Skip to main content

Election Night: CBS Multiplies Graphics Power, HD

CBS is reaching new heights in graphics power, HD cameras and overall complexity, centered on its Control Room 47, launched in July as the main CBS news studio.

The main studio alone will have 13 HD cameras including a robotic overhead that will shoot a touchscreen, one of a couple that will allow anchors and analysts to drill deep into data and manipulate the map for possible outcomes.

The CBS program will also feature lower-third graphics and, in the widescreen transmission, data on the sidepanels. Local affiliates will have the ability to replace the lower-thirds with their own information.

The station will rely on 15 or more Vizrt graphics engines, up from four or five in previous elections, according to Frank Governale, CBS vice president for operations. The system includes a customized GUI to help drive election data through the graphics engines.

Last February, during Super Tuesday coverage, CBS got the idea to create a four-sided scoreboard-type structure in the studio. Producers can fill it with graphics or video feeds, and it will be seen in the background of some studio wide shots and two-person shots.

CBS News will borrow an HD control room from CBS Sports for its storyline about exit polling. That facility will include its usual LED wall plus a 65-inch Panasonic touchscreen with a custom overlay to explain the exit polling results.

In an additional “flash studio,” inside Control Room 47, analysts at a “decision desk” will work on the crucial decisions of when to call states or contests.

A third control room will handle coordination of remotes feeds and funnel them to Control Room 47. CBS will have standard-definition remotes in several swing states, plus HD remotes at the presidential campaign headquarters in Phoenix and Chicago. Those HD remotes will be handled by a 64x64 switcher split into two 32x32 arrays.

Also, two HD feeds will come from Washington.

All that HD would not be possible without the network's recent move to MPEG-4 encoding, using Fujitsu encoders that enable HD transmission at low bit-rates—especially important on a night like Election Night when satellite transponder space is at a premium.

Nearly all the CBS gear is new. “The only thing we use from four years ago are the power strips,” said Mel Olinsky, CBS director of bureau operations.