As far as I can remember, the weather looked pretty much the same on TV. Sure, the weather person can change and weather conditions vary, but the format consists of a person standing in front of a display showing a flat, abstract representation of the forecast? This is an unchanging part of the television landscape, as is fear-inducing news programs and reruns of friends.
But try to tell the folks at The Weather Channel, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". This week the broadcaster introduced a new version of “Virtual Views” for television weather. Using mixed reality technology, the network's meteorologists are transported to different cities in front of the camera to show the weather before it happens. The innovative IMR segments for virtual views will be integrated into The Weather Channel's daily live programming and forecasts and feature landscapes and backdrops from around 50 cities in the United States.
“Weather broadcasts are unique in that we provide information about future events. There is no video footage of the event, ”Mike Chesterfield, senior director of weather presentations for The Weather Channel, told Digital Trends. “While traditional news broadcasts have the ability to show video of what happened to clearly tell a particular story, we often don't have that advantage because the events we are providing information about have not yet occurred. By creating hyper-realistic simulations based on science and hard data, and by providing the expertise of the meteorologists who immerse themselves in these environments, we now have a groundbreaking video product that allows us to more clearly convey the messages we want to receive . "
Chesterfield described the feature as a "real revelation" that allows weather presenters to show the audience rather than just telling what the weather will be like over the next few days.
Warren Drones, senior technical aartist at The Weather Channel, stated that the setup still includes the classic green screen weather setup that is memorably featured in the film Groundhog Day. However, the graphics are provided by a real-time rendering system based on Unreal Engine, which enables realistic 3D graphics – and some carefully implemented camera movements.
"While the graphics are displayed on this engine, the position of the camera is sent as data to the Reality Engine, which synchronizes the view of virtual elements with their position on the green screen," Drones told Digital Trends. "The maintenance and control of these complex systems during live shows is only possible if everyone involved knows how the tools work and what they can do."