For broadcasters, the big payoff from mobile and social media comes when viewers tune in to watch the local weathercast. When they do, they’ll find several new presentation and forecasting tools that make weather on the big screen even more accurate and easy to understand. One impressive new presentation tool finding its way into weather and traffic reports is augmented reality, or AR. Above, KWTV Oklahoma City displays wind shear warnings using Baron Services tech. This is the final installment of a three-part special report on weather. Read all the stories here.
Someone, somewhere in the world today will make the 12.5 billionth daily request for digital weather from AccuWeather for a smartphone, tablet or computer, says Ryan Ayres, VP of display systems for the company.
The number — 78% higher than the average number of daily requests received in 2014 — underscores the rapid evolution in how the public accesses and consumes weather information.
“The fact is, we have to think mobile first all of the time, because that is the device people have with them all of the time,” says Larry Rickel, president-CEO of The Broadcast Image Group, a San Antonio, Texas-based TV consultancy.
“And weather content is the content we know people are going to use in their lives from very early in the morning till they go to sleep at night.”
The challenge facing TV broadcasters is how to ride the stampede to digital rather than getting trampled by it, Rickel says.
“You want to extend your reach,” says Karl Eggestad, sales director for Metacast Systems at ChyronHego. “You want to send your weather talent to the mobile device to extend your viewer loyalty throughout the day. And then later, when viewers return home, you want them to return to your main screen because you have built that trust throughout the day.”
Not surprisingly, vendors are lined up with new apps and social media tools to help broadcasters succeed in driving viewers to the big screen.
And once they’ve tuned in, many viewers will find even more highly informative weathercasts with greater visual appeal made possible by other new tools from many of those same vendors.
Mobile Apps And Social Media
For stations creating their own weather mobile apps, Baron Services has released its Alerting SDK (software development kit).
With the SDK, stations can incorporate many of the company’s most desirable tools, including its weather alerting system, into their own apps, says Michael Mougey, Baron VP of broadcast sales.
One tool, the “Danger Storm Approaching Alert,” warns app users of oncoming severe weather, while another, the “Twisting Storm Approaching Alert,” notifies users when they are in the path of funnel clouds and tornadoes, he explains.
With Baron’s new App Messenger, which is available as part of the SDK as well as the company’s white label app — a turnkey mobile app stations can brand as their own — broadcasters can target notifications about weather conditions or traffic incidents based on the location of users, Mougey says.
“You could effectively draw a circle, square or polygon around an area on the computer at the television station and within seconds send a notification to those who are currently in that area,” he says.
When combined with the twisting wind and dangerous storm alerts, the App Messenger can trigger alerts to those in potential danger as much as 15 minutes before the National Weather Service issues a warning,” Mougey says.
“You get that [early warnings] plus custom notifications, so the station can really get personal and notify users of the app with messages like: ‘Hey, we are covering this now. Tune in.’ or ‘Tune into the website to stream.’ ”
At WSI, the professional division of The Weather Co., the emphasis on mobile is “paramount,” says Jim Brihan, director of product management. “We are trying to engage their [TV stations’] audience on their mobile devices wherever they are.”
To make that happen, the company has introduced the Max Engage tool, which lets stations geo-target viewers on mobile and other digital platforms with push alerts of weather and traffic information.
Using Max Engage, meteorologists, reporters and other station personnel can set up custom triggers that are executed by specific data, such as specific rainfall totals pushing flood warnings or recorded video clips to mobile devices, he says.
Making the push alerts as automatic as possible is important to maintaining an efficient workflow, Brihan adds. Max Engage also can invite mobile users receiving the alerts to tune in to the station to get “the full experience,” he says.
Workflow is a serious concern for stations that have spent more than a decade cutting, tweaking and adjusting staff to make the newsroom as efficient as possible.
Adding new push weather alerts for mobile, posting weather forecasts and warnings to Twitter and reaching out to other digital platforms should be as easy as possible, says ChyronHego’s Eggestad.
In the case of Metacast, the system builds weather templates that render automatically for Twitter, he says. Meteorologists simply must approve their release and add any comments to personalize the message if desired, he adds.
In practice, that means a meteorologist concluding a morning and noon newscast may have as many as 20 weather graphics and simply choose two or three to post.
“In essence, the weather graphic content you want to use to support your social media presence is rendered continually, and the meteorologist supervises which of those graphics to use,” Eggestad says.
For mobile, ChyronHego offers a white label app stations can brand with their logo and colors that supports push alerts of pertinent weather information based on the location of the app user.
Vizrt’s new Viz Weather Alerts cuts two ways when it comes to social media. Designed primarily for on-air use, it taps into a variety of data sources, ranging from weather data providers and the National Weather Service to high-res map data sources, and also draws upon information coming from social media users about weather conditions to enhance alerts that appear on television, says David Jorba, EVP of operations, Vizrt Americas.
“We’re seeing a big trend toward integrating social media into weather graphics in order to bring in an additional real-time layer of information based on actual audience feedback,” he adds.
On the outbound side of social media, Viz Weather Alerts, like the company’s other graphics products, can generate clips and transcode them in real-time into the format required by various smartphones and other mobile devices, Jorba says.
AccuWeather also is taking advantage of viewer feedback in the form of AccuCast, a new crowd-sourcing app for Android and iOS devices that allows users to report weather conditions and hazards from their specific locations and then with their mobile device view the reports of others plotted on a map, says the company’s Ayres.
“Users can even report on road conditions,” says Ginny Bowen, AccuWeather product marketing manager. “They can say it is raining heavily in my exact location; there is poor visibility; and the roads are slippery,” she says.
Even weather technologies normally associated with on-air presentation are getting into the social media act. For example, Weather Metrics’ HD IP-based tower cams have been enhanced with a new GUI that makes it easier for meteorologists to post time-lapse cityscapes to their Facebook pages, says Lisa Freidel, company COO.
For broadcasters, the big payoff from mobile and social media comes when viewers tune in to watch the local weathercast. When they do, they’ll find several new presentation and forecasting tools that make weather on the big screen even more accurate and easy to understand.
One impressive new presentation tool finding its way into cable and broadcast television is augmented reality, or AR.
In May, The Weather Channel debuted its new weather lab with an explanation of the anatomy of a tornado — a virtual 3D tornado that started out as a two-dimensional radar representation of a twister, grew vertically with twisting motion to depict what happens tens of thousands of feet above the surface of the earth and revealed the tight spinning motion of a tornado on the ground.
As meteorologist Jim Cantore walked behind and around the 3D radar extrusion of the twister, the swirling mass of colors turned into a grayish, 3D representation of an actual tornado complete with text to label key tornadic features and swirling debris.
The augmented reality presentation of the tornado was the final product of a months-long effort by The Weather Channel and Vizrt to make it possible for the Viz Engine to read weather data and generate the AR tornado in real time, says Isaac Hersly, president-CEO of Vizrt. A camera tracking system was also deployed to maintain proper perspective as Cantore moved around and behind the swirling tornado, he adds.
Similar augmented reality weather presentations are coming to local television as well.
At the 2015 NAB Show, WSI and Ross Video jointly announced Max Reality, an augmented reality system for weather and traffic presentation that leverages the WSI graphics engine and Ross camera tracking data, says Dave Larson, general manager Ross Virtual Solutions.
KTRK Houston and WTVD Raleigh, N.C., both Disney/ABC-owned stations, are scheduled to be the first two stations to take delivery of Max Reality systems, says WSI’s Brihan.
Installation of a third WSI Max Reality system along with a Ross Video camera tracking system, should begin at CBS O&O KOVR Sacramento, Calif., in September, he adds.
“Augmented reality allows presenters to be more open with the audience and not have to turn their back to viewers,” he says. “Max Reality lets them actually explain to the audience what is going by using augmented weather objects.”
Anything a meteorologist can do in a normal chromakey environment can be done with a 3D augmented reality object, he adds.
Another tool making its mark on weather presentation is AccuWeather’s StoryTeller interactive touch panel.
To date, about 140 of the 70- and 84-inch touchscreens are being used by U.S. broadcasters for everything from weather presentation to traffic, election and news coverage, says AccuWeather’s Ayres.
Used together with AccuWeather’s MinuteCast, Storyteller can present precipitation data along with the intensity of a storm down to the street level over the two-hour window, he says.
Such granularity could be useful for meteorologists who want to tell tailgaters what conditions to expect at a specific time before a big game, Ayres says.
“Who cares at a tailgate if there is a little rain?” he asks rhetorically. “But it can actually show you the intense part of the storm and where there might be dangerous conditions.”
Tools like AR and StoryTeller with MinuteCast illustrate what is possible when a vast amount of highly accurate weather data is available for processing by powerful hardware and sophisticated algorithms.
Another example is ChyronHego’s Metacast MediaMaker. Launched at the 2015 NAB Show, MediaMaker provides the graphics backbone where high-quality Metacast graphics are created in a dedicated content server and shared throughout the entire newsroom via ChyronHego’s BlueNet graphics workflow system, Eggestad says.
“Say there is a stream analysis of the debris from the Malaysian airliner,” he says. “Data on ocean currents and wind can be used to automatically create graphics that are then rendered rather than relying on the time-consuming process of manually building the graphics,” he says.
Fade To Black
Combining mobile and social media to reach viewers throughout the day and encourage them to tune in when they can is representative of a bigger transformation that should happen at television stations, Rickel says.
Rickel’s company has been consulting television stations for the past 30 years — and more recently has been working with media companies across all distribution platforms. He says stations must begin to see themselves as being in the “evolving media business” not simply as TV stations.
That change in perspective will touch many aspects of their business, ranging from the platforms they use to distribute content to how they present themselves to the public.
“We have to produce the entire day like we used to produce a newscast,” he says.
“People want content produced at that level all day long across the platforms that are most convenient to them. That goes for weather and breaking news. It goes for everything.
“We are not far from having all-day-anchors and meteorologists delivering all day across all platforms.”
This is the final installment of a three-part special report on weather. Read all the stories here.