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‘Morning Joe’ gets new home studio

'Morning Joe' gets new home studio

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” has gotten a big upgrade to its sometimes-home inside the Miami, Florida, apartment of its married co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.

The updated space fully debuted June 7, 2022, though a virtual set extension showed up a day earlier.

Long before the pandemic made remote production widespread, “Joe” was already known for its use of it between various locations.

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The design of the new set is modeled after NBC News’ Studio N1 in Washington, D.C., originally designed as the home of “Meet the Press” and part of a new bureau for NBC News and MSNBC. When in town, “Joe” often originates from the space along with “Hallie Jackson Now” on NBC News Now. 

The space includes multiple walls in the distinctive shade of colonial blue used in N1 and features a seamless LED video wall set inside of an arched opening similar to the ones found in D.C., with HD Studio providing design for both studios. 

The set was fabricated by Blackwalnut with lighting by The Lighting Design Group.

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Another wall features the same blue finish with a mix of picture frames, at least some of which are actually additional LED panels, an element present in N1.

Wide views of the space show Scarborough and Brzezinski sitting at a small circular glass-topped table with a gourd-like base on a pair of drafting height chairs in tan with the ribbed style NBC News uses prominently on sets across the country. The chairs have similarities to the famous Eames chair originally designed by Herman Miller, but have since been replicated widely.

Finishing off the look is a simulated marble and wood floor with compass-style inlay. 

The location of the “Morning Joe” studio has been the subject of widespread interest and speculation among viewers. Even before the pandemic made boxed anchors more commonplace, “Joe” would frequently feature each of its anchors, including Willie Geist and frequent contributors, in his or her own box. 

In this December 2021 screenshot from ‘Morning Joe,’ Mika Brzezinski, left, is outside of the studio, while Joe Scarborough is in Studio 3A.

As it turns out, that was reportedly being done, at least for a time, to disguise the fact that Scarborough and Brzezinski were in the same location outside of New York. The pair were allegedly secretly dating during at least some of this period, though NBC management was reportedly privately aware of the relationship.

The arrangement and relationship was a sort of open secret within the halls at 30 Rock, since many behind-the-scenes staffers were able to tell that the duo were broadcasting from the same location despite what viewers saw.

During this time period, Scarborough and Brzezinski were each typically depicted sitting in front of a separate video panel with a distinct Washington-D.C. or politically-themed graphic on it.

In many cases, the two were actually sitting just yards from each other, in front of separate screens, and shown in boxes as an alternative to the traditional anchor two-shot. Sometimes the use of the boxes was required: There were times when one of them would be in New York and one in a separate locale.

The two would typically maintain eye contact with the camera rather than the physical location of the other in the space in order to maintain the illusion of separate locations.

Eventually, the duo would announce their engagement and 2018 marriage and the need to “hide” the fact they were in the same location effectively ended. Scarborough also changed his voter registration and residency status to Florida that year, a move that reportedly has saved him millions in state income tax that he would have pay in his previous home state of Connecticut. 

Others said at the time that both anchors have aging parents living in Florida and the move was done to be closer to them. It is not immediately clear where Brzezinski is registered to vote or if she owns any property in the state.

Either way, to maintain residency status requirements, a person is required to abide by the “183 rule” which means being physically present at a Florida residence for at least 183 days of the year (which comes out to just over half of the year).

This 2020 screen capture shows ‘Morning Joe’ co-anchors on a Florida studio set. The image of the White House and surrounding city are being shown on low profile video panels, while the red knee wall with repeating logo is structural. 

At the time, the network installed a tight in-home studio at a property near Jupiter, Florida, that would eventually grow from two disparate camera setups to include an array of video panels that combined to create a smaller-scale version of the corner video wall installation in Studio 3A back in New York.

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The new version of the studio, meanwhile, is in Miami.

‘Morning Joe’ co-anchors Mika Brzezinski, left, and Joe Scarborough, in Studio 3A in New York in 2019.

The home studio equipment, which includes robotic cameras and networked teleprompters, is largely controlled remotely — a facet that would become commonplace during the pandemic but until then had been relatively unheard of for a show produced for a major network (Fox’s Tucker Carlson has a similar setup — a studio in an outbuilding on property he owns in Maine).

With this updated look including professional scenic and lighting design, it would appear MSNBC expects this arrangement to continue for the foreseeable future. 

MSNBC did not respond to requests for comment about the arrangement or new studio from NewscastStudio.

A wide view of Studio 3A used in December 2021 showcasing Joe Scarborough on set with Mika Brzezinski elsewhere.

As a politically-themed show, “Joe” has frequently used Washington, D.C. imagery in its backgrounds, despite being primarily produced outside the beltway, although for a time a simulated window view of a cityscape and American flag was used behind Scarborough while Brzezinski sat in front of a simulated blue wall, which were really being fed to 3A’s rear projection or LED video screens.

The use of Washington landmarks as a background element continued with the updated space through the use of virtual set extensions inspired by the newsroom space adjacent to Studio N1 in D.C.

This view of Studio N1 in Washington, D.C. showcases many of the simulated elements featured in the ‘Morning Joe’ virtual set extensions, including the windows, vaulting, lighting fixtures and columns.

Viewers are now treated to a rendering of the faux stone columns and archways found in the workspace that frame out a view of the White House and its grounds.

Also depicted are the barrel vaulting and both frame and bowl-shaped lighting fixtures as well as the floor-to-ceiling glass walls emblazoned with a repeating line of NBC peacocks. Some of the faux columns feature the show’s logo seemingly carved into them.

The end result appears to be an effort to create a sort of balustrade overlooking the White House although, alternatively, it could be viewed as an indoor virtual space with seamless LED video walls showing imagery of the building. 

Scarborough actually appeared in front of this graphic on June 6, presumably in Florida, but Brzezinski was in New York so the full extent of the updates was not immediately apparent.

Another area of improvement is in the studio’s scale, which allows for wider bump shots, such as the one at the top of this article, to be shown. While this is a far cry from the sweeping handheld shots the show can use when in Studio 3A or N1, it still is an improvement over the old setup.

NBC and MSNBC had been gradually stepping up its use of simulated backgrounds or virtual set extensions prior to the pandemic, such as simulated views of Rockefeller Center and Washington, D.C. that included composited elements such as virtual signage, billboards and lighting effects.

When production for many of its shows started originating from anchors’ homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice was stepped up and included renditions of the old “NBC Nightly News” studio adjacent to the 3A space. 

MSNBC itself also shifted to using virtual set extensions during its “MSNBC Reports” branded hours in September 2021, which in turn also featured renderings inspired by the old “Nightly” set.

‘Saturday Today’ uses video walls to attempt to create D.C. version of Studio 1A in NYC

NBC’s Saturday edition of “Today” also recently transitioned to using a simulated window view on its video wall-heavy set in Studio N5, located upstairs from N1.

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