US General Election
The US Election Campaign was a big deal not only for Sky News, but for the whole world. With everyone poised with bated breath to see who’d win the ‘Race to 270’ we knew this would be our chance to create a broadcast not see since, well, the Brexit General Election. And it couldn‘t have gone any better. With over 14,000 pieces of data a minute coming into the newsroom courtesy of our partners NBC in the US, we created a 1:1 scale, augmented reality model of the White House that would be the backdrop to the whole broadcast.
Our “on the night” look for the election was a continuation of the campaign brand that had been running since September when the presidential debates started. Election night saw the introduction of the Sky Headline typeface to this established look; a fresh font coupled with the pristine layers News is renowned for made for a winning combo! Good job too, as this package is a effectively a little teaser for what’s to come post Project One…
Lower-thirds came with the challenge of displaying multiple sets of information onscreen whilst maintaining legibility and ensuring the data was informative and easy to understand. With the wide variation of live boxes, individual state maps and exit poll layouts, designing Full Frames was equally as challenging, but resulted in a comprehensive suite of 60+ full frame graphics that were used to guide the audience through our coverage of the US election.
After the success of the AR graphics in the Brexit Election last year, the expectations of the AR was high! To step it up we decided to bring the White House to Sky Central and create it within the Unreal Engine, a first for Sky News.
The Unreal Engine enabled us to push the visuals to the next level with real time reflections, lighting and physics (the trees/grass sway in the wind!).
Initially there were massive ‘world first ideas’ but due to budget we had to put those ideas back into our pockets for next time, in the end we created two different graphics.
The Race to 270 – Live data fed bars raced towards the White House as the votes came in, this to be used throughout the coverage.
Big Moments – When a key swing state was won / the big win, a choreographed sequence would begin moving from the Dashboard to the AR White House with a plinth falling and the White house changing colour to reveal who the winner was.
As we would be live in Washington at the same time we had to keep the link consistent, with options of day, night, dusk and dawn as well as the ability to add rain!
Using the biggest of big screens, this multi-layered feature allowed the us to bring to the user real-time results, compare with previous results, build the path to election victory and drill down to compare demographics and exit poll data. Huge thanks to the innovation team who made this all possible.
The show was mainly anchored from a new studio overlooking the white house (sounds more glamorous than it is). All other supporting presentation came from Sky Central, where we installed a massive dashboard screen and created all that AR magic.
This was re-branded and contained a number of new features. Updated House and Senate charts plus a more detailed look at battleground states and the ability to dive deeper into counties due to the data from NBC. Special mention to our team up in Leeds who built it all in-house.
We developed a striking editorial image style which was launched through the campaign and continued in the week after the election. Drawing on simple repeatable elements from the brand it helps our specialist US content stand out.
On Snapchat, our breaking news editions reached over 4.5m unique users over the course of the week, with Biden’s victory edition reaching over 2.7m unique users alone. Elsewhere on YouTube we had around 9.8m views of all our election livestreams with the winning moment gaining 1.6m views on Facebook and 133k on Twitter.
As we know, a good suite of music can really elevate a piece of creative and work alongside the visual brand to bring the tone of voice to life. We put out an anonymous pitch to two composers with the task of keeping the music recognisably Sky News but with enough American showbiz to do such a big event justice. After choosing the successful composer we then worked with him and News to refine the individual pieces of music to hit the right amount of suspense and drama in the right places and were really pleased with the suite of music that we ended up with.
With Election 2020 ‘America Decides’ being one of the most important elections in a generation, and the 2016 US election being the first Dynamic project I worked on (and we thought 2016 was mad) , this personally was a very enjoyable project to be part of. At the request of Sky News, and to promote their coverage, our Dynamic Promo designs included a Generic Trump and Biden promo templates, along with candidate specific designs , which were used across the Sky ents and Sports Channels and contained dynamic headlines, entered by a Sky News producer on election night and the following day.
From not only building but designing these promos, like we do for bespoke ents campaigns, this was a great project to work on. It was made all the sweeter and challenging at times (Atlantic Coast + Gale force winds = No Broadband) working on these, 400 miles away from my native Cork in Ireland.