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Objects, properties, methods, protocols.
Graphic and production automation
Computers are great at doing repetitive tasks. They're not so great at learning to do repetitive tasks.
There was a time when what emerged from a television channel was the result of a symphony in the control room, conducted by the director, working with notes crafted (sometimes by hand) by the producer and executed by a large crew of talented specialists.
It's still a masterpiece of synchronization and timing, this making television thing, but now more than ever a computer system is doing a lot of the conducting, message passing, synchronization, and so on.
What, you think those tickers and score thingies and stock price doohickies fill themselves with data? Well, after they've been shown where the numbers live and how they're formatted, I guess they do. But someone has to show them the way.
We've had a lot of experience of working with the systems that put words and pictures on the screen, and diving into the guts of those systems so they speak well with each other. In part, it comes from an interest in making sure that the look of the information is as attractive as if it was carefully hand-crafted in the traditional manner...with nice typespacing, alignment, shadows just so, and so on. If designers just hand their blue-sky ideas off to be implemented, what comes back sometimes is more engineering than design, and it can be kinda un-pretty.
Our interest and expertise also comes from the just plain geek fascination with getting complex sets of gear to play nice with each other. On the 24 hour local newschannel projects at Time Warner, we were able to make it possible for a producer in the newsroom to pick from a vast menu of possibilities and summon up a completed graphic over the anchor's shoulder, with headline, that looked quite handcrafted and customized. A big part of it is just plain smart coding, but an equally important part is designing components to be interchangable and consistent in the first place.
There are a lot of other possibilities:
- Scripting regularly-updated animations, creating sophisticated weather or financial graphs in the background, completely unattended.
- Sending graphics to nonlinear editing systems that perfectly match the supers and fullscreens created in the control room.
- Sending content from the land of HTML and XML back and forth to the land of video graphics systems.
- Working with mapping and weather systems to create imagery that seamlessly integrates with the rest of a channel's look.
We're fortunate to have a bunch of resources—that is to say, smart people—to call on who know the ins and outs of the stuff we don't know, so our solutions tend to be integrated and, most importantly, functional.