Next to the SuperBowl, a presidential election seems to bring out the geek in the television graphic designers. It’s a one-time event that lets them throw away budget limitations and build the slickest technology they can in order to make their broadcast coverage the most compelling show possible. So watch for some cool visuals tonight when you watch the election returns.
For example, CNN is planning to create live holographic-style images of remote correspondents that will be “beamed” into the sets with live anchors. According to an article in TV Technology, the system uses 43 individual HD cameras, set in portrait mode instead of the standard landscape mode so that they cover the individual head to toe. These are used to create a composite 3D image of the person in realtime, covering a 220 degree arc. 20 computers will be used to stitch the images together. And in what I find to be a wonderful decision, the network will actually degrade the image quality a little so that it looks like the person is a virtual image, just so that you won’t be confused and think the person is really in the studio.
CNN will also have its Magic Wall, a giant multi-touch screen monitor that gives “Minority Report” style access to all sorts of graphic and electoral data. According to TV Technology, a second “virtual Capitol Building” will provide graphics showing the Congressional election results.
Count on other networks to trot out the technology as well. A total of 13 HD cameras — including one on a robotic arm — will cover the CBS news studio. They’re also going to have a four-sided display like an arena scoreboard, an LED wall, and a 65″ touch screen.
And for those of you who can’t make up your mind which coverage to watch, check out DirecTV’s SD channel 102 or HD channel 352. These will have an 8-panel display that will include feeds from CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, as well as alternating feeds of Comedy Central (when it’s doing live election coverage) and BBC America. The other panels will show results from exit polls, election returns, and electoral college vote projections. And you’ll be able to “hover” over a panel to trigger the audio for that part of the screen. Sounds like a sure recipe for scrambled brains, but it should be fun until you get overwhelmed.
And the bottom line on all these technological toys is that I expect the broadcasts will tell you more about the results than you would have received from the coverage of eight or 12 years ago.