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Graphics And Augmented Reality

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Today's broadcast operation relies on a constant flow of graphics for diverse requirements, not only for news but for branding, weather, bumpers and many other, writes Miguel Churruca, Marketing and Communications Director, Brainstorm.

Because of this, graphics departments face an increasing pressure to constantly deliver more graphics, more complex, plus quickly creating all the versions required. Also, graphics are no longer confined to news, sports or branding, but take considerable playout time as broadcasters require to impact their viewers continuously with compelling imagery that reinforces their corporate image on the audience.

Traditionally, graphics were purpose-built relying on the artist's perception, but today they are required to follow precise corporate and design guidelines, which are an integral part of the channel's branding. To ensure the consistency in all the pieces all the design team, as well as other players in the channel, most broadcasters rely on a common library for the applicable guidelines, templates or CG pages. This implies crafting a collaborative workflow to ensure all pieces and libraries are available to all users.

Graphics Creation with SmartTemplates
Aston graphics creation is based on editable "SmartTemplates" that vastly outperform the traditional page-based creation. Designers can easily change between edit and playout mode, updating any template or individual graphic as required, even on the very last minute. Aston features a contextual user interface, which shows only the available toolset and properties for the feature the designer is dealing with.

Aston also features advanced tools and object properties such as high-end 2D and 3D textures and materials, shaders, bump mapping, advanced 3D shadows or PBR rendering capabilities, to name a few, and is capable of moving objects in space in virtual studio applications.

From stills, lower-thirds or OTS to full screen graphics and animations, virtually any kind of 2D or 3D graphic can be accomplished with Aston. With Aston, Brainstorm has merged 20 years of development of real-time 3D graphics with the legendary Aston heritage, creating a product that in use around the world in demanding 24 hours-a-day applications where it proves its robustness all day, every day.

StormLogic: Flexibility for complex Animations
One of the challenges when using page-based graphics is the ability to edit animations and timelines, adjusting them to different durations. This is even harder while in playout, when animations are triggered manually while maintaining their appearance. Manually replacing one animation with another can be a nightmare while in live production if the graphics' timing does not match the timing of the program.

To add flexibility to graphics creation and playout, Brainstorm developed StormLogic, an approach to intuitive template interaction with an advanced object-based animation. It is a tree structure of folders that defines the logic between templates. This structure is created just by dragging and dropping templates in the desired place within the folder structure, where each folder defines the behaviour of the objects it contains. Aston graphics fully support StormLogic, enabling the automatic management of complex interacting graphics and templates without the usual need for hours of programming and the creation of complex tables or spreadsheets, providing users with an extremely flexible playout system.

Aston's SmartTemplates can feature unlimited animations, and as complex as required. Animations can be triggered whenever needed, even while the template is on-air. Then StormLogic makes a graphic, group or SmartTemplate to "push" the following item, so if we want to trigger an "out" animation we just require to call the next "in", regardless there is a specified timing or not. Also, templates that consist on different pieces can be assembled in different manners, combining the elements as designers wish. SmartTemplates also allow elements to change dynamically when data changes, as they can automatically look up data and redraw graphics accordingly. Data can be changed manually or linked to databases, spreadsheets or real-time feeds, and scripting can be included if required.

So not being timeline-based (or dependant) provides an enormous flexibility to designers and producers, as they do not require to prepare all the graphics combinations constrained in closed pages. On the contrary, SmartTemplates allow for creating the basic elements and then combine and trigger them as required, even while on-air, using Aston Player or OnDemand. In any case, for timeline lovers, Aston also features a complete Bezier-based timeline.

Collaborative workflow for Augmented Reality
Broadcast design and program making is a challenging environment where collaborative workflows are a common challenge. This also means that disciplines previously handled by different departments are now converging to create a more elaborate content, where graphics are an integral part of the program, being Augmented Reality one of the key benefits of this approach, especially when it includes data-driven graphics.

For Augmented Reality Applications, graphic designers must often collaborate closely with other departments, making graphics an integral part of the whole program and its looks. They might also require additional hardware and software solutions, because live shows, especially those involving Virtual Sets, often require complex installations such as tracked cameras, cranes, etc. This means that virtual studio and 3D graphics tools and artists must work together, and that's why Aston is fully compatible and integrates seamlessly with advanced virtual studio applications such as Infinity Set.

From a designer's point of view, the integration of live graphics into real images or virtual sets is both a challenge and an opportunity; a challenge because designers need to think on how to integrate live images along with their creations, and an opportunity because the result is normally far more compelling to the audience. It is not just a question of building appealing animations to show logos, statistics or counters, as the end result also requires constant, real-time updating from external sources to visualize the data. Using Aston with Infinity Set allows for creating extremely complex and realistic Augmented Reality environments, joining together live characters, virtual or real environments, data driven graphics and any other design element to create the ultimate live experience for the viewers.

This article is also available to read at BFV online here, page 30.

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