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Weather graphics that pour right in

May 27, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Weather companies are introducing new tools for broadcasters that promise more precise, pinpointed and timely forecasts that take less time to produce for both on-air and Web environments.
In early summer, Weather Central in Madison, Wis., will begin shipping SuperGenesis:Live, the latest version of its weather graphics system Genesis. The company’s MagicTrak technology allows the weathercaster to telestrate, or draw on top of video, by hand. Such tricks include drawing a circle around an area of bad weather, making a lightning bolt grow or touching a spot on the map to make a temperature pop up.
Hand in hand with the finger-pointing technique is real-time rendering capability that allows weathercasters to produce graphics immediately rather than pre-programming them before the show. That means the weather data is the latest available and not the temperatures that were input an hour before the show, said Victor Marsh, director of development.
Weathercasters only need to tell the system before the show that they plan to make a page curl or draw a circle, but they don’t need to render or draw those graphics in advance, which saves time. “TV stations want to carve out a niche that is unique and dramatic,” Mr. Marsh said. “Now you are drawing and telling the story.” The live functionality can be added to existing Genesis systems. The price for an add-on starts at $60,000, while the cost for a new system starts at slightly under $100,000.
WBOC-TV in Salisbury, Md., plans to roll out the system within the next 60 days and expects it will save time, especially on its morning news shows with regular weather updates, said Rick Jordan, VP of operations. “[We expect] it will keep us fresh and as up to date as possible,” he said. “The render time should be significantly less for those shows tight on on-air presentation.”
Weather Central competitor WSI plans to launch its new forecasting technology this summer. The company’s TrueView display technology and Vortex forecasting engine work in concert to construct a forecast that is extremely local and timely, said Jim Brihan, VP of media marketing at WSI in Billerica, Mass. Like SuperGenesis:Live, the WSI system renders in real time. Vortex sends a constant weather data feed to TrueView. That allows the talent to focus on any point in the city during the segment and present the temperature at that moment.
In addition, the system presents computer-modeled images of the area and future weather. “You show viewers a picture vs. telling them what it will be like,” Mr. Brihan said. “We’re trying to get as close as we can to what weather will look like at that point in time.”
The monthly cost for stations depends on the configuration and usually ranges from $1,700 to $2,500. There is no upfront cost.
WSI sold the first system to CBS affiliate KPSP-TV in Palm Springs, Calif., which launches operations in September. “The localization is very important to what we do, because everything about our news is going to be localized,” said Bill Evans, general manager and VP for the station. The system integrates with WSI’s existing weather system, Weather Producer.
AccuWeather is rolling out an online desktop application for TV stations to spruce up their Web weather content. AccuWeather.com Desktop can be downloaded from a participating TV station’s Web site. It places up-to-date weather information on the user’s desktop and is updated every 15 minutes while the user is online. The application can reside as a desktop icon, as the temperature in the lower right-hand corner of the screen or as a fully open window, said Emily Andronici, new media product manager with AccuWeather in State College, Pa.
Stations can customize the tool with their logo, news headlines and a link back to their Web site. The service launched a month ago with WABC-TV in New York. Six more ABC owned-and-operated stations will launch the application in the next few months. The cost depends on the level of customization.