'GMA': Future Is Now


What will the world look like in 25 years? Good Morning America offered its answer to the question this past weekend, with the help of the latest 3D graphics technology.

ABC collaborated with Popular Science on the special broadcast The Future Now, which attempted to show what life will be like in 2031 by highlighting potential advances in medicine, transportation and housing. Since GMA was reporting on a world that doesn't (yet) exist, the special drew heavily on photo-realistic graphics in lieu of video. Created with Adobe AfterEffects and Autodesk Maya animation software, the graphics depicted New York City in 2031 and gave a virtual tour of the home of the future.

The graphics were produced in full-resolution high-definition. It was only the second time that GMA, which usually relies on upconverted SD graphics, has created a high-def graphics package. “How do you tell the story of the future when you don't have video?” asks ABC Senior Art Director/producer Carlos El Asmar. “You do it in graphics.”

ABC assembled a large graphics team, which worked feverishly for three weeks to create 6-7 minutes of HD graphics that were spread throughout the show. Since GMA didn't have enough computer capacity to render the graphics in time, it contracted with a large rendering farm in Los Angeles that normally caters to movie studios.

“It's a Hollywood-style graphics package,” says Senior Producer Eric Ortner, who expects to incorporate more HD graphics into GMA as technology improves.

GMA also installed a chroma-key wall behind the anchors to show a 3D animation of Times Square in 25 years, complete with marquees for Broadway shows. In a nod to corporate synergy, “Lost: The Musical” was among them.

After launching high-def broadcasts a year ago, HD graphics represents the “final piece of the puzzle” for producing GMA in HD, says Executive Producer John Green. For this project, he says they were an absolute requirement: “We would have done our viewers a disservice to use standard-definition graphics in a show about the future.”