‘America Tonight’ peels back layers of news in intro

Al Jazeera America’s flagship evening news program that debuted Thursday evening, “America Tonight,” uses a well crafted intro that is worth taking a deeper look at.

Combining a soft, subtle musical undertone with gritty video footage depicting the topics of energy, housing, education, military and health, the intro manages to be both futuristic and current at the same time.

As the video images flicker by, two somewhat ghostly, disembodied hands hold up transparency-like sheets of plastic in the viewport, which have animated data points and keywords matching the video behind it. The text appears to be projected on the plastic sheets as if they are using some sort of advanced projection technology like you’d see in a science fiction movie.

The selection of topics used in this series of images and imagery used to portray them touch upon many of the most controversial and challenging issues America is facing while also bringing to mind related issues.

For example, while the first scene features the word “energy” in large, prominent type, one is also reminded of issues involving environmental concerns, public transit and gas prices (one of TV news’ favorite topics).

Likewise, the image of an rundown home conjures connections to the economy, troubled real estate market, socioeconomic issues and even natural disasters affect on our infrastructure.

After the final scene, the image shifts to an evening landscape shot that focuses upward into the night sky. The pair of hands then holds of a transparency sheet and, interspersed by some artfully placed jump cuts, the Al Jazeera logo and show title appear on the film.

Overall, the intro does an excellent job of depicting, in an almost mysterious way, the aim of the show — to dig deeper into the stories and uncover layers of data, information and key points. The pair of hands is an interesting visual device as well, giving the intro a human touch while also communicating the idea of “viewing” the news through a screen.

It is interesting, however, that the intro doesn’t match the rest of the show’s look and feel as well — there’s no hint of the deep purples, magentas, blues and gold used in the on set graphics.

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The opening is also rather long for today’s standards — about 25 seconds — and also doesn’t include an announcer, another distinctive choice, but certainly indicative of Al Jazeera America’s strategy of providing a non-hurried look at the news (“America Tonight” itself makes use of longer form stories than most other newscasts).

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