Ross Video Adds Character to SAG Awards Telecast Graphics

Ross Video’s XPression 2D/3D CG and motion graphics system was chosen by L.A.-based Mdots/Fontastics to provide on-screen graphics for the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards which aired live on TNT and TBS on Jan. 30. XPression provided all of the winner lower-thirds, side panel nominee boxes, TV ratings bugs, and end credits during its premiere award show outing.

Laura Staat, graphics operator for the show, was able to do something that MDots/Fontastics had never done before with a single device. One channel of XPression played a key-able HD trophy animation with nominee names, while the other channel simultaneously played an HD matte, which revealed DVE boxes with stars in the audience.

“Before XPression, I just played the trophy animation off of the CG and someone else had to roll the matte off of another device,” says Staat. “It was a double punch that only worked perfectly about 80 percent of the time. With XPression we were accurate 100% of the time with instant recall. The director noticed right away during the first rehearsal,” Laura said.

Another challenge for the show was getting the credits timed perfectly. The SAG Awards use timed “cards” instead of a credit roll. Depending on the importance of a credit, a page could stay on-air anywhere from one to five seconds. Staat was able to set the duration of each credit page individually and then play them from XPression’s Sequencer.

“Credits had to be a minute and a half on the spot, and as we were nearing the end of credits during rehearsal, the director told me we weren’t going to make it,” she says. “When we hit the last card, we were right on-time making him very happy.”

Allan Wells, MDots/Fontastics owner and technical director for the SAG Awards adds: “We’ve been waiting for the evolution of live-to-air graphics systems for several years now. The fatal flaw with most high-end systems is that the learning curve and pre-build process is impractically long, and you typically can’t change anything once you’re on-site. That just doesn’t work for us. Our shows are fluid, and changes are not only common, but they’re expected. XPression is easy-to-use and has the flexibility to change virtually anything up to air time, including real-time 3D animation.Furthermore, award show graphics are typically used for one night rather than a full season. Spending even a week building and refining our live-to-air graphics is not only impractical, it’s a deal breaker.”

“I really have to thank MDots for giving us this tremendous opportunity to work on a high-profile show like the SAG Awards,” says Brian Olson, Marketing Product Manager for XPression, Ross Video. “Every type of production uses graphics a little bit differently, and we see Mdots as a development partner who will really give us the ability to tweak XPression for the fast-placed L.A. live graphics market