The Weather Channel Harnesses the Power of Zeus

The Weather Channel is driving home its lessons about the dangers of lightning right into your living room with “Immersive Mixed Reality”

“We’re in July, which unfortunately is the deadliest month for lightning strikes,” Mike Chesterfield, director of Weather Presentation at The Weather Channel, told me during our exclusive interview, “so we wanted to give people not only a chance to learn about the power of lightning but also ways they can keep themselves safe.”

Lightning strikes the United States over 25 million times each year killing an average of 28 Americans. To bring the lesson home in graphic 3D Artificial Reality, The Weather Channel has produced an “explainer video” using what they call Immersive Mixed Reality that first aired at 5:20 PM eastern time on Tuesday, July 31st.

This is actually the second time The Weather Channel has ventured into this realm of mixed reality to drive home a weather-related warning.

On June 20th, Jim Cantore was hosting a segment about an approaching tornado as it’s winds accelerated from an EF0 (Enhanced Fujita scale; winds 65-85 mph) to an EF5 (winds over 200 mph).

The "Twister" video that aired June 20th

Then suddenly, the twister was inside the studio and Cantore had to jump out of the way of a falling electrical pole sparking with electricity, then duck away from a flying 2X4 chunk of wood that was blasted through a studio TV monitor. The set was pretty much a wreck by the time a mangled red sedan crashed through the studio ceiling with its left front headlight still flashing as Cantore stoically maintained his role behind the mike until forced to take refuge in a “safe room”.

Mike Bettis is an object lesson of where not to stand during a lighting storm

Mike Bettis is an object lesson of where not to stand during a lighting storm

This time, the victim of the lightning bolts is Mike Bettis, host of The Weather Channel’s “Weather Underground” show.

“We are calling it ‘The Power of Zeus’ since we’re dealing with a lightning strike that comes literally of the blue,” Chesterfield said. “We want to alert our audiences to know when it is safe to be outside, or not. And what objects to avoid, such as the metal fence that can serve as a conductor an cause major injury. Basically we recommend people stay inside their house, which is the safest refuge.”

Many people many be surprised to learn that just taking a bath can be dangerous, since the plumbing itself is an excellent conductor of lightning’s energy.

The 3D Augmented Reality graphics generated for these scenes were rendered by The Future Group’s Frontier graphics creation system, then processed and played out by Ross Video’s UX control system, and Bettis was integrated into them with the help of Mo-Sys’ camera tracking technology

It's not just the main bolt, but also the 'streamers' that can get you

It's not just the main bolt, but also the 'streamers' that can get you

“Since many events that happen during a lightning strike happen so quickly the human eye cannot actually follow them, we re-wind the hit on a wooden pole and pause the action at the point of impact,” Chesterfield described. “Then you can see the high voltage tentacles expanding from the bolt, called ‘streamers’, that reach out and touch the metal fence and the house itself. The point is you can be greatly impacted by a lightning strike even if you don’t think you are near it.”

For Chesterfield and everyone at The Weather Channel, this is taking reporting about the weather to a new level.

We want these warnings to be so realistic that they will really grab the audience’s attention,” he told me. “After all, we really are dealing with life and death experiences.”

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