Thursday, 16 August 2012

BBC Panorama: Introducing the new Panorama-matrix-machine-pad graphics interface thing

Somewhere deep in the BBC, probably in a corner of the Panorama office next to the photocopier or maybe over by the stationery cupboard, there is an expensive, interactive, giant iPad-style device, mixing virtual, intelligent graphics that are responsive to a swish of a palm or a prod of a finger of a bemused journalist who is more occupied with hoping that no one will notice he has forgotten to iron his new shirt.

Let's call it the Panorama-matrix-machine-pad, shall we? It's not a very catchy name but let's go with it for now.

It can't help with the ironing, but the idea is that it helps present otherwise dry information in a whizzy, funky way for the benefit of the viewer, like a sexier white board without the need for blu-tack or a marker pen.

So imagine, then, this device dropped into the middle of a rigorously researched, lengthy investigation into a serious miscarriage of justice, as it was during the captivating Panorama episode Justice Denied: The Greatest Scandal?.

The Panorama-matrix-machine-pad is used to show relevant documents, data and for the reporter to 'explain things' about how they all link up, while swiping here and there as if he can really see and touch them.

The only thing is - it might look great, but it's also a bit daft, like the result of someone failing to reign in the more wild excesses of Dan and Olly in graphics after they've had an exuberant lunch-time beer.

And worse - even worse than having to get the reporter to pretend to press invisible buttons and make odd-looking swipes choreographed down to a no-doubt baffling level of detail - it risks distracting from the seriousness of the story, which already had plenty of archive footage, sit-down interviews, and pieces-to-camera (delivered over a cappuccino) to make up the amount of interesting pictures required for the story.

We know that all good television news and current affairs is about pictures, and we know there's probably always a hunt for new ways to make those pictures, and that reporters talking next to on-screen graphics is nothing new, but we also know that the Panorama-matrix-machine-pad is just a man standing in a room on his own making funny gestures for hours on end, before the graphics are painstakingly added on later.

Unless of course there really is a device like this in existence, in a corner of the Panorama office.

And in that case, we take it all back.

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