Real news meets increasingly real-looking CGI
America’s The Weather Channel (TWC) has just launched a new broadcast technology called “immersive mixed-reality”, taking weather presentation to a level unlike anything you’ve ever seen. “Using the power of advanced, real-time graphic renderings and visual effects…TWC is pioneering new methods of broadcast presentation for real-time immersive storytelling,” the company explained.
In a video demonstrating the technology’s capabilities, weatherman Jim Cantore is seen discussing the intensity of tornadoes from the apparent comfort of a studio, before a simulated tornado hurls realistic-looking timber and vehicular debris onto the studio floor. Things only escalate from there. Take a look.
Produced to “educate and inform” viewers by placing them “inside of a storm environment,” the video is remarkable as the effects seem so real, and because it brings together news and entertainment in a way never seen before. Cantore convincingly dodges, yells and grimaces as the tornado wreaks havoc around him, but continues to explain how the meteorological phenomenon creates risks for nearby people and properties. As well as the CGI objects, the video includes traditional augmented reality-style graphics that float in the air while tracking with camera motions.
The presentation was made possible with custom hardware from Norway studio The Future Group, while the graphics themselves are rendered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine – a familiar tool in the video game industry designed to deliver realistic 3D reproductions and lifelike physics. TWC struck a partnership with The Future Group back in April, to fulfil its vision of providing viewers with an unmatched television experience and improving the public’s understanding of weather events and the impacts on their daily lives.
“We wanted to do something that would bring [weather stories] to our audience in a strong and memorable way,” said Michael Potts, VP of design at TWC. “We want great moments. We want to engage our audience, and we want our content to be shareable.” The channel plans to use the technology to create similar mixed-reality effects in 80% of its programming by 2020. If this is the future of news, then I might actually start watching it!