[Election 2017] Making election coverage entertaining

By Rumy Doo

Broadcasters turn to VR and graphics to grab attention on the make-or-break night

  • Published : May 8, 2017 - 17:35
  • Updated : May 8, 2017 - 17:42
As the nation goes to the polls to elect its 12th president following 60 days of frenzied campaigning, TV networks are in a ratings battle of their own for the historical vote count.

Broadcasters are scrambling to attract viewers to their election night coverage stretching from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, combining high-tech features and entertaining illustrations.

All three of Korea’s largest broadcasters -- KBS, MBC and SBS -- are leaning heavily on computer graphics for this year’s presidential election, incorporating virtual reality into the newsroom. 

Image promoting KBS’ broadcast for the May 9 election night (KBS)

The state-owned KBS will be recreating a virtual version of the presidential Blue House for the setting of the ballot count. It is also launching the software “Decision K” to predict the winner as soon as exit polls are announced.

On the non-virtual front, KBS has installed an outdoor stage in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square to capture citizens’ responses live.

KBS, which topped ratings for the 2016 general elections coverage with 10 percent of viewership, said it will offer an “in-depth analysis of voter trends” with a panel of political experts to discuss each development as it unfolds. 

Image promoting MBC’s broadcast for the May 9 election night (MBC)

MBC has invested in computer graphics as well, creating highly detailed 3-D avatars for each candidate. Some 100 cameras filmed the candidates from head to toe to create the 3-D models, according to MBC.

The broadcaster hopes to create the illusion of “tearing down the boundary between real life and virtual reality” in its segment, infusing live scenes with computer graphic-generated images in a studio.

A computer graphics-generated train will travel around the country, for example, to count the votes in each region; virtual versions of the candidates will then step off the train when it arrives at the MBC studio.

MBC has set up a giant light-emitting diode panel on Lotte World Tower, the tallest building in Seoul, which will display an updated ballot count every 20 minutes. 

Image promoting SBS’ broadcast for the May 9 election night (SBS)

During the 2012 presidential election, SBS garnered much attention for its whimsical computer graphics depicting candidates in a marathon and in a jungle survival reality program.

The broadcaster will once again be inserting candidates’ faces into various popular TV programs, with a stronger focus on viewer-network interaction this time.

SBS has teamed up with Facebook Korea for the ballot count this year. It will be analyzing the big data of Facebook users by age, region of residence, gender and more, and illustrating them through computer graphics on air. 

TV networks set up stages at Gwanghwamun Square on Monday for Tuesday night’s election coverage. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)

Cable network JTBC, meanwhile, will be installing a glass-walled studio in the middle of Gwanghwamun Square. The channel’s lead anchor Sohn Seok-hee will be hosting the election night program from the space to “communicate with citizens … and for a broadcast that goes one step closer (to citizens),” said JTBC.

The three major networks, in collaboration with the Korea Broadcasters Association, will jointly conduct the exit polls.

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)