CNN beams us the news

by Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca

Last night's U.S. election, as we've been told many, many times, was all about change. And among the more interesting changes were of the broadcast of the election, when CNN unveiled a few new gizmos to explain Barack Obama's convincing win.

CNN had jumped ahead of other broadcasters earlier this year with its use of the Magic Wall, the whiteboard/touchscreen tech which allowed reporter John King to break down electoral results, zooming in and out of the map, with a few taps and drags of his fingers, much like an iPhone owner might browse for their favourite song or find the latest South Park video.

But the Magic Wall was old hat by Tuesday evening and other broadcasters have emulated it, so CNN unveiled a couple of other doo-dads on Tuesday.

The results for these, however, were decidedly mixed.

One gimmick were the so-called holograms of correspondant Jessica Yellin and Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am. We say so-called because while the images of the two were captured using close to three dozen cameras and translated into a holographic image, the actual projection of the image occured only through two of CNN cameras, meaning anchors Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper weren't looking at a hologram. They were looking at, well, a spot on the floor marked with a red dot.

While some have argued that's quibbling, I think at this stage of our TV viewing lives – having watched countless films and TV shows that simulated holograms – the next thing we see claiming to be a full-blown hologram should probably be, y'know, a hologram.

If those weren't exactly what they were supposed to be, at least they functioned well enough: allowing Blitzer and Cooper to appear to talk one-on-one with someone who was not there.

Less clear was the use of a virtual Capitol building, which King also toyed with last night. Essentially King and Campbell Brown put some space between them so a 3D image of the white house (another hologram?) could pop up. They then overlaid senate and house of representative data overtop with type so small it was virtually incomprehensible.

As the Daily Show blogger Matthew Tobey wrote: "CNN's John King just blew my mind. He and Campbell Brown are evidently reporting from a holodeck now."