Encompassing 173 television stations, 514 channels and 81 markets, the Sinclair Broadcast Group is one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies operating in the US today.
With such a broad remit, the director of central graphics Christopher Tabor certainly has his work cut out for him. Heading up a 15-strong department, Tabor works around the clock to supply visual packages for every station, tailoring concepts to a local level.
It’s a huge responsibility, with seams of communication stretching from coast to coast. In order to get the details just right – refining everything from logos, to show openings, to various idents – Tabor turns to the web-based review and approval solution Frankie.
Soaring over skylines
Designs for the Sinclair graphics package, originally created by The Brand Gallery, have been gradually customized over recent years.
“As we’re making these graphics for cities all across America, it takes a lot of creative thinking to distinguish each one,” explains Tabor. Any number of tweaks and updates can be added to make the imagery stand out, right down to subtle reflections of a local city skyline within the news station ident.
Furthermore, the SBG team must always source approval for each skyline sequence from the news station in question. This is where Frankie’s interactive toolkit comes in, supporting communication and feedback loops for all the departments involved.
With Frankie, the graphics team can present a range of customized skylines – varying in colour, proportion and shape – then finalise specific elements with station management.
“Everyone can directly see our approaches and thinking on the screen, without any long-winded explanations,” says Tabor. “Talking through in real time, you can tell if they get it or not. That makes adjustments go much quicker.”
Cutting out the jargon
Frankie’s visual benefits are particularly useful at SBG, as they overcome the obstacles that language can sometimes present in a creative environment – specifically, creative terminology.
“An industry specialist might say ‘reduce the specular on this logo’, ‘increase the reflection’, or ‘feather back this asset’ – but they’re not talking about birds. Newscasters won’t necessarily get such distinctions!” says Tabor.
“Conveying those terms in such a way that we’re all ‘talking the same language’, so to speak, has been the biggest challenge for our department – but Frankie makes it easy to overcome. I can move the pointer or use annotations, drawings and notes to communicate details to client, defining what a particular effect is. Giving it a name while illustrating it to clients on screen is a huge help. Frankie overcomes the ‘jargon barrier’.”
Access for all
Prior to Frankie, SBG flitted between various review solutions, trying options such as Sharepoint, YouTube, Vimeo, Smugmug and even custom websites. However, only Frankie offered the simplicity and focus that the team required.
“Frankie’s the only tool that’s allowed us to really convey what we want to communicate,” says Tabor. “It’s incredibly easy to access, given that it’s browser based, and it works no matter what your operating system is. I haven’t had one single incident where the client has had errors or needed to install anything, like Flash. Frankie just works.”
Frankie’s infallible real-time synchronisation has been another key reason for SBG’s uptake of the software. The confidence in knowing that when they hit play, every client screen at every location around the world is showing the exact same image at the exact same time, makes iteration speed far more streamlined and seamless.
“Sending someone a video link wouldn’t work, because you don’t know if they’re looking at the right frame, or if there’s an advert that’s distracting them, or if the audio’s correct, or if the playback is smooth – there’s a lot of things to take into consideration that can confuse that which is being communicated. Frankie doesn’t have that problem. At all.”
Separated, but strong
The SBG graphics department isn’t based out of one building, but is spread over several locations. Tabor physically works out of Rochester, New York, a second team operates from Maryland, and two designers work out of Idaho and Pittsburgh. Of course, Frankie enables the team to stay in touch internally, too.
“Frankie comes in really handy when discussing different motion graphics between locations,” says Tabor. “This is doubly true for graphics that are difficult to email out as a single video, or hard to convey as style frames. Frankie allows me to control how the rest of the team is seeing a video, so I can keep them focused on what exactly we need to do: only look at the colour of this logo, or only look at the size of this image, and so on.
“When you’ve poured time and work into a project, you want it to be conveyed as consistently and at as high a quality as possible,” Tabor concludes. “Whether working with the in-house team, or communicating with clients, Frankie enables us to do just that – easily, seamlessly, and with excellence.”