NBC raises the bar again with Olympic graphics and display
A transitional graphic from NBC Sports Olympics coverage; this one fades through quickly as shots move from live to replay modes.
Sporting event graphics packages are something most viewers take for granted. But then you see archive video from a similar event, whether five years ago, 10 years ago or older, and appreciation sets in quickly. The viewing experience for on-screen statistics, scores, and other supplementals has advanced not only in a technical sense, but also in pure design and aesthetics.
This year's Olympic coverage from NBC is a great example of screen real-estate mastery. Sure, the photography and live action camera work is better than ever, and our ginormous home monitors mean there's never been a better time to watch Olympic sports on television. But the real shine might well be in the subtle yet informative ways those corner graphics augment our experience.
Thursday night's coverage included the Men's Super-G. Alpine ski racing is a sport where differentials are hard to spot for novice viewers. Without up-to-millisecond information about time comparisons and standing, we'd be hard-pressed to evaluate a good run from a poor one.
But the NBC professionals meet this challenge nicely. See our home-grown screen shots below for illustration.
Subtle use of graphics is a hallmark for NBC Sports. Often, the picture is left entirely to own impressive scale, with artful branding in upper right. This one displays that the event is live, with the network's familiar peacock brand on Olympic rings.
As a new competitor enters the starting gate, graphics package displays current medalist standings, along with the alpine skiing icon and event labeling.
With athlete's start imminent, we see his full name, along with a brief tagline on his credentials or current standing.
The lower screen graphics here are intuitive for viewers, and waste no space. From left, we get: country abbreviation, country flag, bib number, competitor name, break times. Then the lower right panel: Event Name, Current Time, Olympic logo.
Upper left corner of the screen is used only intermittently, for racer speed and distance of airborne jumps. These temporary lobs of info are valuable, without crowding the overall shot.
Midrace split-time comparison between the leader and the current racer pops into view at lower left. Highlighted in red if he's off the lead. If the pace is currently beating the leader, highlight is in green.
The camera work at this Olympics continues to set a new standard. Drone shots and other aerial rigging are giving us a more dramatic rendering of these sports than ever before.
As the Super-G competitor crosses the finish line, we get instant final results. Part of a sponsor agreement, the Omega (timing company) logo appears for just a second or two.
As the skier plows to a stop, one last comparison displays his current position (2nd place, 0.31 off the lead) and overall time.
It's not merely a matter of dropping blocks into the picture, of course. The real artistry of design comes in knowing when to display something, and for how long.
In our experiment, we counted 23 unique segments of information that is provided to the viewer on screen, just during the course of a single two-minute individual run. No doubt those working in the broadcast center could tell of a few more that we've missed.
Now, if only we could get these sporting event professionals to educate the folks over at cable news networks, where screen use and information overload falls more along the lines of a train wreck?
Editors Note: We at Publication.graphics have not personally worked in the television production end of the business. For this reason, we apologize for missing any proper terminology that those more experienced would use in this observational post.