CBS News makes virtual a key part of election coverage

CBS News makes virtual a key part of election coverage

CBS News harnessed the power of the Unreal Engine with Vizrt to create a variety of effects for its 2022 election night coverage.

In an effort to create something new for its coverage, CBS News chose to focus on new ways to present election data while connecting it to the unique Times Square location.

The effort was led by Gabriel Almanzar, creative director of CBS News, with Fadi Radi serving as creative consultant. Radi previously led creative and election coverage for an overseas news network. Girraphic was then selected to design and create the various virtual elements as well as the real-time data integrations in Vizrt.

“We sought to keep the information clear and easy to digest while introducing high-end creative elements that make the set feel like one sprawling electoral hub. With CBS’s iconic brand in mind, we’ve created several spaces to transform their decor as election night continues,” said Emily Stone of Girraphic, who noted that special attention had tuned to ensure a consistent look across inserts, virtual and studio assets.

The most important element of the night were two virtual elements, one placed in Times Square and the other inserted in the network’s Studio 1515.

See the full version on Giphy

See the full version on Giphy


In the studio, a virtual set extension of the United States Capitol rotunda was placed above the main anchor area with the show’s “America Decides” logo often included. Smaller augmented reality graphics were also used in the studio to display polls.

In Times Square, a giant augmented reality element has been placed on the facade of 1515 Broadway to highlight key data – such as “the balance of power” – as well as program logos, such as for the “CBS Evening News”.

See the full version on Giphy

To achieve the exterior shots of Times Square, CBS placed a jib at 1540 Broadway on a rooftop terrace above a variety of flagship retail stores. This jib, like the jib in the studio, integrates Stype camera tracking technology to allow the placement of the various virtual elements. The studio also includes a RedSpy Stype on the Steadicam for augmented reality graphics included on the ground.

The virtual environments were built in Unreal Engine 5 and controlled through a custom OSC from Girraphic, with Viz Engine 5 for data-driven graphics.

“Working with the incredibly talented data integration team at CBS, we created graphics that were completely data-driven to ensure accurate and consistent information throughout election night. We have an operator that focuses on data-driven Viz 5 graphics, and another operator that focuses on Unreal environments, these two pieces can work in tandem and create an immersive environment where graphics exist,” Stone said.

In 2020, CBS News chose to heavily edit the Times Square video to obscure the various signage. This time around, a virtual Times Square has been created in Unreal with digital signage with CBS News branding, making it easy to hover over commercial break bumpers.

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