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.

Olympic Interlude

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.

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.