What It’s Like to Work for NBC

By Elijah McGuire-Berk
Elm Staff Writer
Broadcast news involves a lot of things.  One aspect that people don’t usually focus on is the graphics that are used in news stories.  From the tiny headlines at the bottom of the page to the full-screen titles that take about half a minute, they all require somebody to create them.  On Nov. 6, Ventura Castro, the managing art director of NBC News described what he does as the managing art director.
Castro talked about his experience as a young child, watching old TV shows. The “The Twilight Zone” especially got his attention. Even though he was scared by the show itself, he loved watching the unique and innovative introductory sequence.
Castro said that films used to superimpose the name of the movie onto an opening shot.  It got the job done, but all it did was show where the film was taking place.  Castro said, “… film titles were like, ‘hey, let’s just throw up the name of a film over a background, maybe it’s New York City.’”  He cited films like “Se7ven” that break that tradition of simply using an opening shot or scene to start a film and instead have an introductory montage, calling it, “a story in of itself.”
Not all graphics are created equal.  He explained how some of the graphics that he and his team make, such as a breaking news headline, are made in about an hour and how some, such as a longer piece about Nelson Mandela’s funeral, can take up to three days.
The physical aspects of graphics are just one part of a larger picture.  There are also the factors of layouts and readability, mood and tempo, and color and font. There are lots of people from different departments who handle these aspects.  Regarding the intricate details of the Mandela graphics, Castro cited the  sharp edges of the boxes as well as the specific typeface selected to represent the tough times that Mandela faced during his lifetime.
The top executives who approve the graphics rarely use just one, Castro said, “Essentially, it’s a Frankenstein. Whatever you see on TV in terms of design is always a Frankenstein.”
He talked about the teamwork necessary to create such graphics.  He explained that along with the art director, there are motion graphic artists who handle animations, the creative director who examines the final product, the designers who do still art, and a producer who helps put it all together.  He pointed at a seemingly simple graphic and said, “There are about six different layers here.”
One of the most important aspects of running a creative team is communication.  Castro said, “What’s really important to us is to really have that connection to our editorial team, and just like I said before, connecting with the other teams that aren’t part of your group is essential for any position.”  In spite of the different skills that the departments have, he said, “We’re all one big team across the board.”
The talk as a whole was not only about the importance of creativity but also the importance of teamwork and all the effort that goes into something that most people don’t really think about.

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