JULY 10, 2020

How News Graphics Give Newsrooms a Competitive Edge

News anchor presents in front of a greenscreen

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then news graphics can bring countless words to life. Broadcast news is embracing visual storytelling that lets viewers experience the news rather than just hear about it.

The technology that makes news graphics tick has undergone its own evolution, allowing broadcasters to communicate in fresh, eye-catching ways. Graphics translate complex data into a more comprehensible package, while the use of VR sets and augmented reality (AR) expands the news outside the confines of a physical studio. These methods can create a branded experience for the viewer, stretch production dollars further, and bring more viewers to the table.

Breathing Life into Complex Data

From simple graphs to detail-rich maps, visual context makes data easier to digest. As the audience’s hunger for content has grown, so has the technology for providing it. The evolution from the “nightly news” to the 24/7 news cycle has created a more urgent need to feed that hunger.

One of the most obvious examples is the dissemination of data during an election cycle. News coverage of election returns must offer audiences up-to-the-minute coverage and updates that might whet their appetites. During the 2019 elections in Catalonia, Spain, TV3 relied on AR and virtual sets to create dazzling visual storytelling to keep the viewers informed. Instead of the standard 2D charts listing current vote counts, TV3 brought the viewers inside virtual legislative chambers as the seats filled as elections were called.

Similar methods are already becoming part of the 2020 election cycle in the United States. As Newscast Studio reported, networks like MSNBC are using AR to enhance the visual experience of election returns as November approaches. Graphics and information are no longer limited to the 2D video wall. Instead, they blossom into the studio in 3D. We will undoubtedly see more networks pull out all the stops for election night as they vie for viewers’ attention. All of this is happening, of course, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, which presents its own challenges around reporting complex and swiftly changing data—making it that much more vital for networks to beef up their graphics capabilities.

Thinking outside the Studio Box with VR Sets, Augmented Reality

Modern news broadcasting isn’t limited to the physical reality of the studio walls. Virtual sets and AR technology allow the talent to “travel” to other locations without the overhead of actual remote production—or, on the flip side, bring remote guests into the studio by incorporating those remote feeds into the virtual set.

As noted by TV News Check, the set design trend of using LED walls and VR/AR technologies to create greater flexibility was in full swing well before the pandemic, and it’s unlikely to change course now. The good news is that these trends were well-placed to give networks the additional flexibility they now need. Even while maintaining social distance, news talent and guests can appear “together” in the studio, reporters working from home can employ the same virtual backgrounds that they use in the studio, and talent can visit virtual locations with fewer safety concerns.

Creating a Memorable Brand Experience across Platforms

One of the most important tasks for a broadcaster’s news graphics strategy is creating identifiable branding across all of their distribution platforms, including social. Once a network has earned viewers’ trust as a provider of breaking information, releasing visual data in a style that’s easily recognizable as your organization’s work can strengthen that association.

During TV3’s election coverage, they engaged their audience further by using geolocation to push relevant coverage to mobile users and provided live coverage of behind-the-scenes action. Giving their audience an insider view of the AR technology adds captivating bonus content to an already feature-rich presentation.

Journalists in the field should be able to access these on-air and studio graphics elements from whatever working environment they’re in and across mobile and social platforms. This flexibility facilitates comprehensive, consistent branding across the entire news ecosystem.

Getting More Return from the Production Budget

All of these advances in technology mean that networks can stay ahead of the curve without blowing up their budgets.

A single broadcast studio can be transformed for multiple shows in one day simply by changing the display of graphics throughout the studio’s LED walls. Rebranding efforts don’t require new set construction—they can be accomplished with a metaphorical flip of the switch reaching across platforms. All of this helps newsrooms stay current, keep a fresh visual storytelling strategy, and pique the interest of viewers without breaking the bank.

  • Amy Leland Headshot

    Amy Leland is a film director and editor. Her short film, Echoes, is available on Amazon Video. She is an editor for CBS Sports Network.

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