in the country for public TV.

Unlike the typical studios of the same ilk, WNET keeps a black curtain down during all tapings. PBS constructed the studios at Alice Tully Hall, but they were constrained by what was in front of them. Most notably, the walls are not sound proof.

Even with the curtain drawn the sounds, perhaps a siren bellowing on Broadway, permeate. To counteract, the station says it doesn’t have much live content from the Lincoln Center studio.

Therefore, as a spokesperson told FishbowlNY during our recent tour of the studio that any objectionable sounds from the street can simply lead to a “re-do.”

In the secondary studio above 66th Street, there are no audio concerns during taping, and the screen is not pulled down.

Look for a video “tour” of the upstairs portion after the jump, and you’ll notice the proximity to the studios of WABC/Channel 7 in the background.

Included in these two levels are 14 televisions, the largest one measuring 103 inches. That plasma monitor on the Broadway facade is visible from the sidewalk. There is also a 65-inch TV in the donor waiting room, which also can be seen from the street.

While the Lincoln Center location is cutting edge in HD, it is a tight squeeze. There is no “back of the house” and no place to store a set.

No matter, with the touch of a button a whole new set digitally appears.

Furthermore, the control room is at WNET’s offices, where most in-house production and voice-over work are done.

Along with taping ahead, and keeping curtains closed on the main level studio, WNET has multiple street scenes “in the can” to simulate “as live.”

As for the cameras, they are robotic, but need to be put in place manually.

It’s rare, but there are some occasions when Thirteen will use the studios live. For example, NJ Today with Mike Schneider spent time on the Upper West Side before moving to its own facility in the Garden State. On Election Night last year, Schneider anchored coverage live.

Later this month, WNET will have a live presentation of American Graduate Day. The September 22 fundraiser takes place at the Lincoln Center studios.

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