scenarios inc. [8] : Election Eye Candies

Almost a week ago, Filipinos witnessed two major changes in Philippine History:  Our first take on Automated Election and second, the coverage war between two major TV giants.  My favorite aspect of every past elections is how Media tried it’s best to present the news to us, how to present numbers, exit polls and such without getting bored or annoyed. This year’s election coverage is way different.

ABS-CBN 2, GMA 7 and TV5 utilized 3D graphics the way we never seen before.  All of them cashed out a large amount of money just to polish their graphics, use high end technologies and memorable war rooms.

WAR ROOMS

I am an avid fan of election coverages, whether it’s HALALAN or ELEKSYON. I always love to compare both stations when it comes to studio set up or “set design”.  Way back high school, I wondered if they have a term on the set made just for the special coverage. I noticed GMA only tag theirs as studio, while I first heard the term “WAR ROOM” when some random ABS CBN news anchor [don’t remember] coined their studio set up as the “war room”, a place where they can monitor all  live points set  all over the country and numerous news bureaus around the globe. It is full of monitors [which from CRT turned flatscreen turned borderless…cool] , computers , wires  and a giant screen that plays the looped version of their animated branding or logo.

This year’s war room set ups served as another benchmark on Philippine Television when it comes to set design. GMA 7 designed their “war room” more spacious than expected. Then every organization that they got we’re being clustered into some egg-like decks. Then the main news desk  was placed in the center. It is enormous, pearly white; complementing the wide space of the floor they’re trying to keep clean for some unknown reason.  Also I noticed that every closing spiel, the main news desk  will rotate like the revolving studio used in Rachel Ray. I think it’s awkward because you’ll be given an opportunity to check what’s under the anchors’ table, unfortunately some handbag, kikoy kit , tissue and more scripts. While the GMA set up seems to be spacious, TV 5 tried to make it more simpler, and correct me if I’m wrong , I think they used the set of AKSYON, modified it slightly and there you go,; a news room set up for ANG PAGBABAGO coverage. Designed in hues of red, it complements the network’s logo.  The design is minimal and good for couch interview  set ups. ABS CBN 2 on the other hand used 2 studio, the main war room where all monitoring was being made which to me, looks like an expanded editor’s/director’s bay, but accented by a large widescreen loop playback of their news branding logo. It is more compress than before. It is where they put their interns, star Boto mo Patrollers, STI students and representative from various partners. ABS CBN used 2 studio for obvious reasons, the war room is for live updates and monitoring all infos from various sources [twitter, facebook, BMPM sites, PPCRV } and the main newsroom is where they put their anchor for their spiels and reviews. Again , like what GMA 7 have, ABS CBN 2 newsroom do have a slightly large amount of floor space in their set, polished to the max leaving their audiences about their floor wax sponsor.

SCREEN WARS

All three major networks have one accessory in common and that is the infamous touch screen. Being first used by an Australian network for their weather reports, TV 5 launched it to our marvel as their part of news program AKSYON, where it is being modified for the show. TV 5 is the one who first introduced this technology to us but for obvious reasons, some of us might think GMA 7 or ABS-CBN 2 is the one who first used this kind of technology. AKSYON used the technology for about months already and they’re the best I’ve seen so far when it comes to designing graphic lay-out for their touch screen presentations.  Also Kudos to Paolo Bediones who mastered the technology. He presented exit polls very quickly, without sweat and it seems that the screen was made for him. Also kudos to the TV5 for having a good graphics designer for their touch screen presentations. Every layout seems easy to navigate and easy to read.  And every presentation is made to complement the station’s over all“graphic branding”.

On the other hand, GMA 7 got a bigger screen than TV5, the presentation lay outs are amazing, and it is cooler that they got it designed after the shiny interface template of iPad, but they owned it by using the shades of blue, green and colors used on their ELEKSYON 2010 graphic branding. But there’s a problem,. Their touchscreen seems not to cooperate with their anchors. For example: One the first day, Vicky Morales have to do some updates about their You Scoop feeds. The videos are ready in their touch screen , and 2 cameras are locked to the set up to cover  different angles. Then Vicky started her opening spiel, introduced You scoop and started to navigate the touch screen. She opened the first video, narrated the summary of the video and lastly gave credits to the sender. Then cut to the second cam, which is fixed in the front of the touch screen monitor. The horror started. Vicky missed to check the name of the sender indicated below the video player displayed on her touch screen. She gave credits of the video to [Juan dela Cruz] but the name indicated below is [sent by : Uncle Ben].  She is too busy reading feeds from her teleprompter, she overlooked the info indicated on her large touch screen..which is mounted in front of her.  Then she flipped the next video, narrated the synopsis then missed the real name of the sender again, which is supposed to be the sender of the next video. She did fail 4 times in a row. It was broadcasted live, real time, so there’s no room for mistakes and apparently, corrections. Also, there’s a conspiracy theory circulating Youtube about GMA 7’s touch screen; that it’s only a regular large screen and anchors only pretending touch those  “navigation / menu buttons”  of which seems to be a video playback. That anchors do receive signals from the floor director when to touch the screen. Conspiracy started when Mel  Tiangco got her first take in using the technology. After Mel touch a certain button, Mel will stare into blank space [at times smile to audience] for quite some time then go back to the screen  to touch another button, It made some audience jump to conclusion that Mel is receiving orders from one of her Floor directors. Well for me, GMA is using touch screen technology; they only got a problem in navigating it. I think don’t have much time to practice navigating the gadget. To me, Mel’s attempt to use touch screen is not a fail but frustrating.  She touches one of the candidates then the screen starts to display Google map then zoom to the candidates’ voting area.  She seems waiting for a perfect timing when to push the marker of that area to give segue to the video feed.   She keeps doing the same routine, push a button, wait, smile,then after 5-10 seconds, she will go back to her screen  then push another button. If you’re one of her audience, you’ll say “Pindutin mo na..tagal”. Well in fairness to her , she tried her best to utilize new technology.

Then there comes TJ Manotoc, monitoring feeds from Twitter , Facebook and SMS,  ABS-CBN got the largest touch screen ever. It most gave their cameraman to adjust the contrast and angles of cams with ease.  The navigation is effortless, seems TJ , and other anchors who used the gadget , got enough time to practice and familiarized with their presentation. The only thing is, the presentations made for the enormous screen is simple. Sweet concise simple, no more glamorous 3D lay-out, just straight presentation of text and graphics.

Speaking of touch screen, I cringed when Mike Enriquez keeps bragging this new technology, a touch screen technology, after  using words such as “touch screen” , “high tech” and “technology” many times, the cam was cut to an iPad. My golly geez. iPad? So last year. Some pinoy got that gadget already.

3D OR NOT 3D; THAT WOULD BE THE QUESTION

It’s the cherry on top, the apple of everybody’s eyes and inevitable eye-candy on your screen. This year’s election coverage not only casted votes for the presidentiables, but also the viewers who enjoyed [and literally drooling] over the “technologies” utilized.

Stations tried to use 3D technology to the next level, trying to amaze us and avoid audience boredom. TV stations tried to use the Augmented Reality or AR mostly throughout their coverages. To those who don’t know AR means , let’s have some detour with some help from Wikipedia:

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.

In the case of Augmented Reality, the augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally usable. Artificial information about the environment and the objects in it can be stored and retrieved as an information layer on top of the real world view.

Augmented reality research explores the application of computer-generated imagery in live-video streams as a way to expand the real-world. Advanced research includes use of head-mounted displays and virtual retinal displays for visualization purposes, and construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.

Remember those sparkly clean, wide floor space? Well that’s for the AR to use. 3D graphics starts to come up from their sparkly floor, making some illusion as if it is a part of their “high tech set”. Well the point is given. Like what Maria Ressa says that most viewers remembers if they were presented through effective visuals. Thus effects such as AR were being utilized to show us live coverages from various live points, past and present exit polls, background check of the candidates and updates from various sources.  Video feeds on glossy 3D screen suddenly begin to pop up from their floors.  Bar graphs starts to rise from their floor, complete with demographics presented with slick animation. 3D animation introduced new benchmark for Philippine news and current affairs.

AR WARS

Sadly to say, the idea of using AR came from CNN and BCC, well, we already know that both new organizations set standards and new trends when it comes to news gathering. However our broadcast technology here is striving hard to meet international standards and set new benchmarks. Still it wasn’t enough. I learned during my college days that ABS-CBN 2 was testing HD channel, I think that is almost 3 years ago, but still no updates about it.  The latest feed I got from my colleagues that NTC stopped them from transmitting HD signals. They thought ABS is not ready. Well ABS tried to broadcast HD shows , started by “Nginnnig” [Shiver] which gained international recognition and hyped Pinoy visual storytelling through it’s crispy HD look. If all shows we’re shown in HD, we’ll get shows in letterbox since majority of Filipinos do have 4:3 aspect ratio televisions, well that’s for HD for now. Let’s go Back to AR.

Well AR we’re being utilized by both network giants, they also sought some help abroad like Orad Hi-Tech Systems Ltd. [ABS-CBN 2] and VIZ-RT [GMA 7]  to make the technology work. As a result it made both network coverages interesting and something to look after. Giving their audiences more eye candies.

Well ABS-CBN 2 owned AR based on what I noticed while watching both channels.  Channel 2’s AR is perfectly jiving with the camera movement done by their cameramen, as if their AR is really part of their set, as if that giant Philippine Map is real, can be zoomed in and out, it interacts with the background, it’s anchors and gladly it was presented complete with sound effects, like twitching some cyber thingamajig.  Unlike GMA 7’s “AR”, they can’t zoom their ARs in; their cams were locked into a certain angle. They tried to move their cams while presenting ARs but it made their AR looks 3D graphics being ordinarily imposed to the screen. It should have been nice graphics for an AR but moving their cams making the effect to fail big time. GMA’s AR just looks like ordinary graphics imposed on a live video feed. No interaction with the anchors or with set as well.

Then there’s the Hologram Controversy. GMA 7 first used hologram but they misinformed Filipinos that they’re using technology not an effect, speaking of credibility. Mike Enriguez and Jessica Soho bragged their Hologram technology many times, that it was use by CNN and a first on Philippine TV. Well they failed because most of Pinoys are techie enough to know those effects, I mean, hello…an ordinary high school dude can do and understand the principles of Chroma key effect by using ordinary softwares like Ulead or Sony Vegas. GMA 7 got landslide comments from techie followers in Youtube because of the wrong info. Their misuse of the word “technology” were even scrutinized by their rival, explained on how the real technology works and how technology differs from effects. GMA 7 obliged to correct the mistake and started to use the word “effect” rather than technology. But even though, rants over youtube never stops, comments are overflowing on the effects of both stations. Majority noticed the flaws of 7 and praised the utilization of technology of the channel 2, even some the die-hard fans known as Mga Kapuso managed to acknowledge ABS-CBN for the job well done. Well like , what happened to GMA 7, CNN received rants from various websites about their misuse of the term “hologram technology” . ABS-CBN 2 silently used the effect without bragging anything, but they called it “Virtual Presense”.

Well actually I do participated on various AR wars on youtube together with some friends who happens to be media specialists, we we’re thrilled that majority of the people know how to see and appreciate effects nowadays, they don’t just watch , they analyze what they see and tried to compare it to others. As a video editor, we tried to educate everyone through our comments how the effects we’re done and  how various technologies should be used. We’re not Kapamilya either Kapuso, kabarkada or kapatid or Ka-Q, we’re just mere techies that can’t stop ourselves in reacting on such matter.  Terminologies should be carefully used, it is a part of your credibility your trying to build. So please be careful on the next election coverage. What’s the use of bragging on-air  the cost of your production, how credible your organization are,  and how high tech your gadget and newsroom is if you can’t use a simple terminology correctly?  And please don’t brag CNN? Other station can do their coverage straight without bragging a name of an international news org…well unless, you turned out to be one of their subsidiaries. Even though how techie and costly your way of news gathering and broadcasting  are, please keep in mind that you’re on air to tell us news, not to brag new “technology”, just give us the news and let your gadgets or “technologies” do the talking… You don’t need to brag your credibility.

Well that’s for now…

So Till then and Godspeed 😀


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