Changing the Look of Broadcast News

Faced with an ever-fracturing audience – thanks primarily to the plethora of ways people can access news – television networks today are faced with the unenviable task of attempting to attract the increasingly distracted. “There's no question that the news market is more competitive than ever,” says Hal Aronow-Theil, Creative Director at ABC Broadcast Graphics. “People no longer get their news solely from print, television or radio. They get it on their laptops, their PDA's, their cellphones and their iPods. This is an ever-changing market, and we have to ensure that we're visible and competitive across the board. ABC News content has got to be out there for people when and how they want it, and we want them to come to us first.”

While broadcast news was once the privileged domain of the 'big' three networks, the staggering increase in both traditional and previously-undreamed of media has prompted viewers once content to ask “What's new?” to demand “What's new, entertaining, educational, convenient and beautiful to look at?” Today viewers want reassurance that all those criteria are met, and they don't want to wait around. To satisfy ever more complex demands, the networks are more and more turning to design boutiques like New York's award-winning shop nailgun* ( for some fresh ideas. “No matter how big you are or how many resources you may have internally it would be a disservice to everyone at ABC News if we did not go outside our own circle from time to time,” said Alan Ives, Executive Producer and Creative Director of ABCNews Advertising and Promotion.

Serendipitously, just as the network was contemplating how to reinvigorate the already popular news shows Primetime and Nightline, a simple promotional postcard arrived from nailgun*.Both Aronow-Theil and Ives were duly impressed – more so when they visited their website and met with nailgun*'s creative director Michael Waldron and director of animation and editorial Erik van der Wilden. “They are a company that just gets 'it' when it comes to broadcast television,” added Ives. “It's more than just coming up with some nice graphics, but understanding the key components and editorial mission of a particular show and communicating that to viewers quickly. For Primetime and Nightline we wanted do something dynamic and artful that also had a clear and bold message, and that's what we got from nailgun*. I'm not sure how many other companies out there can do both as effectively as they did.”

The New Look of Primetime In essence, nailgun*'s new open for Primetime sums up the demands of today's news junkie. The show open wastes no time linking the image of a much-used camera, the broadcast journalist's primary tool, to the unique blend of visceral immediacy and aesthetic polish demanded by contemporary news audiences. At once strikingly present and safely distant from the story it is telling, the camera is appropriately emblazoned with the slogan: “Gets You There. Gets Inside. Gets It Done.” Quickly, the camera's eye turns its focus on the Primetime report team, led by the trusted and familiar news veteran Diane Sawyer. In just the opening seconds, it is clear that this is a news show with powerful stories delivered by seasoned reporters. “The camera brings everything together; it's the one the thing you can't do without,” explains Waldron. “We saw it as the perfect metaphor for what Primetime is all about. ABC came to us with some very direct copy, but they didn't want to it to scream. Subtlety was vital, so we let the camera speak for itself.”

In an ironic, yet fitting, nod to the technological times in which we live, Primetime's new and trenchant symbol of reality is not itself real. The perfect 3D model of a typical news camera was in fact created by nailgun* 3D animator Santiago Castaño with original design by Suntae “Will” Kim and final animation by Charles Kline. “Shooting a real camera would have been easy enough,” admits van der Wilden. “Incorporating the show graphics into each of the real camera's parts, however, would have been very limiting. Creating the camera in 3D allowed us to integrate key phrases, logos and footage, and also gave us more flexibility for the last-minute changes typical of broadcast news.”

Ultimately, the efficiency of nailgun's behind-the-scenes creative process only enhances the compelling metaphor for news dissemination that Primetime wanted to convey. Nightline: Version 2.0 A very different challenge was posed by the repackaging of Nightline, long the late-night flagship of ABC News. After commanding the show with unstinting integrity for 25 years, anchor Ted Koppel left his post in 2005. Realizing that simply replacing the news icon would inevitable make Nightline seem like a pale imitation of its former self, ABC News opted to create a new Nightline, one that would accomplish the tricky task of maintaining long-time viewers and attracting potential new ones. “The look for Nightline had to be completely new, without alienating our core audience,” says Aronow-Theil. “Nightline is so important to ABC News, we only want to add to our existing viewership. We wanted to convey that there's a new team producing Nightline, but the editorial mechanism that backed up Ted Koppel, the core of ABC News, is still intact. The new look is very different from Primetime, but it's also completely successful. We looked at a lot of different designs, both in and out of our department, but nailgun* again had the freshest approach.”

To convey the vision of this utterly new, yet still familiar and trustworthy, version of Nightline, nailgun*'s creative team conjured a vision of a thread-like line of light coursing through the night sky. Emanating from the ABC News logo, the thread is at once a literal “night line” and a stirring symbol of the enlightened information network that continues to support the show. To represent the vast scope of that network, the information energy pulsing through each thread of light first circles the globe before streaking into the show's twin headquarters in Washington, D.C. and New York City's Times Square. “ABC wanted to reveal two things right away,” says Waldron. “Nightline headquarters have moved to Times Square, and that the show is now anchored by three reporters covering three different stories. They needed to insert teasers for each story into the show open. It was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to make that seamless, but we came up with the idea of creating the TV billboards to hold those teasers. When you see those screens, you know you're in New York, even though all the surrounding buildings were created in 3D.”