CNN Hologram – Behind the Scenes video

Just in case you haven’t seen it yet on, I imagine, zillions of other blogs, here’s how CNN used “holograms” to “beam in” remote correspondents on Election Night. The short answer: green screens and a whole bunch of computer-controlled cameras, for some real-time “Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” action. It continues CNN’s apparent campaign to be the TV network most like sci fi movies. (Hello, Minority Report-style gestural screens!)

Of course, it’s notable for some other reasons – somewhat silly reasons:

  • It’s probably the only time someone intentionally added blue fringing to a chroma key effect. Yep, that’s right: the blue halo around the participants had to be added intentionally to emphasize what they were doing, even though fringing is usually what you try to avoid.
  • It’s mixing sci fi metaphors like no tomorrow. Princess Leia? Beam me up? Holograms? What? “Cap’n, Scott here! I cannu keep the Death Star from blowing up! These damn Cylons!”
  • It’s probably the most inaccurate use of the word “hologram” ever. It’s a chroma key effect. The whole point is, it’s the first 3D key effect I’ve seen in real-time on TV – as far as I know – but keying sure isn’t that exciting if you’ve been watching the weather in the last half century. So they add the word “hologram.” They might as well have called it the “Holodeck” or “transporters” or just “magic.”

Technologically, though, it is very impressive. The real irony here isn’t that CNN used silly magical terminology and played terrifying drum sounds. (During the course of the evening, they had other sound effects that sounded like Nintendo platformer power-ups and massive explosions, as though Obama had just attacked North Carolina with an alien invasion.)

No, the real irony is that this impressive, expressive technology winds up becoming yet another way of doing boring talking heads. I can’t wait to see what happens when someone comes up with a more interesting use for this stuff. Stay tuned.

Create Digital Emotion, perhaps?

Beam me up, Wolf! CNN debuts election-night ‘hologram’

  • I can appreciate the technology used here, but to be honest I think the results didn't look better than the average weather man chroma key.

    I don't like to be negative, cause that just doesn't have any constructive value. 🙁

    Good start!

  • I'm looking forward to the moment they realize it would be more interesting in reverse: camera array at the site and in studio, with the studio reporter composited into the distant space. He mentions how it's great that the crowd isn't in the background — I disagree. The site is what I want to see, not the studio.

  • BirdFLU

    Well CNN often seems to miss the point of major stories, so it doesn't surprise me that they would get the use of this trick backwards. The whole point of having a reporter at an event is so the viewers can also see the event. Removing the reporter from the event so we just see her is ridiculous, she could have just phoned in.

    They should use this trick on their talking-head-argue-fest shows instead of the split or quad screen, that would be slightly more interesting.

  • anon

    yeah it's "very impressive" they were able to get all 12fps.

    come on, peter.

  • @BirdFLU: right, it didn't really accomplish anything at all. Very bizarre.

    I think successfully operating the camera array is pretty impressive. Now, that doesn't mean I think CNN will exclusively be able to pull it off. As you know, we're big fans of camera areas in general around here.

  • Lau

    how can the sound be "really complicated"?

    BTW samples like "never done in television before"
    and "you have never seen anything like this on television" could be usefull…

  • @Lau: Who said the sound was complicated? Confused…

    But totally agree about those samples.

    I haven't yet seen any sophisticated Leia remix/mashups on YouTube. Surely they're coming…

  • Zeh

    I almost choked when I saw it for the first time (I was watching CNN's stream live). I couldn't believe how bad it was because of the added halo. That they spent all the time with the technology talking about the technology itself didn't help.

    Anyone got the virtual white house later? They used fiducial markers for a 3d projection of the white house over a table to talk about the senate race. Completely unnecessary, but much better done.

  • yosh

    the company involved is as you can see from their site, they didn't really plan for this to happen 😉

  • grigori

    Now the only left to do if you to approach this again, is to put a sticker on it – "As Seen on TV". Instant hit!
    The only thing that CNN hasn't talked much about is actually the ways they projected her in the CNN studio.

  • @grigori: AFAIK she wasn't actually "projected" in the studio, which is why the "hologram" tag is so daft – she was just keyed in on the output stream.

  • Yeah, exactly. They did a chroma key effect and added her after the fact. If they made this work with live projection, that'd be incredibly awesome. But, of course, they don't have to — they're television. 😉

  • Doesn't this fall under an Augmented Reality effect?