Broadcast Graphics: A theoretical framework

The use of graphics, animation and special effects in television programming has become commonplace, even in broadcasts with low budget constraints. Broadcast graphics not only add to the entertainment and enjoyment facets of television viewing, they provide visual accompaniment to informational content such as news, sports and weather that improve the viewer’s understanding of complex content. The purpose of my project is to examine how advancements in broadcast graphics and animation technology have changed the way in which viewers process information and entertainment they receive from television programming.

Visual aids increase understanding of complex data and information in everything from grade school math class to high profile business presentations, and broadcast television is no different. Satellite images help forecasters explain complicated weather patterns while sports anchors use animated characters and telestrators to demonstrate strategy and coaching to laypersons who otherwise might not fully understand what they are seeing.

As broadcast executives realized television could be so much more than radio with pictures, innovations in technology began providing better quality imagery and more realistic effects that forced competing networks to match or surpass. Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation is the framework I will use to explain the evolution of graphics and animation in broadcast media over the last 60 years. Computer generated graphics pushed aside the use of still images and static bar charts and audiences began to expect high quality motion effects in nearly everything they watched. New software was developed allowing animators to incorporate Z space (3D) into their designs. As software got more complex, computers had to become more powerful to process the large files.

My timeline will follow three significant technological advancements for television graphics: color television, computer generated imagery (CGI) and 3D wire framing and rendering software. Color TV greatly enhanced the effectiveness of graphic imagery on the screen while CGI and 3D software gave motion and depth that wasn’t possible in prior years. I haven’t really adjusted my timeline, but I do plan on discussing the evolution from radio to TV in order to demonstrate the power visual broadcasting has on the viewing public.

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  1. #1 by Kathy E. Gill on May 10, 2011 - 4:16 pm

    Hi, Derek — be careful with that chicken-egg scenario about software and processors. I think the prevailing wisdom is that as processors get more powerful, developers count on that power when they revise their software. This makes Moore’s Law a driver of complexity.

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