CNN climate segment falls flat

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CNN made a rather weak attempt at mimicking the look of extended reality segments that frequently pop up on TV news with a locked-down overhead camera shot and green floor covering.

The segment, part of the network’s “Climate Crisis” series, aired on “New Day” Aug. 30, 2022 and featured a package from climate correspondent Bill Weir.

Co-anchor John Berman introduced the story from Studio 19Y in New York, standing in front of the large seamless video wall installed camera left of the show’s home base.

The video wall and nearby freestanding monitor were both showcasing footage from Weir’s report.

Berman was shown standing on-camera with rather awkward framing that was presumably done to avoid having the green floor covering that had been rolled out on the studio floor show up on camera (some of the green is visible in the silver frame of the monitor).

After the story ran, Weir joined Berman in-studio. The pair were captured from both ground level but also a locked down camera configured to shoot down on the set, capturing the video wall, part of the monitor and neighboring areas.

The lower two-thirds of the shot was filled with what was painfully obvious as a “green screen” that had been placed on the floor.

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Weir and Berman were standing on the green surface, which the control room chroma keyed out to insert a combination of maps, graphics and video footage.

Unfortunately, the effect was diminished by a variety of factors — namely that the key wasn’t very clean and green glows could be seen around the men’s feet and what appears to be the edges of whatever material was placed on the floor.

In some cases, it’s almost possible to see what appears to be the edge of the material.

The effect was further ruined when some of the graphics keyed into the space were awkwardly cut off, likely because either the camera inadvertently shifted or the video source wasn’t scaled correctly.

CNN even included a 3D signpost with key facts about sea levels, which perhaps could have passed as an AR element — but any hope of the illusion was thrown off by how it was cut off on one corner.

All told, the locked down shot also appeared to be slightly off-center, though it’s not clear if that was on purpose or not, though it appears that the graphics would have been better contained within the green part of the floor if the camera had been panned right just a bit.

It also appeared that there was something going on with the opacity of the keyed image, perhaps to prevent it from looking glaringly green-screened. 

The end result, however, was that nearly all of the images had a distinct green glow to them and become especially obvious when the inserted graphic had a dark background.

CNN could perhaps be given some credit for attempting the effect as a fairly quick and easy way to mimic the look of a virtual explainer or AR standup, though it ultimately came as looking less-than-network-level, especially given it has created much better extended reality segments in the past.

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There’s also numerous extended reality solutions on the market that offer quick ways to create true AR elements in real spaces without requiring any camera tracking or green screen.

The effort could have also been more effective, perhaps, had the graphics keyed in had green backgrounds, which would have made some sense given that the segment is about climate and the Earth, which is often linked with the color green.

That said, the stinger CNN uses for the franchise uses blue as a dominant shade.

It’s perhaps even more odd that CNN didn’t use Studio 21V or Studio 21W, which both feature different configurations of seamless video walls and LED video floor tiles. These spaces were used for shows on the now-defunct CNN+ streaming service and it’s not immediately clear if they are still active, however.

All that said, the entire segment likely could have been done without the floor effect — either using some of the numerous video walls in the “New Day” studio or even just plain old fullscreen graphics.

Overall, having Weir and Berman stand on the imagery captured from above didn’t add much to the story — with the possible exception of Weir gesturing a few times to various points on maps or graphics. 

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