As the polls close, at fxguide we have been reviewing the tech of the coverage. As we write this, it is still early in the nightly coverage, but one of the more unusual technologies is the CCN's Holographic correspondents. By having guests in remote studios standing in front of greenscreen and in front of 35 HD cameras, the guest is composited into the master shot based a 3D track of the master studio cameras.

While some may argue that this is little more than a very complex visual trick, the use of realtime interpolation between the cameras allowing the correct virtual angle on the presenter is a remarkable transition from very complex custom code for the matrix bullet time to interactive realtime live application. The technology is provided to CNN by virtual-set technology graphics firm Vizrt and Israel-based sports enhancement specialist SportVu.


In this image notice the tracking balls on top of the steadicam camera which allows the real cameras position to drive the virtual camera derived from the remote 35 HD cameras. This allows the news room to move seamlessly around the set and not be constrained to a locked off camera position. Is it significantly more informative than a split screen ? Who knows but the technology is the realization of the Princess Leia hologram for one of the first times on network television election coverage.

The network is also using virtual sets. But as Broadcast and Cable.com reported earlier this week, holograms will be used "to conduct remote interviews between election-night anchor Wolf Blitzer and field correspondents Candy Crowley and Dana Bash by projecting a holographic image of the field reporters onto the New York set. CNN Senior VP and Washington Bureau Chief David Bohrman hopes that an interview with a holographic correspondent will be “a little more intimate” than showing a split-screen with Blitzer on one side and the field correspondent on the other."


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27 Responses to Holographic Correspondents on CNN

  1. I certainly feel the technology interesting from a geek and professional perspective. If I saw this at SIGGRAPH as a tech demo — yeah that would be totally cool. Heck…I twittered quite a bit about it. But my respect about the use of it ends there, so I’ll be the “some may argue” viewpoint.

    This adds absolutely nothing to news coverage from a substantive standpoint. I’d much rather the networks spend their time and money on doing real reporting as opposed to pandering to gimmicks. It is effects for the sake of effects — the worst kind of visual effects.

    What do you gain from this early implementation? A jerky person moving at half frame rate with a blue edge around them? Yeah..that is waaay better than a split screen. In the end, the actual information gets lost and instead we concentrate on the effect and become distracted by it. This is most definitely not significantly more informative than a split screen — it is quite the opposite.

    C’mon — let’s create real time tech that is really useful…like the first down marker in American Football. Now that technology *is* something that does add value to a broadcast. 🙂

    Posted by John Montgomery on
  2. I thought it was pretty cool – It didn’t help that the news correspondent in the CNN studios kept bringing up the fact that it was fake. All it would take is a little text above the virtual woman to say where she was being beamed from. I really REALLY hope that the blue outline and tracking lines on her body will go away with a little tweaking of the code. I hope those weren’t an effect.

    Posted by Ian Shook on
  3. I agree with John, is really distracting that the person that is giving the news moves in a low frame rate and shows a blue outline. People concentrate more on the weird effect and don’t put attention on the important thing, the news. I don’t think this important day were a good choice to try this new technology in this early stage.

    I have always encouraged new technology in broadcast when is well implemented, not like this.

    BTW anyone knows how exactly the chromakey is done with this technology?

    Posted by robles on
  4. Oh, stop being such wet blankets. It’s only distracting because it’s new. Please keep in mind that EVERY new invention and technique on earth started out as a gimmick. There are practical uses for this technology and more uses are sure to be found as time passes. At the birth of every technology, from the automobile to the personal computer, there have been annoying detractors crying “It’s a gimmick, and it’s unpractical. I hope they keep things the way they were, because I’m a luddite and afraid of change!”

    Posted by Andy S on
  5. While really cool for what it is, the actual image quality in the end result is absolutely horrible. Did anyone else notice the jerky, web-cam like quality to it?

    If they’re going to spend thousands on this tech, they should at least buy the ultra high speed Internet connection to support transferring a better quality picture derived from the 35 HD cameras.

    It really looked like it was being transferred over the Internet. Come to think of it, why the hell can’t they just send all that from the computer that compiles it over standard methods of transferring correspondent video?

    Also, it would have been much cooler if they’d demonstrated the 3 dimensions of it!

    Other than the image quality/minor jerkiness, I really like it. Imagine if this were in our houses! Conversations with people would be like they are right in the room with you in ways that a vid phone could NEVER accomplish!

    Not to mention the possibilities for X-rated material…. such as custom filmed videos with women standing an inch away from you. Porn doesn’t excite me much, but this idea is rather interesting.

    Posted by Anon on
  6. Pingback: RealityPrime » Help me Wolf Blitzer!

  7. If they couldn’t actually see the “hologram” in the studio, it wasn’t a hologram and I’m not impressed. Glorified green screen. Big deal.

    Posted by Anonymous on
  8. Seems to me that CNN could have done this better, but chose not to so it could make a big deal out of the technology.

    The CNN presenter announced the technology before it was showcased, saying something to the effect of “this new technology will blow your mind”.

    I have a feeling they deliberately sent low frame rate, low bitrate, low resolution video from the second studio, then did the chroma keying at the main studio.

    Something tells me that CNN could have gotten better video quality by chroma keying the presenter in the second studio and then sending that image along with an alpha channel in a higher bitrate, resolution and frame rate to its main studio before compositing. CNN just chose not to so they made sure we’d be talking about it.

    Next time it uses the technology CNN will be remembered as pioneers of the technique, and they will be able to talk about they have refined the process.

    -DAVE.

    Posted by Dave Field on
  9. I don’t get what all the fuss was about, surely this is just motion tracking (of the camera) really? Could have had exactly the same effect with one camera tracking in a fancy 360 rig instead of 35? Has nothing to do with holography as defined by wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holography)

    It also looked awful and they kep on panning all over the place to try to make it look more ‘3d’.

    Obviously worked though, Digg is full of commentors that seem to believe it was a real hologram, starwars style.

    Posted by Adam on
  10. I agree with Dave. It seems to me that CNN deliberatly used a low bit-rate and frame rate as well as a bad key. I think this had more to do with the fact that CNN wanted to make absolutely sure that the audience understood what was going on. Being a news company they want to be extra careful about presenting something as real when it is actually a fake computer effect.

    I think they actually might have gone out of their way to add a slight flicker effect ala star wars to envoke a hologram. Did anyone else notice this?

    Posted by Will Summers on
  11. You’re right Will, they did appear to have some fun with it….even the “beaming in” Star Trek start effect at the start. I certainly found it interesting from a technology standpoint and it was even humorous. But to say this was a more effective or useful way to informing people than a split screen? I don’t know how you could begin to argue that. Sorry, that’s not being a wet blanket as one poster said –that’s just fact.

    Posted by John Montgomery on
  12. It had to be expensive too, compared to a split screen so I doubt we’ll see it on a regular basis anytime soon. Perhaps we will see it used in an application where two hosts are in different locations. Bottom line is it was a gimmick that has spawned a lot of talk, so it worked for what they probably wanted it to do.

    Posted by Jeff Heusser on
  13. This effect is actually an interesting solution to a problem, these presenters were placed in a blue tent away from a crowd which would make it impossible to hear the presenter when they are talking.

    However, “beaming” them into the CNN Studio is a roundabout way of presenting that information. Although the effect wasn’t quite adequate, it certainly would have looked better than a presenter standing behind a blue background in a tent.

    Personally, the last place I’d like to be beamed is up Scotty.

    Posted by Jamie Sanders on
  14. Well this wasn’t a real hologram they couldn

    Posted by Jonas on
  15. In an article in a norwegian newspaper, a spokesperson from Vizrt said that the “bad composite” blue fringe was added on request from CNN since they didn’t want it to look too real…. They didn’t want to “fool” anyone…

    Posted by Ragnar on
  16. Pingback: Did anyone see the hologram interview on CNN last night? - Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum

  17. Sorry to be blunt but… the “solution” to the problem about the crowds drowning out the reporter is not valid… They might have tried to pull that on people that don’t know any better but we’ve had that solution forever. Toss someone in a closet with a green screen, a few kinos, and grab some video from the event and you get the same effect except it’s not “3D” or “Holographic” or whatever… It added no perceivable quality to their coverage and honestly, what’s the point in having someone “on the scene” if you’re putting them in a studio surrounded by cameras just to make them look like they’re in the main broadcast studio?
    I am however very excited about what this means for VFX, can you imagine a difference matte working off 35 HD cameras in realtime while you’re on set? Or the fact that you’d be able to orient your subjects however you want based off those cameras in post? That’s pretty awesome.
    So basically, Engineers – Kudos
    Media – Don’t substitute quality for flashy visuals. Take it from people who make careers from creating those flashy visuals.
    Now that that rant’s out of the way…
    FXGuide and PHD – Thank you for focusing on VFX and not politics at all even in the last few months! You all do an amazing job, and never stop amazing me!

    Posted by Rob on
  18. My only problem with this hologram is that is wasn’t transparent.
    How can you create a hologram which isn’t transparent, it freaks me out!!
    Can anyone tell me how they did it? You must be able to see trough…

    Posted by Edward on
  19. THIS IS NOT A HOLOGRAM! CNN basically just composited a second video of Jessica on the main feed of Wolf’s broadcast. Jessica’s video feed was dynamic based on the angle of Wolf’s camera perspective, and is essentially just a fancy new way of overlaying 2 video feeds much like how weather reports are done… In the weather reports, the reporter just stands in front of a blue screen, and interacts with a video monitor on what is being projected on the screen as if he is physically in the weather map. In this case, instead of a weather map, Wolf Blitzer and his newsroom is the first video, and Jessica (with her fancy 3d camera setup) is on the second video. Overlay these two videos and you have a fancy interactive shot… which I wouldn’t even categorize as Holography!

    Posted by roland on
  20. Actually, you can buy the right cameras for doing this kind of tricks at ptgrey.com

    I work there. I think Anderson Cooper showed one of ptgrey’s cameras during the show. It is called chameleon.

    Posted by john on
  21. And even experts weigh in…
    “This is not a hologram,” said Tung Jeong, a 76-year-old retired Lake Forest College physics instructor who now devotes his time to teaching holography. “Most of what media call a hologram usually is not. Something they don’t understand, they call it a hologram. It’s frustrating.”
    from this article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/columnists/chi-election-question-holograms-nov06,0,5253659.column
    CNN has to be happy because people are talking about it.

    Posted by Jeff Heusser on
  22. Pingback: Holografische Projektionen « RenderRing.de

  23. in 2009, can’t we do a better key ? if not, forget that thing

    Posted by gab on
  24. I think that the gimmick was so boring that they HAD to explain some techno-details to make some sense out of it.

    Beautiful depiction of 2 famous ideas from Marshall Mcluhan…
    The global village is commenting on something that tells me that the medium IS the message.

    Posted by Jacques on
  25. I think most everyone here is missing the point of using this technology in a broadcast. This was not done simply because of the use of “holography” (which we can all agree here, this is not) would improve the reporting capabilities of the network, nor because the technology was required to report the story. This was simply for the pr buzz and proof that a production technique could could be used to help differentiate one news outlet reporting the same story from another. To prove my point, we are talking about a news network on an fx website. You can also do a google search on “hologram” and CNN and get a staggering number of hits. So in this regard, this visual effect did its job and from CNN’s standpoint, was a huge success.

    Also, be aware that the final output of the image, including the “blue aura” and bad key, was purposely degraded to “enhance” the “holographic” effect for the viewer.

    Posted by Rob on

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