The obituary of television pioneer Ben Blank in the New York Times made me realize how much of the television experience we take for granted. We often forget that there are people, often individuals, who define the experiences that are so universally revolutionary that they quickly become an assumed part of the landscape.
The most important lessons:
Stories over time are easier to understand with a visual reminder tying them together.
Don't give up if you don't have the resources (defined as photos of the event, in-person interviews, anything you think you need that you don't have!). Look around you and try and tell the story with resources you have.
Keep graphics strong and simple.
Look at other media for creative ideas to problem solving. All Media have the same audience in the end and our expectations may be defined by other media.
A few quotes from the article:
The image, known in TV news-speak as the “over-the-shoulder” graphic, could be repeated as needed to show narrative continuity from day to day. Mr. Blank also called it the “think-quick visual.”
Another early image, for a story on segregation, was the silhouette of a house, half black and half white. To illustrate the buildup in the Vietnam War before American involvement, he drew a map and then had it set afire on camera to show the intensity of the fighting, an image he chose because “most people are very weak on geography,” he said in a 1963 article in The New York Times.
What he called animations were elaborate fake spaceships and real actors on tethers simulating astronauts in zero gravity. Because of this and other studio mockups, he was once asked by the broadcast journalist John Hockenberry in a 1996 I.D. magazine article about the tabloid claims that the space program was just a hoax filmed on a movie lot.
...Mr. Blank answered: “You know, we could have done it all with graphics. All they had to do was ask.”
Blank's passing is a moment to recognize his innovation and a reminder to pay attention to the created world around us.
His co-authored book, Professional Video Graphic Design/the Art and Technology Featuring Numerous Examples of Broadcast News Graphics, is on my book wishlist.