ESPN Revolutionizes Graphic Look of ‘SportsCenter’

By John Rice

Today, ESPN’s flagship news program, SportsCenter, gets a new graphics and animation look, and the network launches its Los Angeles Production Center.

The in-show, or insert, graphics use a new font and additional colors. The most obvious changes are that the rundown listing has moved from the right side of the screen to the left and the order of stories in the rundown has been inverted, with the current story at the bottom of the list and tied to the topic bar at the bottom of the screen.

VP of Creative Services Rick Paiva cites two reasons for the new look: “One is to evolve the look to increase the attractiveness of the product and the excitement the viewer feels when they watch the program. The other is to keep up with the evolving functionality that’s available to us.”

ESPN uses the Vizrt platform for its graphics, and the new package will allow increased integration of real-time statistics and updates. Paiva says the popularity of stats and numbers with fans has made it important to make sure the information is up to the second, accurate, and easily understood.

“Every stadium and arena in the country is wired to us,” he says. “This is about gathering information and presenting it to our viewers in a new and different way.”

SportsCenter viewers will also see a familiar but radically revised opening animation. “We have a wonderful animation package for SportsCenter called Revolution,” Paiva explains. “Everyone likes the current package so much, we decided to re-partner with Troika, our [Los Angeles-based] design house that created Revolution, and challenge them to take it to a new level. It’s the evolution of Revolution.

“The current look premiered in 2004 and was almost five years old,” he adds. “That’s about an average lifespan of a graphic look on television.”

Also influencing the decision to build a new open was the launch of ESPN’s Los Angeles production center. Paiva says it seemed to be a great opportunity to change the look of the animation and the insert graphics. While Troika was charged with the creative design of the animation package and worked with ESPN’s internal creative team at the inception of the project, the details of building the individual elements of the daily on-air animation are handled internally at ESPN.

The in-house staff is also solely responsible for the insert-graphic design and implementation. “We’ve been working on it in excess of a year,” says Paiva. “We’re talking in the area of 1,400 individual graphics, each of which has to be designed and built out of the Vizrt and then processed by our IT department to create the magic and make things play out in real time.”

Last fall, ESPN implemented a new design for Monday Night Football that reduced the size of on-screen, in-game graphics. Paiva says the new SportsCenter design is building on the success of the Monday Night Football look. “Without making the font or print smaller, we’ve made the graphics package smaller,” he explains. “Now we want it to hold more information so we can give back some of the on-screen real estate.”

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