Good branding expresses a channel’s personality and identity. If it is conveyed properly, it builds a loyal audience that is retained for upcoming content. In the not-so-distant past, it was fairly common to only change a channel’s branding once a year, but that’s no longer the norm. Variations for special events, time of day, or special branding directly linked to the content itself is now not only common, but increasingly expected.
Unfortunately, while the quantity of branding is increasing, staff allocated to create it is not. Budget constraints are a reality for all broadcasters these days, and operations need to be streamlined any way possible. Graphics departments are no exception. The amount of hardware and software needed to create and play out quality branding, and the human effort required to add branding to a channel, make it a likely target for shaving a few dollars off of a budget.
Given that scenario, which is likely to remain fairly constant for at least the near-term, what can be done to create, distribute and operate branding graphics more efficiently without compromising the level of quality and interest that will entice and retain viewers?
Similar to how other broadcast systems have been optimized, an integrated solution could help get the best out of a graphics system. For example, the full graphics creation capabilities of a platform like Adobe After Effects can be leveraged within an integrated solution without adding to costs or compromising on capabilities. So, how can a branding graphics workflow effectively integrate with the rest of the playout ecosystem? And, most important, what are the benefits to the broadcaster?
First, let’s pause for a quick review of the four basic steps common to contemporary graphics workflows. Most follow a straightforward model of: creation, versioning, verification and playout. (See Figure 1.) The only genuine way for broadcasters to add value to this four-step process is to integrate, and therefore simplify, the workflow at every step. Let’s take them in turn.
The most efficient graphics creation method is a templated graphic, where a basic graphic template is created to be used multiple times but with different information. Versioned graphics begin with a basic graphics template that establishes each element to be included in the graphic, including effects, animations and the playout timeline.
Creating broadcast graphics — for example, an overlay snipe — begins with some base elements. Snipes typically consist of a background that matches the network or station’s look and feel, with the addition of show-specific images and clips. Those media elements are reused on multiple versions, with perhaps only the show date and time varying as text elements.