Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CNN's Election Excess: The Hologram

As Wolf Blitzer was so proud to announce, for the first time in television history, a live hologram filled the airwaves. Jessica Yellin a CNN reporter was digitized from Grant Park, Chicago and reconstituted in hologram form in CNN Headquarters in New York to report on the situation of the Obama rally that will be conducted at the park later tonight.

The digital representation of Jessica Yellin appeared on the floor of the Situation Room, a few feet away from Blitzer, and participated in an exchange that looked as if it was something out of a science fiction movie. In discussing the rally Wolf asked Yellin how she felt about being the first live hologram, and even she couldn't deny making a Star Wars reference, noting her similarity to a scene in which a hologram Princess Leia delivers a message.

The conversation lasted no longer than four minutes, and a significant portion of it consisted more on the novelty of the hologram technology then the story. Wolf noted the benefit of such a device as it singled Yellin out from the typical screaming crowd such reporters are usually in front of.

The digital Jessica Yellin however described the complicated process involved, starting with being in a tent filled with sophisticated equipment that took three weeks to set up. She described how in Chicago she was standing within a ring of cameras synchronized to the ones in the New York studio. All together the process created a startling realistic picture of Yellin, albeit her image fluttered around the edges and was tinted a shade of blue.

Now besides considering the financial cost of such a technology, for a news agency to have a reporter on location, only to digitize him or her back into the news room, one must wonder the purpose of the reporter even being on location. In this case Jessica Yellin was in reality on the scene in Grant Park; however being secluded in a CNN tent, covered in cameras, it is hard to suggest she was closer to the story then if she had conducted her report in the story's natural environment via a more traditional telecast.

Overall the general effect of watching a hologram in New York report what was happening in Chicago detracted from the story. It was not because Jessica Yellin was a hologram, it was because the audience was left with no real connection to what was happening in Grant Park. The purpose of the holographic technology was to abstract the reporter from the location, however the story was too and that was what really hurt the report.

Here is the video footage of CNN's Jessica Yellin as a hologram:


Cris Cohen said...

CNN executives said they hope this technology can one day make their anchors seem lifelike or at least "make it easier to tell them apart from the furniture".

Anonymous said...


Jason said...

I just knew you'd write about this.
I saw it on CNN and thought "Scott will say something about this"..

While it's neat, it's a little lame. Makes me think of Star Trek.