Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CNN's Hologram: 'Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi...' (Updated)

In case you missed it, CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin "beamed" onto the news network's election night set from Chicago for a four-minute, live "holographic" conversation with anchor Wolf Blitzer in New York (video embedded below).

Yellin explained that she was reporting from a tent near Obama headquarters, surrounded by a ring of 35 high-definition cameras that created a 3D-ish composite image of her. The cameras moved in sync with the cameras in New York, allowing her to appear on set with Blitzer. Engineers spent two weeks assembling the set up in Chicago.

"It's like I've followed in the tradition of Princess Leia," Yellin (complete with a bluish outline) said.

"You're a terrific hologram," Blitzer assured her.

Why it was worth all the expense and trouble to have a live, on-the-scene TV report that omits the, um, scene was unclear.

Clearly the gimmick is a contender for the Best Special Effects award when the "Waltys" for election coverage are handed out next year. But I am not sure it served any purpose for viewers. A quick Twitter search immediately after the segment generated a wide range of reactions, including "DUM!," "cool," "hilarious," "star warseque," "lame," "neat," "pathetic," "silly," "cringeworthy," "SIKKKK!" and "weird."

So how will we see this nifty new tool used next? Sportscasters beamed into the middle of instant replays to point out a fumble? War correspondents beamed into replays of fire fights to explain the action?

Here's last night's CNN video....

UPDATE (11/7/08): Here's a little more on how this was done from CNN. Turns out out that sports coverage was in fact exactly the kind of programing this system was designed for....

"The technology in play was originally developed by Israeli-based company SportVU (pronounced 'sport view') as a new way of filming soccer games.

"Gal Oz, a SportVU designer who came to the United States to work with CNN on the endeavor, said it was originally designed 'to create a matrix effect in sports' -- in other words, to provide 360 degrees of perspective for instant replays. "

In a segment on Blitzer's "Situation Room" Wednesday, CNN Senior Vice President and Washington bureau chief David Bohrman said he's been trying to do something like this for a dozen years. "I've basically been a crazy mad scientist trying to get it done."

So does Bohrman think holocoverage has a future?

"We'll see. It was a little ornament on the tree.... But television evolves, and how we do things evolves, and at some point -- maybe it's five years or 10 years or 20 years down the road -- I think there's going to be a way that television does interviews like this because it allows for a much more intimate possibility for a remote interview."


Anonymous said...

I wonder how much it cost for that one transmission?

Which wireless company gets the credit for the setup?

Mark said...

Just added a bit more to the posting on how exactly this was done. Thanks!

Polilla said...

It's really amazing how technology advances. I believe that soon the television will look like futuristic movies. This is one of the holograms advantage, for example, for people who can not move up to a television studio. Although I guess then that many presenters will be without work ... CNN's human 'hologram' on election night