Jim's TV Graphic Guidelines:
These basic guidelines can help you avoid common pitfalls when designing
- You only need a few colors. Most effective and eye-catching graphics only use a few different colors (not counting black and white). Find two colors that work well together (E.g. blue and gold or green and yellow) By varying the levels of brightness and saturation, you can get thousands of different shades.
- Use compositional techniques.
Most of the classic principles of visual design work quite well
when applied to TV graphics. In other words you can use the "Rule
of Thirds" or any of your other favorite classic aesthetic
guidelines. Some great tips and an overview can be found on Wikipedia.
- Avoid overly complex backgrounds. Don't let a busy background interfere with the message.
Delicate or ornate text or foreground elements need simple backgrounds.
Complex backgrounds only work well with bold and simple foreground elements.
- Text & Phrases - Don't think like a word processor. Think about each letter, word, or phrase. These are elements that you
can manipulate.Try fitting the words together in different ways. You can condense, stretch, change case, drop the baseline of the first (capitalized) letter, etc. If you render (rasterize) your text, you can apply
filters or manipulate it in interesting ways (E.g. roughen up the edges).
- Avoid flat fields of a solid color. Instead try adding a subtle gradient.
- Repeat elements (colors, visual elements, shapes, etc.) for greater interest.
- Align elements to create order.
- Start complex information in the top left-hand corner. If all things are equal, the viewers will start in the top left hand corner, just like a book (at least in cultures that read from the top left). Think of the order in which viewers should interpret the
info. Make sure it's positioned spatially in the proper place.
- Make sure keyed graphics (E.g. lower thirds ID) stand out well and work with the background. Consider the video as your background layer and make sure your text is visible. You might need a background
box, edge stroke or, drop shadow to make the text visisble.
- Add depth. Z-space (depth) exists in graphics. To emphasize depth, try overlapping elements, creating shadows,
or skewing objects.
Making Graphics for TV:
If you are using Adobe Photoshop, start by selecting the proper
template for whatever system you are working in. Below are a
few popular sizes.
- DV (4:3) 720 x 480
- DV (16:9) 720 x 480
- D1 (4:3) 720 x 486
- D1 (16:9) 720 x 486
High Definition (HDTV is always 16:9)
- 720 (HDV & most other 720p formats EXCEPT DVCPro) 1280 x
- 720 (DVCProHD) 960 x 720
- 1080 (HDV) 1440 x 1080
- 1080 (DVCProHD) 1280 x 1080
- 1080 (full) 1920 x 1080 (Use this for the Chyron in Studio
The preset templates in Photoshop ensure that your graphic is
the proper size, is in the right color mode (RGB), give you safe
text and action guides, and will set your resolution for 72 dpi.
- Once you make your Photoshop graphic, store it with all of
the layers intact in a safe place.
- Save a single-layer copy (PICT,
TIFF, JPEG, BMP, etc.) to import into your
desired video editing application.
Terms you should know:
- HSB - Stands for hue, saturation and brightness.
Used to identify a color. Hue, (sometimes thought
of as tint) is the actual color, saturation (sometimes
called chroma) is the amount of color present (no
or chroma means the image is B & W), and brightness, which is
how light or dark the color is.
- Leading- the spacing between lines
- Kerning- the space between individual letters.
For example youd want to kern a small case letter o
to fit underneath the capital letter T.
- Tracking the spacing of an entire group
- Anti-aliasing- Smooths out jagged edges on
graphics. This is usually an on or off option. It works by creating
intermediately shaded pixels between areas of high contrast.
How can you learn to compose good graphics?
Watch your favorite TV networks and try to duplicate the graphics
you see. CNN, MTV, Nickelodeon, and other cable networks do a
job creating fresh, eye-catching and well-designed graphics.
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