Networks turn attention to the sky for eclipse coverage

The major U.S. networks offered up extended coverage of the 2024 North American total solar eclipse.

MSNBC was perhaps the most ambitious, opting to utilize the green box studios adjacent to its main set in Studio 3A in Rockefeller Plaza to offer an interactive 3D model space focused on the sun-earth-moon alignment — complete with a floating viewing platform for talent to peer out into the heavens. 

The network also leveraged the multiple video walls and video panels throughout 3A to showcase “Total Eclipse” branded and space-themed graphics, including an impressive array of moon outlines on the so-called “Kornacki Curve.” 

Anchor Katy Tur, who was anchoring what is normally Chris Jansing’s time, presented coverage from both standing and seated positions, including walking into the extended reality portion of the studio, which included a “close call” when her guest almost stepped off the virtual platform.

The network also had an old-fashioned classroom-style teaching model and globe set up around the studio and set the high round anchor desk up in the middle, allowing the primary shot to focus on the virtual opening along the west wall.

The 3D space model inserted into this area had each orb set up in a 3D space so that as the camera operator moved around using the “walk and wander” floating camera style, each body changed angles. This also allowed the operator to simulate the effect of an eclipse (albeit one created from the vantage point of somewhere in space and not necessarily from Earth).

Bill Karins was on hand to use weather-style maps, which were presented in the L-shaped alcove on the opposite end of the studio.

Continuing with its “in the heavens” theme, the network also made use of the LED ceiling band that spans from one side of the studio to the other, using it in bump shots in combination with the virtual space.

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CNN’s coverage, meanwhile, was surprisingly light on the use of graphics and “video on video” and floating camera video wall shots that it often interspersed into its special coverage, even when reporting from the field, but probably had one of the most elegant graphics packages for the event (which differed from its promo look).

NBC News and NBC News Now carried the same coverage during the height of the event, with Lester Holt live from Indianapolis. 

NBC, NBC News Now and MSNBC also offered L-bar shaped screens with three boxes running down the right side allowing it to showcase live feeds from various points across the totality, a map of the path and a timeline of when the eclipse would reach specific cities. 

It, too, was light on the accompanying graphics, instead, much like CNN, letting the images of the eclipse stand out.

CBS News used the extended open highlighting historical clips of past eclipse coverage that was first unveiled over the weekend.

It used some fullscreen graphics done in a matching look, but its most creative aspect was subtle — it added a background behind the eye bug in the corner of the screen to make it simulate a loop of the moon covering the sun.

Coverage was anchored by “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell and “CBS Mornings” co-anchor Tony Dokoupil. Dokoupil, incidentally, is married to Tur, so there was some husband-and-wife competition on air at the same time.

ABC News opted for a dramatic, extended open that once again made use of the song “Glowing in the Dark” by The Girl and the Dreamcatcher. It also used cuts from this track in 2017.

It positioned anchors David Muir and Linsey Davis in New Hampshire — one of the last locations to experience the totality, but also cut in stunning video on video shots from Studio TV3 back in New York.

Elements included scrolling logos of its “Eclipse Across America” title along with partner National Geographic. The large movable LED video wall segment in the space was pushed outward and used to highlight maps, live shot tosses and other elements.

The network featured an element in the lower left of the screen that could expand to be a small thumbnail of a live feed while also conveying countdown information for the next totality. 

Fox’s cable channel focused on the eclipse mostly during the actual event, including setting up a simplified version of Fox Square outside of Studio M in New York. 

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It used the name “America’s Total Eclipse,” which featured an animated open and matching graphics, including ones for the sliver along the bottom of the screen.

Fox also added additional data to its screen, including an animated simulations of what the eclipse would look like from various parts of the country, including areas outside the totality. This included time information.

Sister channel Fox Weather had a slightly longer version of the open.

The network also used an animated bug that reimagined the “O” in “Fox” as a moon-sun totality loop.

Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Univision also got into the action, with Telemundo branding its coverage “Eclipse Total” (Spanish for “total eclipse”) and Univision using “El Gran Eclipse Americano,” or “The Great American Eclipse.”

Univision’s look was perhaps the most unique — it used a hazy gold look that was also shown in more of a sepia monotone.

Both networks offered extended opens with narrations and skillfully edited arrays of imagery.