Having owned and operated a graphics studio for several years now, I’ve had the great fortune to work on dozens of projects, creating unique and diverse designs for amongst many things, broadcast graphic packs, motion graphics, and 2D/3D animations.

Through developing these diverse creatives, our team at Radical Point Media has learned ways to elevate these visual storytelling elements for our clients, using graphics creatively and efficiently.  Now we want to share what we’ve learned.

Over the next several articles and case studies that Radical Point Media is rolling out we hope to inform and inspire our audience about how a graphics studio works — and how to best work with one to achieve success.

To kick things off, here’s the most relevant piece of information gleaned from our experiences thus far… Don’t let your show graphics be an afterthought!

The TV industry is competitive these days…maybe more than it’s ever been. Network mandates are stalled and commissions are fewer, leaving legacy production companies and independent producers fighting for the same piece of a small pie. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a green light, there’s so much content out there that it’s tough to get viewers to watch the show you and your team have just poured all your energies into.

From a graphic studio owner’s POV, here’s some advice that may give your production an edge…

An excellent way to garner stronger audience retention is with a fully realized graphic package – one that not only brands a series with the usual elements (titles, lower thirds, bugs, banners, etc.) but goes further by integrating graphic devices that bolster storytelling and create a cohesiveness that connects each episode to the entire series.

That’s right. Standing out demands a strategic approach that aligns all elements of productions, including graphics, to captivate audiences, brand your show, and ensure sustained engagement. So, it’s best for production companies and graphics teams to start their collaboration early on.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

The reality is that by the time most graphic studios receive a call from a studio, network, or production company, the creative decks and associated graphics’ budgets are typically locked. This means that trained graphic designers are forced to ‘retrofit’ and ‘accommodate’ rather than being able to stretch their true creative muscle and offer their expertise from the outset.

But know this: graphics don’t need to be an afterthought.

Take for example HGTV’s renovation series, Buy It Or Build It, produced by @JVProductions (JV). The initial paper pitch garnered JV some funding for a pilot presentation, but there was a stumbling block they had to overcome to be considered for a coveted series order.

The premise for the pitch saw twin home-builders Chris and Calvin LaMont, helping homeowners decide if they should renovate an existing house, or buy an empty lot and build new – ensuring that they got everything they wanted. The network loved the talent and the creative premise (hook), but, there was a problem.  For a show concept built around authentic storytelling and the suspense of waiting to see which house the homeowners will choose, both home tour segments had to be equally balanced with visual interest and an equal narrative weight of the home buyer’s decision-making process.

But how can a tour of an empty builder’s lot ever compare with a tour of a real house with walls, doors, and little quips from the hosts about the outdated wallpaper?

Somehow, the empty lot tour had to be visualized as authentically as the real house tours.

To solve this issue, RPM was brought in early to work with JV’s development team, and came up with a creative strategy and sample animation that would ultimately help save the day.

We created a realistic, 3D, true-to-scale house model for the ’empty lot’ tour and digitally tracked that into live-action location footage. Essentially, we built a virtual house on the empty lot footage, bringing the scene to life.

We then placed the hosts and the homeowners into that 3D house animation, allowing them to walk around, show things off, and marvel at the size of that brand-new kitchen (which, at that point, didn’t even exist). This gave the homebuyers touring the property, something to which they could both react and comment on.

Now that was cool.  But we felt the show needed one more truly innovative graphic element to help push this series over the top.

We suggested JV’s production team shoot aerial footage of the hosts touring the homeowners across the empty lot using a drone camera. We then rotoscoped that footage and composited the subjects into a scaled 3D floor plan of the property. The audience could now watch them tour from room to room, giving the viewer a clear understanding of the house’s layout. The home tours were now visually and narratively balanced.

With competition for commissions being as they are, JV’s Buy It or Build It was pitted against two competing projects for only one available series’ greenlight.  And guess what helped the production company win out and get a series order? In large part, it was RPM’s creative use of 3D animation as a unique storytelling device on that empty lot tour – bringing the LaMonts’ vision, and JV’s series to life!

“While at HGTV, we were constantly looking for ways to re-invent and invigorate home renovation series. JV Productions created Buy It Or Build It using Radical Point Media’s (RPM) cutting-edge, innovative technology that mixed live action with 3D animation. That just blew us away. Combined with outstanding talent, it helped elevate JV’s pitch above many comparable concepts and gained them a straight-to-series order – which at the time was extremely rare. RPM knows how to elevate graphics from ordinary to extraordinary!” Robert Wimbish, former HGTV production executive

If that wasn’t enough to make our Radical Point about how strategically developed graphics can elevate your show, consider this dilemma…

@GoButtonMedia, a Toronto-based production company, invited us to collaborate on a project that carried an exciting challenge. They’d recently developed a science-based concept titled, Phantom Signals, which had significant interest from several international buyers. The formatted series would delve into mysterious stories about invisible phenomena that affect us physically. While the concept held an air of intrigue on paper, GBM was faced with a challenge.

How do you show things that can’t be seen?

GBM’s potential buyers wanted assurance that these esoteric stories could be visualized in an engaging way.  They were worried that the audience might ‘ghost’ the series if the visuals were too explanatory; and, yet they couldn’t be ambiguous, either. There was a fine line to be drawn, and we were tasked to find it.

Though GBM has some of the best directors and cinematographers in the industry, they understood that our experience and knowledge of computer-generated graphics (CG) could provide a POV that they may not have been able to imagine.

Over morning coffees, we read scripts and director’s notes, watched interviews and raw footage, and researched the topics being featured in each mystifying story. Through this process, we generated a base of reusable CG assets that became a sort of shorthand for characterizing common scientific elements that could be employed across the series.

The final graphics package of text hits, models, VFX and in-show explainer animations was designed to both:  a)  brand the series,  and b) visually articulate the storylines in a way that would resonate with a global audience.

The series went on to be featured on several international broadcast and streaming platforms – underscoring the power of graphic design in shaping viewers’ experiences.

These examples highlight a pivotal lesson: graphics shouldn’t be an afterthought. Graphics and animation possess the potential to be narrative catalysts, enriching stories, and forging deeper connections with viewers.

As Radical Point Media’s journey has revealed, the key to unlocking this potential lies in early collaboration, where graphic artists work hand-in-hand with creators, becoming architects of visual storytelling.

In the articles and case studies to come, Radical Point Media aims to demystify this symbiotic relationship between storytelling and graphics.

Through shared insights, we aim to empower producers, creatives, and visionaries to harness the full force of graphics in their pursuit of creating captivating and unforgettable content.

The era of underestimating show graphics is over.  Embrace them as narrative companions, and watch your vision come to life!