Big screens, big challenges

With on-set rear projection and other large screens becoming a definite trend, it’s important to fill these monitors with eye-catching, quality content.

To start off, creating a solid template for standup OTSs allows for quick and easy graphics that correspond with the news of the day. Art departments can also stretch their creativity with uniquely branded graphics and animation for special reports or franchise segments.

However, an element that many stations struggle with is filling rear projection screens placed behind the main anchor two-shot. While an RP screen in this area allows for instant changes for differentdayparts or even segments.

The most straightforward approach is to use a live or tape loop of the station’s hometown cityscape, though this isn’t always an option if another station in the market uses a skyline background.

Alternative video options include control room or newsroom clips, weather cameras during severe weather coverage or local landmarks. Landmarks can be displayed in either traditional wide shots or interesting angles that highlight trademark architectural elements. Another way to take this approach farther is to rotate a selection of still or video shots taken from around your coverage area, giving viewers a comfortable feeling of familiarity.

Because of this, many stations take the route of creating an animated loop with subtle motion to add visual interest and branding opportunities. But creating a graphic that does all this isn’t easy. It’s important that any graphics coordinate with the main graphics package and isn’t too distracting. Many stations chose large, animated 3D versions of their logo — but stretching the logo so large can affect readability and leave viewers wondering what exactly is going on in the background.

So what works well? It’s a tough call — but some choices to consider are animated maps or state silhouettes, local imagery, station slogans, network logos (especially the CBS eye and NBC peacock) or even simple color washes. Also consider keeping at least some elements small enough so they can fit entirely on screen. One effective design trick for RP backgrounds is making elements move horizontally across the screen rather than in rotations or vertically.

Another effective approach is, using your main animated background as a base, create templates for adding two to three word headlines above your anchors’ heads or a topical graphic between the anchors while still allowing the base graphic to show through.

Using this method creates a cohesive look that is still flexible enough to be customized on a per-story basis. In addition, if you’re not producing 16:9 news, it’s often possible to use an RP screen as a single anchor OTS element by shooting in from the same side of the set the anchor sits on rather than cross-shooting.

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