Behind-the-scenes promo shoot: Who Is WRAL?


A :60 brand image promo conceptualized, written, blocked, shot and edited in 14 hours by a four person team at WRAL Creative.

After 27 years at WRAL, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, NC, I bleed PMS 279 blue. I grew up watching this station in the Charlie Gaddy era. I know its soul and am now part of its DNA. This spot started with a document I wrote to help our team understand our brand voice, why we do what we do, the way we do it, and the values that guide our decisions. The WRAL Creative team took that document and adapted it for the screen.

We used the cinematography in “Birdman,” the Oscar-winning Best Picture as inspiration. Now, let me just say this. What Director Alejandro González Iñárritu and Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki did in that film is ridiculously difficult. We didn’t do what they did. We didn’t have $18 million dollars or a movie crew. We had four people, a steadicam and one long day to pull it off. Shooting a constantly moving promo this way is a challenge. Shot location, blocking, lighting, timing, how one movement works into the next shot to tell a story – it’s all critical.

Writing: 3 hours
Blocking: 2 hours
Shooting: 5 hours
Editing: 4 hours

It’s worth noting, a promo like this only works if your news anchors are authentically connected, real people who truly live the words they’re speaking. WRAL News anchors Debra Morgan and David Crabtree have a combined 40+ years as the faces of our brand. They are truly, selfless servants. What you see is what you get, every single day.  It’s a delight and a privilege to channel their heart and souls onto the screen.

We are, WRAL.

“You can’t fake caring about people. Eventually, that will show. Plus, how exhausting would that be?!” Debra Morgan

Credits:

Co-writer, Steadicam, Post-production Justin Arner

Co-director & Lighting Jay Yovanovich

Lighting, Grip, Talent Entertainment Steve Elizondo

Co-writer, Co-director, Audio Shelly Leslie

PROMAX Gold Winner: Art Direction and Design / Image Promo News

Morning traffic with a whole new perspective. 3-D maps + GoPro + a terrific lead designer and animator + a traffic reporter with the personality to pull it off.

This new system was the first 3-D traffic system on the air in our market so we wanted to find a unique way to showcase that perspective. This spot was written and produced before we had the traffic system totally built and ready for air, so we were working with only a few maps.

WRAL Lead Designer & Animation Specialist made the magic happen! Congrats to him for winning Promax Gold!

Art Direction/Editing: Shan Zhong
Videography: Steve Elizondo
Writer: Shelly Leslie

Making Live TV With Google Glass

Google Glass wasn’t built for broadcasting live TV. We don’t know if any other television station has attempted it.

What is it?  Google Glass is a wearable, voice-controlled computer with an optical head-mounted display and built in video camera. Glass delivers an augmented reality image to the wearer. It can search the internet, answer dictated questions, take pictures, and record video.

WRAL Traffic Anchor Brian Shrader wearing Google Glass

WRAL Traffic Anchor Brian Shrader wearing Google Glass

The question was: could it be used to broadcast live TV?

WRAL-TV, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, NC,  and parent company Capitol Broadcasting Company have a legacy of innovation. We LOVE a challenge like this one.

It started by registering with Google as a developer to try to get our hands on the technology. That was taking too long, so WRAL engineer Tony Gupton suggested we get them the way anyone gets the most obscure of objects: eBAY! WRAL Chief of Engineering and Operations Pete Sockett scored and the race was on. How quickly could we learn how it works, figure out how to route the video signal from it to live TV, brainstorm and implement a plan for a continuous live feed for WRAL.com, design on air and web graphics, put together a 4 day broadcast plan, develop and launch a marketing plan to promote the weeklong #WRALGlass event? The answer: 5 days. It takes a village, people.

WRAL Engineer Tony Gupton was lead teacher and problem solver.

WRAL Engineer Tony Gupton was lead teacher and problem solver.

WRAL Director James Ford and Lead Designer Steve Loyd work on presentation

WRAL Director of News Operations James Ford and Lead Designer Steve Loyd work on presentation.

WRAL Traffic anchor Brian Shrader learning to operate Google Glass

WRAL Traffic anchor Brian Shrader learning to operate Google Glass.

WRAL Director of News Operations James Ford setting up the switcher.

WRAL Director of News Operations James Ford setting up the switcher.

Output of WRAL control room #1 put Glass on TV, output of WRAL control room #2 streamed continuous output from Glass on WRAL.com.

Output of WRAL control room #1 put Glass on TV, output of WRAL control room #2 streamed continuous output from Glass on WRAL.com. TV viewers saw a picture in picture display.

Once we had the technology and were figuring out how to operate it, we had to decide what to do with it on air. WRAL Station Manager Jim Rothschild had the idea to have different members of the morning team wear Glass so viewers could see and hear different points of view.

WRAL’s 30-year veteran Morning News anchor Bill Leslie broke the news that he would be first.

@wralbleslie breaks the news on twitter

@wralbleslie breaks the news on twitter

Bill’s viewpoint gave the audience a chance to see what Bill sees, from the crew chief’s directions, to three robotic cameras, to his co-anchors eating snacks during the commercial breaks. Day one of the #WRALGlass experiment was an eye opener! Bill’s commentary was priceless and we learned that head movements are really exaggerated with Glass.

Watch and listen to news anchor Bill Leslie’s live eye view

Viewers rarely ever see or hear the studio crew chief, or even know what his job is. WRAL’s Stuart Todd promised managers a “show” when he stepped up to take on #WRALGlass and he delivered.

Watch and listen to crew chief Stuart Todd’s live eye view

During a live newscast, the producer is like air traffic control landing six planes at once. WRAL producer Kianey Carter’s day in #WRALGlass will make you appreciate the quick thinking, clear headed, multitaskers that these folks are. Rockstars behind the scenes!

Watch and listen to producer Kianey Carter’s live eye view

Finally, WRAL traffic anchor Brian Shrader, the sparkplug of WRAL’s morning news, a bundle of energy and fun.

Watch and listen to traffic anchor Brian Shrader’s live eye view

Here’s a combined stream of what viewers saw on air and what viewers simultaneously saw on WRAL.com:

http://www.wral.com/wral-tv/video/13379681/

Because so many people don’t know what Google Glass is or what it does, we took a conversational approach to the TV promotion, using the news anchors to demonstrate it. We also felt it was important to show viewers what they’d be seeing during the broadcast. We created web ads to promote #WRALGlass on WRAL.com. We generated more than 480k impressions on twitter using #WRALGlass and got some national press for the experiment.

Article in Broadcasting & Cable     Article in TVNewscheck

Overall, a win for innovation and a win for viewers to see a whole new perspective of local television news through Google Glass.

UPDATE on Feb 17, 2014: WRALTechWire Article

UPDATE on Feb 18, 2104: Stats just in from WRAL.com show 11,000 online video views of WRAL’s Google Glass experiment.

How Local TV Covers Snowmageddon in the South

This isn’t Minnesota. A few inches of snow in North Carolina quickly gets named Snowmageddon on twitter and warrants wall-to-wall television coverage.  Here’s how we do it at WRAL-TV, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh.

From the moment of the four letter forecast, it’s all hands on deck. Managers mobilize their departments to both do their jobs and support the news department in getting / covering the story.

Every single person in the television station “unofficially transfers” to the News department. Accountants become snow desk volunteers. Sales execs become shuttle drivers getting crews to and from nearby hotels. Every person with a camera of any kind becomes a photographer.  Department heads and staffers from other divisions in our parent company Capitol Broadcasting  work the 24/7 social media response team. Our goal is personal service. Be helpful. Be a resource. Be a lifeline in every possible way.

WRAL-TV Facebook page

60+ WRAL staffers tweet

We look for every technology available to get stories, pictures and videos to air. We used Skype to get a liveshot on with Jackie Hyland, one of our main news anchors, who was stuck in her car for nearly four hours.

WRAL News anchor Jackie Hylands details her 4 hour traffic nightmare on the way to work.

WRAL News anchor Jackie Hylands details her 4 hour traffic nightmare on the way to work.

Especially on days like today, you need to be able to broadcast live from anywhere. Drive5, is our new mobile dashcam fleet (with its own twitter account) that allows us to broadcast live from absolutely anywhere. One of the most incredible video feeds came from a dashcam mounted in a news car traveling along Glenwood Avenue, a main thoroughfare in the city that was absolutely crippled by abandoned cars.

We used a new ipad app @TVInteract to move live tweets with pics to air without having to add graphic support.

The WRAL.com tech team in Raleigh keeps the site humming. They’ve built an incredible backend so the servers don’t even breathe hard, easily handling web traffic at more than a million page views an hour. Web editors are scheduled around the clock, each assigned to a reporter/photographer team to move content quickly to the web, mobile apps and social media. Other editors are assigned specific tasks like moving viewer submitted pictures from various platforms to web and TV and publishing multiple live streams.

The Video Central section on the top of the homepage at WRAL.com lists multiple live streams throughout the day and night.

The Video Central section on the top of the homepage at WRAL.com lists multiple live streams throughout the day and night.

The station website recently relaunched a responsive design that changes the layout of the site as the story gets bigger. Any site format change on the main site gets automatically mirrored on the mobile apps. If you haven’t seen responsive design yet, check it out

Design changes to accommodate huge stories like a snowstorm

Design changes to accommodate huge stories like a snowstorm

In the promotion department, we follow the tone of the story as it unfolds. Some snow storms are lighthearted and some, like this one, are more serious. Our plan completely changed as the story changed into dangerous gridlock. We start capturing sound from air in the early morning hours. We produce quick spots that deliver on our core mission to serve. We focus on what makes WRAL coverage unique.

Over and over, every time in a crisis, North Carolina proves it has heart. Neighbors help neighbors. Good Samaritans outnumber the complainers. The kindness in people emerges and our community makes me very proud to be a native.

Read awesome stories of people helping people

Broadcasting live 32.5 hours of 36 requires an army of WRAL staffers, steaming on WRAL.com and multiple mobile apps, simulcasting on sister radio station MIX 101.5 WRAL-FM, and sister TV station WILM, posting information and responding to questions on facebook and twitter 24/7…That’s how WRAL does it.

So here’s to you, North Carolina, for taking it on the chin like a champ. WRAL is here to help you #StaySafe.