With the number of makeovers The Oprah Winfrey Show has performed in its 20 years on the air, its quite a feat that their most elaborate is on the show’s set. Chicago Scenic Studios is trailblazing broadcast set construction with Oprah Winfrey’s unprecedented and innovative set for her 20th season. Chicago Scenic put to detail, fabricated, and installed the new set.
Veteran CSSI unit manager Gary Heitz was appointed Harpo’s global project manager and collaborated with Harpo Productions and West Coast designer Anton Goss to deliver the one-of-a-kind set. Gross provided digital renderings to Chicago Scenic, which enabled the team to actualize the grand vision for the set.
With multiple ways to reveal guests, bands, or special sets, the set is the most versatile on-air to date. The construction mission was to allow for the greatest flexibility and striking appearance while keeping Oprah close to her audience. Oprah’s homebase is central to the set and is designed to allow three positions of differing proximity to the audience.
A series of mechanized devices allow for numerous stage configurations. In all, the set contains nearly 50 points of motion. Center close-downs of double sided light boxes open like clamshells to reveal the turntable, or raise into themselves and disappear into the ceiling. The set features a 30’ diameter center stage turntable with eight hydraulic lift stage sections; and a 16’x30’ LED wall designed in four separate pieces, all of which track both side to side and up and down stage. Three double-sided light boxes swivel 90º and host 42” plasma monitors providing a creative reveal option.
According to The Oprah Winfrey Show website, it took 62,000 hours and two years of planning and building to get the state-of-the-art theatre ready for the show's 20th season premiere on September 19, 2005. The crew consisted of 350 engineers, electricians, and construction workers.