Behind The Scenes of the Emmy Award-Winning NBC News Election Coverage with Miguel Yabrudes

Discover how Miguel Yabrudes and the Broadcast graphics team's creative and technical strategies attracted over six million viewers* to NBC News and MSNBC, using the ideate, create, execute process.

The world of news broadcasting is a complex and fascinating one, especially when it involves covering one of the most significant events in the United States - elections. In 2022, MSNBC's US midterm election broadcast not only riveted audiences across the nation but also garnered the prestigious Emmy Award for Technical Excellence in the News sector.

In this chat with Miguel Yabrudes, who led this project with his Broadcast graphics team, discover the creative & technical approach that allowed NBC News and MSNBC to capture an audience of over six million viewers*. Following our ideate, create, execute process - we are taking an in-depth look at the different parts of the project that brought this broadcast to life.

About The Project: 

In a groundbreaking approach to the 2022 midterm election coverage, NBC News and MSNBC, part of the NBCUniversal News Group, collaborated with the broadcast graphics team at Meptik to create an immersive viewing experience. Utilizing a digital twin of Washington DC's National Mall and Capitol Building, the visuals transported viewers into a dynamic virtual world.

Facing a tight three-month deadline, the Disguise team worked closely with NBC News and MSNBC Design and Data teams, integrating high-performance graphics into a green screen virtual studio production workflow. They utilized Disguise's PX+ server for optimal rendering performance, enabling the broadcasting teams to produce unique camera shots and graphics within the virtual Capitol area. This technical prowess allowed for seamless transitions between the studio and the virtual world, offering an unprecedented and highly engaging live election broadcast experience.

The Process:

What were the key components of the creative process for this project?

Miguel: A Key element of the process involved deeply integrating with the client's team, enabling us to effectively deliver on both technical and creative aspects of the project.

Our first step was to create a comprehensive understanding of the vision of NBC News and MSNBC.We wanted to ensure that our graphics not only conveyed information effectively but also captured the essence of the event in a groundbreaking way. We then got elbow deep into creating graphics and going through rounds of iterations, ensuring the client was happy with the end result. And last but not least - we helped the studio team to incorporate the graphics into the green screen virtual studio production workflow using Unreal Engine 5 Vanilla. 

Throughout the process, we kept the viewer experience at the forefront. Our goal was to create broadcast graphics that were not just visually appealing but also informative and easy to comprehend.


How did the initial concept discussions with NBC News and MSNBC shape the project's direction?

Miguel: During our initial, in-depth conversations, we focused on grasping their specific goals for crafting a unique and immersive election night experience. This early phase was instrumental in setting the project's direction, ensuring our creative and technical direction was in sync with their vision. 

As our project progressed, the customer's growing confidence in our team's abilities led to a dynamic evolution of ideas. Initially, we set out to demonstrate our capabilities to create a photo-realistic digital twin of the Washington Mall, intending to use it as a virtual backdrop. From there, our team designed a seamless data integration within this space, particularly focusing on the critical moment in the show where a real camera would flawlessly transition to a virtual flight through the virtual environment.

This innovative concept was more than just copying a physical location; it was about adding an exciting new dimension and deeper involvement to the way we cover elections. Our discussions revolved around leveraging this digital realm to elevate storytelling, simplify complex data, and ultimately forge a visually stunning experience that would captivate viewers.

What were the most innovative elements you wanted to introduce in this project during the early brainstorming sessions?

Miguel: The project featured several groundbreaking elements that set it apart. Firstly, the extensive use of lumen and Nanite, both new features of Unreal Engine 5 at the time, which were instrumental in achieving photorealism in a large-scale environment. These tools allowed us to create a detailed and lifelike digital twin of the location. Secondly, the project stood out for its innovative combination of hardware and software technologies. This blend was crucial for accomplishing the virtual camera handoff, a key aspect of the project that enabled a seamless transition between real and virtual environments. Lastly, the successful integration with the client's data sources was a significant achievement. This integration ensured that the digital environment was not only visually stunning but also rich in accurate and timely information, enhancing the overall experience and engagement. 

How did you assess the technical feasibility of the ideas proposed?

Miguel: We conducted thorough explorations and experiments with cutting-edge technologies. Our team delved into the capabilities of Unreal Engine 5, challenging its limits to see if it could support the intricate details and vast scale required for the digital twin. We also rigorously tested Disguise’s PX+ server's performance to ensure it could handle the intensive demands of rendering high-quality, real-time graphics. This evaluation was crucial for ensuring seamless integration into the live broadcast environment. We focused on not only achieving technical viability but also maintaining a smooth, uninterrupted viewing experience, which was essential for the project's success.


Could you describe the process of designing the augmented reality graphics?

Miguel: We started with extensive research and gathering of visual references to accurately recreate the landmarks and atmosphere of the National Mall and Capitol Building. Using Unreal Engine 5, our team meticulously crafted each element, paying close attention to architectural details and realistic texturing to ensure authenticity. The graphics were then tested and refined in a virtual environment to mimic real-world lighting and weather conditions, enhancing the realism. Simultaneously, we worked closely with the NBC News and MSNBC teams, incorporating their input to ensure the graphics not only looked realistic but also supported the storytelling and data visualization needs of the broadcast. This collaborative and detail-oriented approach was key to creating the AR graphics.

How did you incorporate feedback from NBC News and MSNBC during this phase?

Miguel: Collaboration was a continuous and vital component. Regular meetings and feedback sessions with the NBC News and MSNBC Design and Data teams helped refine our graphics and ensured that they met the network's expectations and enhanced their storytelling. An iterative approach was key. We created prototypes, tested them in real-world scenarios, and refined them based on feedback and performance. This allowed us to tackle challenges proactively and adapt to the dynamic needs of live broadcast graphics.

How did you ensure the graphics were capable of displaying real-time election data accurately and dynamically?

Miguel: To accurately and dynamically display real-time election data through our graphics, we employed a custom version of our IPSUM data platform, specifically tailored for this project. This advanced system was seamlessly integrated with our Unreal Engine 5 setup, allowing us to directly incorporate the client's in-house data feed into the UE5 scenes in real time. Meticulous design and extensive testing were key in preparing the system to handle the high volume and rapid changes characteristic of election data.

In what ways did you push creative boundaries in the graphics creation phase, and how did client expectations influence this?

Miguel: We ventured beyond traditional graphic representations, creating interactive 3D models and data visualizations that could be navigated and manipulated in real-time. Our approach was heavily influenced by client expectations, which emphasized not only accuracy and clarity but also a desire for a visually compelling and engaging viewer experience. This led us to experiment with dynamic lighting, shadow effects, and transitions that brought a cinematic quality to the broadcast. Balancing the client's vision with our creative and technical expertise, we transformed standard data presentation into an immersive and interactive storytelling experience. 


About Miguel Yabrudes

With a career spanning over a decade, Miguel is known for pioneering mixed reality experiences and pushing technological boundaries in creative services. His career highlights include a significant achievement in 2023 when he was honored with an Emmy Award for Technical Excellence in News for his exceptional work on NBC’s coverage of the 2023 Midterm Elections.

Now at Meptik, he continues leading technological innovation in creative services, driving forward-thinking initiatives and delivering a futuristic vision to customers.

Connect with him on Linkedin


How did the working relationship with NBC News and MSNBC evolve during the execution phase of the project?

Miguel: During the execution phase of the project, our working relationship with NBC News and MSNBC evolved into a highly collaborative and dynamic partnership. As we delved deeper into the project, regular communication and feedback sessions became integral, ensuring that both creative and technical aspects aligned seamlessly with their vision and requirements. Their insights and expertise in broadcast journalism complemented our technical and creative skills, fostering an environment of mutual learning and innovation. This synergy was crucial in navigating the complexities of the project, leading to a successful and groundbreaking broadcast. 

How did you equip the studio teams with the necessary tools & skills to execute on the real-time graphics during the execution phase?

Miguel: The key to success was sticking to a solid plan of testing and rehearsals. This made sure that everyone, from the tech crew to the on-air talent, would be familiar with the graphics and the workflow.

Looking ahead

What are you looking forward to seeing in the future of broadcasts? 

Miguel: I'm excited about the potential for even more immersive and interactive experiences. I anticipate seeing broadcasts that are not just visually captivating but also offer viewers the ability to interact with the content in real-time. This could range from personalized data overlays to interactive storytelling elements that allow viewers to explore different aspects of a story. Additionally, it will be fascinating to see how AI enhances data analysis, providing deeper and more insightful real-time interpretations. The integration of AI could revolutionize the way we understand and engage with broadcast content, offering a richer, more informed viewing experience. 

What advancements are you anticipating in the field of real-time data integration and visualization for AR broadcast graphics?

Miguel: One key area is the integration of AI and machine learning algorithms, which could revolutionize how data is processed and visualized in real-time, leading to more accurate and dynamic representations. Another exciting prospect is the use of cloud-based technologies and edge computing, which can enhance the speed and efficiency of data processing, allowing for more complex and detailed visualizations without the latency issues currently faced. Additionally, I expect to see advancements in interactive and adaptive graphics, where AR visualizations can change and respond in real-time to viewer interactions or changes in the underlying data. These advancements will not only make broadcasts more engaging and informative but will also open up new avenues for storytelling and audience interaction in the world of broadcasting. 

*according to American information, data, and market measurement firm Nielsen

Curious to learn more? Join our webinar on Real-time Elections Graphics in Broadcast TV tomorrow to hear from James Matarese, NBC’s Sr. Managing Art Director, Real-Time Graphics, on how NBC captivated millions of viewers during their Emmy-award winning 2022 Mid Elections coverage.

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