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Use Augmented Reality To Freshen Your News And Weathercasts

Flipping homes may be all the rage, but for many news directors the idea of gutting the studio to give it a fresh new look is a pipedream. However, with the use of augmented reality (AR) a newsroom can have a new and polished look that will delight viewers without breaking the budget.

New AR technological advancements can provide a virtual solution to the typical high cost of building a new physical set, this time in the form of reality overlays. These overlays can change the look and even location of a broadcast – and best of all, the freedom to change the look of a set based on weather conditions, news locations, and even viewer preferences.

Augmented Reality (AR) enables presenters to dive deeper into stories giving viewers a fresh perspective and discourage their channel flipping. Augmented Reality allows news and weather presenters to more effectively tell stories and explain conditions in entirely new ways. And AR can attract those coveted demographics and boost the loyalty of your core viewership.

Debunking Some Common Myths

Before making the move to studio AR, it’s important to set realistic expectations with both management and staff. Here are a few busted myths that may alleviate typical trepidations:

  • To leverage AR, you need a large set and complex camera tracking system. While camera tracking systems add flexibility, a fixed camera can be highly effective. Of course you can use an existing set. And, it may not be necessary to expand a green screen or alter portions of the set. It is even possible to leverage AR outside where there is no set.
  • Broadcasters have to retrain themselves to use AR.  It’s actually easier to use AR than many think.  Weathercasters have been using green screen technology for decades, and the right tools can make the transition seamless without adding time to the workflow.
  • The technology burden of using an AR solution is high.  Advanced systems fully integrate into existing broadcast tools and virtually eliminate any extra IT burden or large infrastructure investment.

With those myths debunked, it is time to take the next step forward in changing the newsroom's look.

Level Out Your Demographics

According to Nielsen figures gathered between 2011 and Q3 2016, traditional TV viewing by 18- to 24-year-olds has dropped almost 10 hours per week – a huge loss. The only population to increase TV viewership over the 5-year period were those aged over 65 – and that growth is slow.

Gaining momentum in this younger demographic means ensuring that, from bottom to top, weathercasts are being shown in the best light and on the best platform. Adding AR elements can differentiate a station’s presentations from market competitors while providing a new and attractive way of presenting information.

Research conducted by The Weather Company confirms that AR-supplemented segments are more engaging and keep viewers tuned in longer than standard broadcasts:

  • 62% rate AR videos as “excellent” or “very good” relative to other weather/traffic reports they have seen on TV.
  • 34% report they would tune into their local TV news affiliate “more often” if the weather and/or traffic information was presented with AR graphics.
  • 64% would likely stay tuned in longer if they knew an AR presentation of weather or traffic was in the next segment. 

Learn How to Set Decorate

AR takes weather and traffic presentations to a new level: Traditional elements of a presentation, such as radar maps and the 5-day forecast, can be put into 3-D space. Doing this well involves transitioning into and out of the feature and deciding where the presenter will walk and how they will interact with the 3-D objects.

And while the appeal of AR is intuitive, news teams and production crews could see it as intimidating. The reality is that AR solutions are similar in function to working with a green screen, which should be second nature to the weather team. Virtual sets, when paired with AR, allow for novel presentations. An anchor can be shown in a baseball stadium, a Roman amphitheater, or a flashy new studio. And it is now possible to bring the outside into the studio by adding video in the AR layer to replace a wall in the studio.

As a first step, keep early AR efforts simple. Think about each graphical element of the weather or traffic presentation and decide on one or two that would benefit from AR enhancement. Five- or 7-day forecast graphics are good starting points: Pull one day and stage it next to the anchor to emphasize storm threats, highlight road conditions, or just showcase beautiful weather.

A key advantage of AR is its ability to allow the team to face the audience at all times. And, just as AR objects can be incorporated in fresh ways to augment your newscasts, be cognizant that they aren’t overtaking the screen altogether.  Anchors are literally the lifeblood of weathercasts, so make sure they stay visible and prominent.

Don’t Forget the Landscaping

Meteorologists have one ideal presentation location, outside. Traditionally, forecasters have been limited to inside their studio walls because of logistical and/or technical requirements. Because graphics could not be created on-location, a station ran the risk of dry, somewhat boring weather presentations. Any visual elements needed while off-site were shown in full screen mode.

Regardless, outdoor locations are visually appealing. Viewers enjoy seeing their favorite TV personality on-location, which enables a broadcaster to deepen their connection with the community. Showcase your personalities, increase station visibility, and develop advertising opportunities with this technology.

AR allows weathercasters to take advantage of on-location weather presentations. The forecast can be done at a local event or landmark simply by overlaying appropriate graphical elements. The result is that even when the weathercaster is outside, viewers see compelling content that will keep them coming back for more.

Michael Convey, The Weather Company.

Michael Convey, The Weather Company.

AR Can Wow Your Audience

After decades of just presenting in front of a green screen, AR gives TV news and weathercasters incredible new tools and technology that can enhance storytelling capabilities and permit them to more deeply engage with viewers.

As TV audiences become more distracted, broadcasters must use every device available to secure viewer's attention and loyalty. Augmented Reality is a new and exciting way for TV stations to meet an audience’s desire for differentiated big screen experiences, and to do so without breaking the bank.

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