A look inside 'American Idol' Season 13's new set with executive producers Per Blankens and Jesse Ignjatovic

american-idol-season-13-new-set.jpgSeason 13 of "American Idol" has been a fresh start of sorts for the stalwart reality competition. The audition episodes have gotten a welcomed overhaul, the judging panel is as close to perfect as it's been since the original iteration and now the live shows are going to look refreshed thanks to the show's brand-new set.

Zap2it visited Stage 36 at CBS Television City for the first time this "Idol" season to catch a quick glimpse at the new setup, and it has an entirely different vibe from previous years. As you can see in some quick iPhone pictures we snapped during our walk-through, there are now three levels of seating, two different stages, a lounge area for the non-performing contestants, and a showcase for the Rickey Minor-led band.

Explains executive producer Jesse Ignjatovic, "What we wanted to do was tap into the energy of live music, so we created a 360 environment here in the room," he says. "The idea is not just keeping everything to this stage but really mixing it up -- having entrances from different positions and just utilizing the whole of the room this season."

The main stage has the traditional split-screen where the judges will enter the room, but their desk is in the middle of the set and there's a stage behind them that will be home to some performances and eliminations. On one side is a lounge area. "The other contestants will all be seated in this area watching their co-contestants perform, so there's that extra sense of pressure," says set designer Baz Halpin.

The set isn't complete -- in fact, most of the contestants haven't even seen it yet -- and will look slightly different during the Rush Week live shows than it will once the Top 13 start performing. It can hold around 600 people, taking into account all the standing room space.

There are 31 contestants remaining in the competition, but they'll be cut to 20 before the Rush Week performances begin -- 10 girls and 10 boys will each compete for America to vote them in to the Top 13. Says executive producer Per Blankens, "Five [of each gender] don't perform, but we're rehearsing all the kids and ready for all the kids. The judges will decide in the live show which 10 go through to the next phase."

No, the judges still haven't made up their minds on the Top 20, and plan to sit in on rehearsals in the coming days. "They base that decision on everything that has happened so far and the workshop that we had with Randy Jackson a few weeks ago," says Blankens. "Then on Thursday, we see America's Top 10 in terms of votes. But we need a Top 13, so the judges will single out five kids to sing again, sing live in front of the judges. And from that show, the judges will pick three from the five. And then we have our Top 13."
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