Live or live-to-tape programs rely on the same core production techniques.

Consider talk shows, for example. Sure, set designs vary based on budget and show themes, but the actual productions are very similar. A typical three-camera setup includes a center wide shot, with one camera devoted to the host and another tasked with capturing shots of the guests. There are also similarities between live news shows, with the same wide shot of the anchor desk, over-the-shoulder (OTS) framing during specific story coverage, and static shots of the weather and sports talent.

Whether you are shooting news, talk shows, or event coverage, there are several ways to improve your school’s live video productions. Good lighting makes a big difference, competent camerawork is always a plus, and you never underestimate the importance of audio. However, one of the most noticeable ways to upgrade your on-air look is to enhance your graphics.

Yes, sports coverage has benefitted from the emergence of HD as well as more cameras and replay systems. But I would argue today’s graphics have made an equally significant contribution to the on-screen presentation. CG scoreboards provide continuous access to score, game clock, and more, while lower-thirds identify players and share important stats. Some coverage also includes fantasy football scores and other data in specific regions on the screen.

With more modest production gear and fewer cameras, it is very difficult for K-12 schools to compete with network coverage when covering sports. However, Broadcast Pix can increase your production values with high-quality graphics, which can rival the output of graphics professionals with much larger budgets. Every Broadcast Pix integrated production switcher includes eight channels of graphics and a built-in Inscriber CG that can produce full-screen imagery, lower-third titles, OTS elements, and more.

If you want to bring your graphics to the next level, Broadcast Pix also offers the affordable FX3D real-time 3D graphics system. Designed as a standalone graphics system that can be tightly integrated with Granite or Mica systems, it delivers a simplified end-to-end graphics workflow with intuitive tools to create and playout 3D content. The system is built on the real-time FX3D Engine, the Windows-based system is housed in a 3 RU chassis and is available in single or dual channel configurations.

Graphic Details
When it comes to graphics, a little attention to detail makes a big difference in production quality. On-screen graphics should be kept as simple as possible and easy to read, so fancy script fonts are not smart choices. Make sure words and logos are within the “safe” area of the screen, so viewers do not lose information when it is broadcast or displayed on different screens. Use colors that are work well together – if you want to incorporate your school colors, be sure there is enough contrast so words are visible.

TV resolutions have improved, but fonts should not be too small. If you must include several different elements, trying building your graphics into a grid with distinct areas to avoid viewer confusion.

Consistency is key. Students love to experiment with different fonts (to be fair, so do professionals), but it is more than a little jarring for audiences to see “Comic Sans” lower-thirds for one segment, followed by “Times New Roman” in the next. Find your fonts (one or two at most) for each series and stick with them – make sure students use them throughout the season. You can always change templates (and fonts) next semester or challenge students to create a new on-air look for special programming.

Template For Success
Once you’ve developed the on-air look you want, Broadcast Pix makes it easy for students to update graphics without altering the templates you approved with its Rapid CG software. Using templates built with the CG included in Broadcast Pix integrated production switchers, Rapid CG’s drag-and-drop operation makes it easy to integrate databases, RSS feeds, and custom actions like scorekeeping. It only operates within specific fields, so the data changes, not the templates.

Rapid CG is an ideal solution for live news, sports, and election coverage. It can even improve data input and eliminate mathematical errors, even if your school does not have access to an automated database for scoring, if you create custom action buttons that add incremental graphics. For example, an action button can be designed to add three points to the score if a football team scores a field goal.

Available in two versions, the dual-channel Rapid CG 3 and the “light” Rapid CG LT, the optional software also connects to Twitter and other cloud-based data sources, so the audience can be part of the production. Rapid CG 3 adds dual-channel connectivity and support for OES Scoreboard data and Web-based XML databases, and allows sports scores in league databases to automatically flow into on-air graphics.

New Rundown Creator Integration
Earlier this year, Broadcast Pix made it easier than ever for schools to create live production graphics by integrating its Rapid CG software with Rundown Creator, a popular Web-based collaborative software platform for producing rundowns and scripts for live news and other programs. Information for lower-thirds and other graphics included in a Rundown Creator script can be exported to Rapid CG and automatically inserted into existing templates to simplify live production graphics.

The integration between Rapid CG and Rundown Creator saves time and reduces errors, because the CG operator does not have to input data twice or reorganize it. Information for various graphic elements can be exported directly from Rundown Creator to Rapid CG as an XML file, then automatically incorporated into templates in show order for lower-thirds, OTS graphics, and more.

The Rapid CG / Rundown Creator integration was recently developed at the request of Steven Trauger, TV/AV facility engineer for Ocean City, N.J. Schools. Ocean City High School began upgrading to HD production in early 2014, and has a new control room anchored by a Granite 5000 integrated production switcher equipped with Rapid CG.

Twice a month, students produce Current OC, a 15-minute newscast distributed on local access channels. Trauger wanted a smarter way to bring in graphics data so students would not have to retype it – and they would not have the option of using different fonts. The integration between Rapid CG and Rundown Creator gives Current OC the “feel of an actual branded show,” because the fonts remain consistent. “It really simplified and streamlined the CG process,” he added. “I think it’s great.”

CG Tips

• Keep text as simple and direct as possible.
• Avoid stylized fonts that are difficult to read.
• Contain graphics within “safe” area of the screen.
• Use colors that are aesthetically pleasing.
• Use only one or two complimentary fonts per graphic.
• Keep font use consistent throughout a program.