ESPN News HD: More Screen, More Resolution, More Graphics, More Stats For Viewers

By Ken Kerschbaumer

While the biggest change internally at ESPN News HD will be the move to tapeless workflows (for more info see ESPN News HD Goes Tapeless story) the biggest change for viewers will be the “sideline”: a sidepanel to the left of the 4:3 image that will offer a wealth of statistics and graphics information. Chris Pelcynski, ESPN creative director, says ESPN graphics artists began focusing on new approaches to ESPN News graphics design about a year ago. “We came up with a few designs and decided that the sideline approach was the best,” he says.

Instead of having two graphics pillars on each side of the 4:3 safe area ESPN News will shift the 4:30 portion to the right and combine what were two separate pillars into a single graphics area on the left side of the screen.

“It will be an offshoot of the bottom line,” says Pelcynski. “It will have a lot of scores and other information, getting viewers information in a more expedient way.” For example, during the MLB season scores can include on-base diagrams and other real-time information.

The question of screen clutter is always an issue but for ESPN News viewers there appears to be a simple mantra: more clutter, more information.

“Focus groups show that viewers like what we think might be too much information,” he explains. “For example, when we designed the Sports Center run down a lot of people said it was overwhelmingly positive. We aren’t competing with the Web but we want to give easier access to instant information.”

Vizrt graphics systems will power the full-screen and graphical inserts used in the 4:3 area while Camino software will power the sideline and bottom line ticker.

Camino integrates with Photoshop and Adobe After Effects and makes it easy to import graphics and information into the sideline and bottom line. “It’s not as robust as Vizrt but it’s definitely more efficient at running ticker and other similar graphics,” says Pelcynski.

Stefanie Gjorven, ESPN senior director, graphics technology, says Camino is a basic graphic system that pumps stats, schedules and other information on air in the form of a ticker at the bottom of the screen and the sideline.

“For a creative person HD-quality graphics are beautiful and everything looks better,” she says. “Now we’re waiting for true HD, where we don’t have to consider designing for 4:3 viewers.”

ESPN News operates as a completely separate entity from the other ESPN networks. “ESPN News tends to use more statistics and graphics as ESPN News is really for people looking to get more information and scores,” explains Pelcynski. That puts a burden on the graphics to keep the information pumping through the system without sacrificing quality.

“We’re now using Vizrt and that gives us 3D graphics capability and more interactivity,” says Pelcynski. “Graphics can now expand, shrink, move and change.”

Gjorven says Vizrt software has been in use at ESPN for almost four years. The latest version of the system will be used by ESPN, allowing for seamless transitions between graphics thanks to a “transition logic” feature. “For example, the whole graphic doesn’t need to be animated on or off the screen,” she says. “With transition logic just the scorebox will change.”