TV Graphics Workflow Evolves, Expands

Visitors to this year’s NAB Show will see the results of an ongoing shift in broadcast graphics from the control room to the studio for greater control and flexibility over graphics presentation. Several other graphics themes will also be important at NAB, including Integrating social media into broadcast graphics, election graphics, augmented and virtual reality, and sports. For a resources guide to the companies mentioned in this story, click here. Read all the 2016 NAB Hot Topics stories here.

The overarching trend fully on display at 2016 NAB Show when it comes to broadcast graphics will be a significant change in the way graphics are produced for television news.

At the heart of this change is a workflow transition that puts TV reporters and other content producers in the graphics driver’s seat.

The idea is to enable reporters and others in the newsroom to populate pre-defined templates with elements such as text, images, weather graphics and other material, and free up trained graphic artists for higher level creative tasks. 

Graphics Workflow
“We strongly believe the industry is in the middle of a technology transition, and on the other side it is going to be content driving the production,” says Jesper Gawell, chief marketing officer, at ChyronHego.

To that end, the company will introduce CAMIO Universe, a software-based newsroom production system. Not only does the new offering make it simple for journalists to insert lower-thirds, but with the help of templates it makes it possible to insert interactive graphics, virtual and augmented graphics and even weather graphics into their stories. 

“One day, there won’t be separate systems for all of these [graphics functions],” he says. “They need to come together into a unified workflow.”


Ofir Benovici, senior director, broadcast products at Avid, concurs. “The real value [of this approach] is you are empowering the journalist to choose and decide which graphics to use, how to use them and when to use them.”

Over the past year since Avid announced its acquisition of Orad, much of the R&D work on broadcast graphics systems has been devoted to further integrating Orad graphics into the Avid portfolio, streamlining workflow “and making everything better, tighter and smoother,” Benovici says.

For instance, at the NAB Show, Avid will demonstrate how a journalist can access a graphic element database from the user interface of its MediaCentral platform, find a template, insert graphics and preview it in a MediaCentral window.

“When you are happy with the graphics, you can publish them, and they will become part of your story and rundown,” Benovici says.

This streamlined workflow offers TV stations, groups and networks two benefits. It gives reporters greater control over their stories, and it integrates graphics more deeply into the overall news production workflow rather than treating graphics production as “a standalone, isolated environment,” he says.

Vizrt is also planning to demonstrate a major change in broadcast graphics workflow at the NAB Show, says David Jorba, president of Vizrt Americas.

“Our aim is to be able to work anywhere in the production from a browser, from any of the different production points and have all of our tools available at any time, whether you are inside the newsroom system, standalone or inside a nonlinear editor,” Jorba says.

This browser-based interface underlying the Vizrt rethink of broadcast graphics workflow also supports an ongoing shift from the control room to the studio for control over graphics presentation, he says.

“Traditionally the function of the control room has been playing out full-screen graphics to accompany the news and the data that needs to be shown during the show,” he says. “But now the trend is more towards inside the studio and having the anchor and presenters do more there.”

At the NAB Show, Vizrt will show Viz Multiplay with a browser-based interface to make that a reality. The product, which can be used from a control room or in the studio by a presenter, provides interactive control over placement of graphics, images and video onto videowalls, which increasingly are becoming a fixture on many news sets, Jorba says.

“You can just push it with your finger,” he adds. “This graphic goes to the videowall on the left, this graphic goes to the videowall on the right. It is really that dynamic.” 

For Pixel Power, the change in broadcast graphics workflow centers on virtualizing its Clarity graphics engine in an on-premise or public cloud, says company EVP Mike O’Connell.

While the company continues to sell Clarity as a standalone, virtualizing it as a software service running in the cloud allows Pixel Power to offer a “pay-as-you-go model with Pixel on Demand,” he says. “With Pixel on Demand, you just pay for render time for graphics and the file-based output of those graphics.”

Likening the payment model to a mobile phone plan, O’Connell says the approach gives broadcasters the dual benefits of avoiding CAPEX outlays and a means to bill specific departments within their operation that actually use the graphics, such as a promotion department.

“And, if they don’t want to promote anything [for a period of time] and they use the virtual environment, they can stand down their instance until they actually want to market something else in the future,” he says.

Sports Graphics
While the overall trend in broadcast graphics at this year’s NAB Show will be changes to workflow, several other themes will also be important, including election graphics, augmented and virtual reality, social media and sports.

“We are making a much deeper push into live sports,” says Brian Olson, Ross Video’s director of marketing product management/business development for XPression and Ross virtual solutions.

Ross has long focused on reducing the number of boxes needed to create graphics for live sports production, relying on the multilayer capabilities of its XPression real-time motion graphics system.

“We can get the score bug and media wipes, full screens, lower thirds, all on a single channel of XPression,” he says.

The company also offers XPression Telestrate, a “cost-effective telestration program for first replays” and XPression Clips, which provides graphic clips for sports production, he says

While Olson declined to reveal specific new features or products to be introduced at the NAB Show for sports graphics applications, the company’s “deeper push” into this area makes it likely there will be new developments from Ross in sports graphics.

Paul Babb, president-CEO of Maxon Computer, creator of the Cinema 4D 3-D animation application, says there is a “big buzz” around virtual and augmented reality, “especially implementations of VR for sports graphics.”

At the NAB Show, more than 20 animators of Cinema 4D will demonstrate how they are using the package to support various applications, including VR, he says.

Cinema 4D has a 360-degree camera so animators can render out of the application to a 360-degree virtual reality video or via its integration with Adobe After Effects and the SkyBox 360/VR plug-in render out to 360-degree videos.

“We have motion trackers inside of our application so you can put a real environment into our application and incorporate 3-D elements into those environments very easily,” he says.

These 360/VR environments can be used with real-time graphics engines to support virtual setups for sports and election coverage, says Babb.

“The upcoming elections will be a big part of our presence at NAB,” says ChyronHego’s Gawell. The company will show how broadcasters can report on the campaign and election night from within their existing graphics workflow.

“We are basically connecting CAMIO Universe and CAMIO with election data, which makes it “easy to fulfill a lower third or [the need for] virtual graphics, interactive touch screen [graphics] or your standard broadcast graphics,” he says.

ChyronHego will spotlight the partnership it formed with Hybrid TV, a virtual reality and camera robotics vendor, in August 2015. It will present a Hybrid TV-based virtual studio and demonstrate how it can be integrated with CAMIO Universe.

Vizrt will be showing how broadcasters can use augmented reality, videowalls, interactivity and social media as visual components in their election coverage, says Jorba.

As part of its presentation, the company will demonstrate how augmented reality can be used in conjunction with videowalls to provide a “very powerful combination” to convey election results.

“Augmented reality is one of the areas where we are seeing great demand,” says Avid’s Benovici. “You want to be able to tell a better story to your viewers. Augmented reality and videowalls can illustrate the story you are talking about and allow you to stand out from the crowd.”

At NAB, Avid will demonstrate both augmented reality and videowalls in the context of the elections and emphasize its tools for adding election data to videowall displays, he says.

The interest in augmented reality among broadcasters is growing and will be an important part of the Ross Video NAB presence, as well. “I think it is becoming much more acceptable. The economics of it are making sense,” says the company’s Olson.

Even if there is no virtual aspect of a set, adding augmented reality enhancements to a hard set is growing in popularity as a way to attract viewers, he says.

Ross Video, which introduced trackless virtual sets at IBC 2015 last September, will likely show the progress it’s made in the intervening months, although Olson declined to reveal any specifics.

However, Olson did reveal that Ross will introduce Xpression Tick-it Flow, a light version of its ticker software. The software is the database portion of the company’s ticker software. It includes support for AP’s new high-speed election data feed, he says.

Xpression graphics “can feed off” this data to insert tickers and graphics with election results, news headlines, sports scores, school closings and other data-driven graphics.

Social Media
Integrating social media into broadcast graphics is growing in importance, and vendors at the NAB Show will present their solutions for making that happen.

Avid will focus on Orad’s Social Media Hub, which makes it easy to merge information from social media, filter and moderate it and then display it graphically on air, Benovici says.

On the flip side, the tool also makes it easy to distribute what’s presented on air to various social media sites, he says.

Vizrt will spotlight its Social TV product, which makes it possible to input any type of social media and make it a part of the Vizrt system so that it can be accessed from anywhere within the workflow, says the company’s Jorba.

“It is designed as centralized storage for all of the social media feeds you want to use,” he says.

Fade To Black
With all of the emphasis over the past several years placed on wringing new efficiencies out of various aspects of the broadcast workflow, it probably will come as no surprise to broadcasters that graphics vendors have set out to transition the graphics workflow as well.

The 2016 NAB Show will give broadcasters a chance to see these new workflows for themselves and decide how closely they match up with their own thinking and needs.

While it’s impossible to predict how they will react, there can be little doubt that placing broadcast graphics creation at the fingertips of reporters and other content producers is entirely consistent with the direction of newsroom computer design and even one-man-band IP newsgathering in the field.

For a resource page of the companies mentioned in this story, click here. To download the resource page as a PDF, click here. See all 2016 NAB Hot Topics stories here.

Read all of TVNewsCheck‘s NAB 2016 coverage here.

To stay up to date on all things tech, follow Phil Kurz on TVNewsCheck’s Playout tech blog here. And follow him on Twitter: @TVplayout.

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