WABC and ABC studios visit in NY

An Alumna from Cabrini College bid on and won a tour of WABC studio at her children’s school, after which, she donated the winning prize to the college. Also, my professor was able to get in touch with an alumnus who works at ABC’s operations studio so that we can meet up while in NY. I had the opportunity to visit the WABC (New York’s local TV station), as well as ABC’s operations studio and the Times Square studio along with a few other students.

Craig Vagell, Cabrini Alumnus, who is the day of air operations manager at ABC studios also got to take advantage of this great opportunity at the WABC studio.

First, we met up with Emmy Award winner, Jeff Pegues who is a reporter for New York’s local TV station WABC. Pegues describes the WABC studio as a news factory which, was truly evident in the employees at the station, always on the run to get things done. He gave us a tour of the studios behind the scene operations such as control rooms, edit bays, assignment desk. We also got the opportunity to sit in during the live streaming of the Eyewitness News at noon with Lori Stokes, Ken Rosato and meteorologist Jeff Smith. We also got to see the set of Live with Regis and Kelly, housed at WABC and gave us a bit of the history behind the station as well.

After the tour Pegues, sat down with us to answer questions we had and to also give us advice on what would help us to pursue our career.

Our next stop was the ABC studio in Times Square to the set of Good Morning America. We met up with the tech manager, Robert Agnello, a former musician, who gave us a tour of the studio. It was truly a jaw dropping experience to see all the equipments being used in the studio. Agnello shared his experiences of working at the studio, the changes the studio went through while switching to high-definition and the re-designing and re-building of different ares of the facility. Agnello also gave us great advice and welcomed us to come back and visit at any time.

Our final stop, was the operations studio, which basically is the heart of ABC studios nationwide. The operations studio generates programming for the east coast, west coast and mountain areas. The way the network operates is, everything that gets played on the east coast gets recorded on a server which, is then played back on a delay to the other two areas. When the network does not air something to an affiliate station a color bar is sent out to the stations so that they know the signal is not lost to the network.

All the shows get delivered to the operations studio and the studio does their own branding for the station using several edit bays. Operations make sure that the station does not go black. There are several layers of protection features that go into the network to make sure it doesn’t go black.

There are several HD release studios at the station which can be used as an on-air studio or as a control room. A technical director stays in the HD studio to make sure the programs are aired correctly and the captions and other items are being transmitted correctly to the different time zones.

Next stop, network release. When the network was running in standard definition, this area was three separate studios but with the upgrade to HD, it has expanded and opened to one large group. There are three separate areas, currently it is separated as the right side, left side and day of air operations. Right side is responsible for creating all the list for commercials and adding the different triggers for logos. When that’s done the left side makes sure there is no problems with the list with everything at the network being automated, the list needs to be checked to make sure everything is correct. Also, this side is responsible for special report list.

At day of air, the responsibilities include monitoring different feeds and making sure closed captioning and ratings go out. Another responsibility is communicating with affiliate stations using a network alert system in case a special report needs to air because no one other than the New York studio knows initially. Some of the information sent out include timings, special report information, commercial break information etc. A log is kept to check off everyday to make sure all the right information are sent out to air. The logs are color coded for the different feeds so that it is easier to decipher. At operations, they are responsible for catching any mistakes before the studio so that everything runs smoothly.

At the network control center, they are responsible for making sure that everything that airs is in sync. They have to make sure there is audio and video and they are correct, the lips are in sync with the sound, captioning are correct etc. They watch every feed that leaves the studio and comes back in through the satellite, so that in case something needs to be troubleshooted it can be fixed right away.

A special reports room or studio is also a part of the network, this was our final stop of the tour. This news studio is used to tape promos, news briefs and to air any special report that the station needs to air on TV.

This was truly an amazing experience, especially to be able to see how things work on a network level and to see everything that goes on behind the scenes to make sure all the shows are aired properly and promptly.

Some Helpful tips from Jeff Pegues, reporter at WABC:

  • Do what you have to, to get to where you want to be.
  • To do this job you have to be able to do well under pressure because it is a very stressful job.
  • To do well in this business, you have to be a goal setter.
  • Know your value, capability and comfort for the job.
  • Don’t settle for the sure thing, go for what you dream of rather than letting others discourage you and talk you out of it.
  • Be nice to everyone and make the right contacts

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