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Broadcast Design: More Complex Than Motion Media/GFX Design

The phrase broadcast design refers to the overall look of a television show.  More specifically, the content containing much of its design elements that are responsible for helping to shape the visual branding of the program.  It’s often a term that is used to refer to news/sports live television imaging, though opening titles can be a very important part of an episodic program’s identity as well.


A broadcast design job can be both a very exciting project and a daunting task.  It involves graphic design (logo files), musical composition (for timing/flow), design, editorial, and even engineering.  Yes, engineering.  Why?  Because sometimes the equipment handling the designed content has limitations or special treatments that can affect the design itself or how it is installed such as file format and creation settings.  A properly planned job accounts for all of this and allows for ample time for testing/implementation (including staff training).


One useful way to prepare for such a project is to get as many questions answered from the client as possible but without wasting their valuable time.  A creative brief is the kind of document that does just that.  It helps the design team understand the goals of the project and the client’s background.  An asset list will help the client know what files need to be prepared and sent over to the design team (music cue sheets and tracks, logo files as vector art, equipment lists, etc.).  It’s important to note that the music selection such content will be syncing up to will ultimately help to drive the pace of the animated work.  Likewise, the colors being utilized on any uniform/set, lighting, or logo design/location might provide a key starting pallet.


As a general rule of thumb, it helps to start by designing the main open–an element that will surely become the signature piece of the entire design package.  Other supporting elements can then be generated based upon that base concept/design direction and framework.  This pulls the entire package together and gives the program its branding, or similar style, that becomes familiar to viewers.


Once the templates have been designed and the typefaces/styles chosen, it’s time to integrate it with the technology that will be deploying/manipulating such content on a regular basis.  This often involves the media servers and character generation machines (and in the case of news) newsroom software (which automates the functionality of directorial commands/graphics/data entry & various aspects of the technical execution during the live production).



News Tags
News Tags, applied in Harris Inscriber Title Motion GS HD



News tags are one example of how CG software assigns placeholder zones that database systems such as computer newsroom environments can then direct and plug text or other graphic elements into.


RapidCG, seen loaded with graphics information exported from a computer newsroom system



All of the elements designed/created can then become combined to form complex looks.  For example, a database product might place a score or weather text item inside of a graphics file that tells it where that information should appear on the screen.  That place holder tag created and assigned a name inside the CG program then applies the specified treatment to that text entry (font/style/color/size etc.).  If the item is to have a complimentary motion background element, that gets combined at the production switcher, which handles the stacking order (key priority) of the sources appearing on the screen (much like the timeline in a traditional video editing application).


Key Priority, seen as assigned on a production switcher


Sometimes a switcher’s capabilities or functionality drive what source needs to be loaded onto which layer, proving again how in order for a broadcast design package to be successfully executed, it must also be well thought out, taking all of the technical limitations/capabilities into consideration during the design/planning process.


How all of the layers get triggered on air can be automated, too.  Seen below is a macro editing window.  Macros are used to create a series of shortcuts (much like a playlist) where the operator only has to hit one button to initiate a sequence of technical commands (preventing operator error due to the ability to have precise control & timing).





Graphics and animation/video playback sources can also introduce the ability for a certain level of advanced control.  Options range from pin pointing specific cut points (where the source changes), to loop points (in the case where an animation has a lead-in move for its introduction prior to entering its looping state), or in/out points just like those found in editing.


The Mark Loop Point command button on a production switcher


Bottom line: broadcast design involves much much more than just animation and graphics design–there is research, engineering, musical scoring, lighting design, art direction, cinematography, editing/post production, and even live action/directing that can often come into play (which is why many teams consist of a host of skilled professionals, each with their own degree of specialty).