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Bob Vila's Studio 58 Tour

Getting a home ready for The Early Show was a big undertaking. In June the crew broke ground, transforming an old car showroom into a state-of-the-art television studio. Construction involved over a hundred workers working almost around the clock in the last few weeks.

Home Improvement Contributor Bob Vila caught up with some of the people involved with the project to get a look at the construction of Studio 58. Click on any of the following for details:

Challenges
Structure
Design
The control room
Studio areas
Outside plaza

Challenges

Normally when a construction crew breaks ground and puts up an entirely new studio, there are not the same complications encountered as with remodeling. This job was like constructing a building within a building.

The crew accomplished in five months what would normally have taken 10.

At one time, construction workers from 10 different trades were involved. And the project manager, Peter Hawkinson, says it has been quite a challenge.

"It's been the space, the confined space to get all the activity going on at the same time and coordinate it. It's been deliveries into the street, and getting into the building at odd hours. And the schedule's probably been the most demanding part," he says.

Structure

To build a new studio within the skyscraper housing the former showroom, structural steel was put in at the high level.

"So we had to reframe the roof, to carry the mechanical work on the roof and then reframe below the framing to carry the catwalks for the technology," says Hawkinson. That's where all the cable and the lighting trusses get hung.

Design

Bice Wilson, the principal architect on the project, has been designing television studios for about 18 years all over the country.

Studio 58 is one of the most ambitious projects he's been involved with, he says, explaining, "This project is being done in about one-third of the time that we would normally take to put together this kind of facility."

The facility has very complicated systems, all layered together, that go unnoticed during a broadcast.

"We know the technology is absolutely 21st century, but some of the construction is also 21st century," Wilson says.

For example, a 2.5-inch-thick bulletproof sheet of glass was installed, suspended on a grid of steel, to serve as a transparent barrier between the viewing public and the studio.

The glass is laminated with a total of eight layers put together. It was chosen for its soundprofing properties and it costs more than $1 million.

"This studio is about bringing television to a place where people can see it, and experience it, and be part of it, from the plaza outside. So we have a 25-foot-high wall of glass here that goes on two sides of the studio. That sort of allows people to see television being made inside," Wilson explains.

The control room

The nerve center for the whole operation is the control room where more than 500,000 feet of cable and fiber-optic wires have been strung.

Mark Morngaray, one of CBS engineers in charge of various aspects of the project, says two weeks away from the studio's opening, his crew was in the testing phases, checking out everything in the control room. Everything was proceeding right on schedule.

The studio signal is transmitted to the broadcast center across town through a single fiber optic cable.

The studio will have access to as many as 256 different signals, including graphics, videotape, and incoming and outgoing audio and video feeds. In the past, programs not originating in CBS' Broadcast Center on 57th Street had limited access to these signals.

Studio areas

Inside the studio, there is a multipurpose area where Martha Stewart and Bob Vila's segments take place.

At a news desk Julie Chen and Mark McEwen deliver the headlines and news of the day.

The furnishing and décor of Studio 58 is very upscale; the news desk is in real wood and the railings and fittings are in real chrome and steel. That's because when high-definition television arrives, all those fine details will be seen.

The interview area is where guests are received and interviewed.

A green room, yet to be built, is where guests will have a chance to unwind and relax for a few minutes before they go on live national TV.

And then there is home base where Bryant Gumbel and Jane Clayson sit and can be seen by outsiders through the bulletproof glass.

Some parts of the studio are still under construction. There will be more office space as well as an area to house New York station WCBS where early morning and noon news programs will be broadcast.

Outside plaza

The outside plaza faces Fifth Avenue and it is not quite ready yet for staging outside programming.

But by the spring, it will be fully used by the program for a variety of outdoor events.

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