CBS Gets More ‘Virtual’ With NFL/College Football Graphics

By John Rice

CBS coverage of NFL and college football games this season will involve greater use of virtual graphics across the spectrum of all the games.

“We’re still working with Sportvision for our A-crew games with Phil Simms and Jim Nantz,” explains Julianna Barbieri, manager for CBS Sports Graphics. “We do ‘virtual Jumbotrons’ for teases and reset to start the second half,” she adds. “This year, we’re also going to do some virtual-quarterback stuff on the field, showing, graphically, the comparisons.”

Last season, CBS used virtual down-and-distance graphics for its top game. “This will ideally be on every game this year,” not just the network’s primary, A-crew games, says Barbieri. “We’re also testing a couple of ways to display Red Zone information virtually.” Other graphic additions will include single-player and kicker stats.

For HD viewers, CBS is continuing its “ticker,” with additional information placed on the sides of the screen. “We give them a little bit of an added bonus: [HD viewers] are able to see down-and-distance on the left side of the screen; on the right side, there’s a little football field to show where the team that has position actually is on the field.

“We started that last year, and it was pretty successful,” she adds, “so we’ll continue that again this year.”

Bigger changes are in the works for college-football graphics on both CBS broadcast network and CBS College Sports cable channel.

“We’re switching from what we call the Eye Box for our score bug [graphics boxed in the lower third of the screen] to an Eye Bar, which is what we do in college basketball,” says Barbieri. “It will be very interactive. You’ll see stats coming out of it — player stats, team stats, what we call stat packs: two or three stats in a row that you know this is the most pertinent statistical information at that point in time.

“We also have a very cool interactive drive chart to let the viewer see how far [a team] has come along the field from where they started,” she adds, “whether it is for a scoring drive or the current drive.”

Moving the graphics to the Eye Bar at the top of the screen “works better for college football,” Barbieri says. It allows color-coding of the teams and making team names longer. “With some of these really long team names for the colleges, the bar enables us to actually spell out the team name rather than abbreviate,” she says. “In the NFL, it’s very easy to use the three-letter tricode. College is not so simple.”

For NFL games, CBS uses two Vizrt machines, each running Trio for insert graphics. The score-bug programs are custom applications created by the Los Angeles-based Reality Check studio and running on top of Trio.

“The great thing about it is,” Barbieri says, “our operator who is doing the score bug also has the ability to call up lower-third messages, announcer fonts, anything like that, because our score bug runs on both machines.”

CBS is also using PVI systems for virtual graphics, primarily for college games.

Barbieri says viewers watching the network’s primary NFL game “may notice more virtual elements than we’ve ever had before. We’re definitely trying to push the envelope there.” College games, she believes, will have an entirely different look.

And, she adds, changes are likely to continue throughout the season. “We’re always adding and enhancing things to the animation package.”

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