Beckley TV studio set blends history, technology

Anne Kibbler • April 12, 2016
Franklin Hall studio set
Mike Gray, BA’07, shows the color palette for the Ken and Audrey Beckley Studio. (Anne Kibbler | The Media School)

Much of the focus in Franklin Hall so far has been on the central commons, with its glass roof and giant screen. But the building will house other gems, among them the new Ken and Audrey Beckley Studio, which combines an aesthetic nod to history with up-to-the-minute broadcast technology. 

Christopher Rhoton, a 2016 graduate of IU’s MFA program in scenic design, created the set, inspired by loft apartments in warehouses and industrial spaces. 

“We wanted to create a multi-functional studio that had a sense of history and utilized reclaimed materials to create a space that felt both modern and timeless,” said Rhoton, who has designed sets for theaters in Indiana, New York and Chicago.

Rhoton chose materials with texture and variation, including exposed brick and reclaimed wood.

Franklin Hall studio set
The design for the news desk and set in the new studio is inspired by industrial lofts. (Christopher Rhoton Designs)

“With the help of the lighting design, these textured surfaces will provide a dynamic backdrop for the talent,” he said.

The wood is 1-inch lumber from old barns and other buildings around Indiana and the Midwest, said Mike Gray, BA’07, who is building the set in the Radio-Television Building with the help of Media School students. The brick backdrop is a composite of recycled cardboard and paper, created and printed by Pulp Art Surfaces in Los Angeles.

Gray currently is building the riser for the news desk in 8-foot-by-4-foot sections made out of pine planks and plywood. The sections will be bolted together in the new studio. Gray said it will take most of the summer to complete the set.

The brick-look walls in the main Franklin Hall studio are made from recycled cardboard and paper.  (Anne Kibbler | The Media School)
The brick-look walls in the main Franklin Hall studio are made from recycled cardboard and paper. (Anne Kibbler | The Media School)

Once the studio is finished, Rhoton said, it will provide a dynamic, flexible space. In addition to the news desk, there will be an interview set, a green screen, a small stage and several stand-up areas.

“Unlike most television sets which are only finished as far as the camera can see, this set can be viewed from almost any camera angle and still be visually interesting and look great on camera,” Rhoton said. “Practically every surface in the studio has a scenic treatment, which gives almost unlimited possibilities for filming. I’m looking forward to seeing what the creative minds produce utilizing the new studio.”