Skip to main content

Election Night: Holographic People Coming to CNN

When Wolf Blitzer interviews campaign spokesmen on Election Night, the partisans may have a blue hue or appear like something out of a transporter module in “Star Trek,” or maybe like Princess Leia in her remote plea for help back in “Star Wars.”

No, the campaigns haven’t hired flacks from the future. But CNN—if it can work out the final details—will present remote interviews in which it will appear, somewhat, that the subjects are actually in the CNN studio.

In fact, to avoid misleading viewers, CNN will actually degrade the remote images from the candidate’s campaign headquarters to make them more like what viewers have seen in movies and TV for decade, said CNN Senior Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Dave Bohrman.

Thursday, Bohrman said CNN was still working on the details of the effect. “Nobody’s ever done this before and we’re trying to make it happen,” he said. “The last thing I want it to do it to put it’s on and it’s really horrible.”

The effect is driven by 43 small HD cameras, about 10 inches apart in a 220-degree arc around the subject, at eye level. The 16:9 cameras are on their sides to get full head-to-toe shots. Some 20 computers at each site will process the images to seamlessly morph the images.

To get the technology, Bohrman made a quick, one-day trip to Israel, visiting the Vizrt and Sports Vu companies, to see the technology in action.

CNN has already reached new graphics heights with its “Magic Wall”—the data-rich touchscreen often manipulated by Chief National Correspondent John King. On a separate set Election Night, King will also have a virtual CapitolBuilding to graphically display the results of House and Senate elections.

Out in the field, other than in Chicago and Phoenix, Bohrman said about half the CNN crews will shoot in standard-definition, as will many affiliates, as the network continues its HD transition. All CNN trucks now have at least one HD satellite path, Bohrman said.

All those remotes—a couple hundred over the course of the evening, will come to a newly modified sub-command center in Atlanta that will feed producers in New York.

The CNN Election Express bus will be set up in Chicago’s Grant Park, where the Obama camp expects a celebration. Bohrman said the fact that this was an outdoor event, in potentially bad weather, contributed to the decision to send the bus to Chicago instead of Phoenix, where McCain will hold his Election Night festivities inside the Biltmore Hotel.