CNN beams us the news

by Paul Jay,

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 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."

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As you correctly point out, CNN should not label it a hologram if it is not. However, it was quite cool, and sets up challenges for others to try and duplicate or better. It is this kind of exposure to/for new technologies that is important. These new ideas and innovations of sci-fi wizardry are critical to the future development of electronics. I say, congratulations to CNN for their willingness to experiment with these new ideas, especially during such an important event. They remain on the cutting edge of TV broadcasting.

Posted November 5, 2008 07:47 PM

mynalee johnstone

After flipping about the news networks, I stuck with good old CBC and was very happy.
Thank you CBC you outdid the rest. Quality news on TV! Quality reporting and excellent interviews!

Posted November 7, 2008 09:22 AM

Richard J Jordan


Not true holographic imagery; however,financially expedient.The problem begins to become:what constitutes real?

Posted November 7, 2008 10:54 AM

Aaron Barr


What constitutes real is an actual hologram created by light, not some image composited onto the footage like a flying logo. What they did was like the marker lines on a football broadcast. They told us there would be a hologram, then they had Blitzer pretend he could see Yellin... Also, they added a halo around the image as an attempt to make it look like a physical phenomena. There was no new technology here at all, just a cheap gimmick that they essentially lied about to make it seem grander than it was.

Posted November 8, 2008 01:17 PM

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