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Turner Taps Ross XPression for SAG Award Graphics

Laura Staat, graphics operator
L.A.-based Mdots/Fontastics used Ross Video’s XPression 2D/3D CG and motion graphics system to provide on-screen graphics for the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards which aired live Jan. 30 on TNT and TBS.

XPression provided all of the winner lower-thirds, side panel nominee boxes, TV ratings bugs, and end credits during its premiere award show outing. 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,” said Laura Staat, graphics operator for the show. “It was a double punch that only worked perfectly about 80 percent of the time. With XPression we were accurate 100 percent of the time with instant recall. The director noticed right away during the first rehearsal.”

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 1 to 5 seconds. Laura 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. When we hit the last card, we were right on-time making him very happy,” said Laura.

“We’ve been waiting for the evolution of live-to-air graphics systems for several years now,” said Allan Wells, MDots/Fontastics owner and technical director for the SAG Awards.“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,” said 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.”

Based in Universal City, CA, Mdots/Fontastics sister companies are a creative services company and leading stage-show screen production company.