Thursday, April 18, 2024

TVNZ Brings Election Coverage to Life with Vizrt 3D and AR Graphics

TVNZ brought its October 2023 election coverage to life with data-driven 3D and augmented reality graphics powered by Vizrt technologies. Some 1.4 million viewers – over 40% of the 3.5 million registered voters in New Zealand – tuned in to watch TVNZ’s coverage of the general election held in October 2023.

According to reports, the network’s 1News elections coverage was New Zealand’s highest-reaching and highest-rating TV program of the night in both key commercial demographics and total audience. The network also scored big online, with the live stream on TVNZ+ generating more than a quarter of a million (268,378 to be exact) streams, helping the platform deliver its single biggest day in its history.

For TVNZ, this huge success was the culmination of more than a year of planning and putting its election machinery into motion. Beginning in August 2022, up to 280 people – including 60 journalists – were involved in the election process to produce the debates and the main election coverage across broadcast, digital, and social platforms.

“Election coverage for TVNZ is one of those big signature pieces that we do every three years, so it’s important that we get that right for our viewers,” asserts Lindsay Chalmers, General Manager for Enterprise Operations at TVNZ.

“Sports have major events like the Olympics, the World Cup, the Super Bowl… for news, it’s the elections,” concurs Design Lead, Mark Fleming. “There’s not much that would compare in terms of reach or engagement.”

TVNZ has been a part of life in New Zealand for almost 60 years, and its 1News at 6pm bulletin is the nation’s most trusted and watched News program.

“As the national broadcaster, elections are part of TVNZ’s DNA”, explains Jean-Louis “JL” Açafrão, General Manager of Technology at TVNZ. “We’ve covered every election since our inception, and it’s something that TVNZ really prides itself on delivering.”

In recent years, the broadcaster has faced challenges from social media and online news sources – just like its global media counterparts, with studies finding younger viewers moving away from traditional media.

For TVNZ, combatting these challenges meant rethinking content and more importantly, delivery, to better connect its audience to important issues such as the general elections, however they chose to engage.

“It’s important, ultimately, for our democratic process that we’re transparent and able to provide information so people can make the right choices for themselves ahead of the election and then be informed on the day about how those results played out,” adds Chalmers. “So, it’s a data and therefore graphic-driven show on election night.”

Graphics are central to helping break down the elections for viewers. Visualizing the shifts in vote counting and percentages of seats won via graphics makes it easy for TVNZ to explain how the elections are shaping up for each demographic on the big day. This is supported by Vizrt’s research which showed that 43% of respondents believed graphics make it easier to understand content.

Powered by Viz Engine and Unreal Engine, stunning 3D and augmented reality (AR) graphics were brought to life in the main studio with a large 13-meter LED screen covering much of the studio’s 25-meter length, augmented by a green screen setup that provided a “set extension” and allowed TVNZ to seamlessly project an expansion of its virtual set design.

The election coverage offers TVNZ the opportunity to set a new benchmark moving forward, as Fleming explains: “This is our third election cycle of using Vizrt to drive data graphics. We can crunch and visualize a lot of data very quickly. We use elections to set the standard of where we want our graphics, design, and augmented reality capability to be for the next one, two, or three years”.

“Virtual production in our studios has only become a possibility at TVNZ because of Vizrt.”

Attracting and Retaining Audiences with Augmented Reality Graphics

Augmented reality graphics not only make it easier for viewers to understand complex coverage; they keep them watching for longer and make viewers more likely to return, too, particularly for Gen Z and Millennial audiences. Vizrt’s survey confirmed that 62% of respondents said that graphics and virtual elements make them feel more immersed in the content, 51% said they make them watch for longer, and 23% said they make them more likely to watch that broadcaster again in the future.

“The premise of introducing augmented reality to TVNZ was based on extending the minutes spent watching by our viewers”, says Chalmers. “Every minute spent viewing is really valuable to a broadcaster; it means that you might carry them into the next commercial break or hold them into the next story, which then takes them further as well.

“We were looking for two, or maybe really optimistically, three extra minutes spent viewing each break in a news bulletin. Within the first two months, we got to three and a half extra minutes based on the measurements that we were doing.”

“Augmented reality absolutely allows you to tell complex stories in a visual way that we couldn’t before, so that was a win for us.”

TVNZ’s Newsroom Workflow

A Vizrt customer for over a decade, TVNZ relies on a suite of Vizrt products for its day-to-day news workflows and election coverage. While stunning graphics steal the show visually, the behind-the-scenes journalist tools, media asset management workflows, and studio automation workflows are equally important in preparing for and executing day-to-day coverage and major events.

With Viz Pilot Edge supporting scripting and direct data integration into templated graphics, live data can be immediately visualized in fast-moving stories like election reporting.

To help production teams focus on the stories they’re telling, TVNZ opted to implement the Viz Mosart studio automation solution several years ago. Viz Mosart now drives the main news studio and automates nearly seven hours of live, linear news per day.

Reliable media asset management workflows and easy content retrieval are key to telling everyday news stories, and even more so for major events such as elections.

Chalmers is proud of what TVNZ’s 1News has achieved in recent years and believes the way forward is to introduce even more segmented options for personalised material, with content tailored around the on-demand premise.


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