Broadcast Design Terminology

Let's get our terms straight before we dig into some broadcast design research. There are a number of different pieces of animation that make up what is known as a 'broadcast package,' i.e. all the different on-air, animated items broadcasters place between or overlayed on top of their content. Below is a run-through of some of the most common items:


Bump or Bumper

A bumper is a little interstitial (i.e. in between) animation that reminds you what you're watching, or tells you what's on next or something else of interest. 


Bug or Snipe

Bugs are tiny animations that usually pop-up on the bottom left or right of the screen, notifying the viewer of some additional information the broadcaster wants her to know. Like when you're watching a show on NBC, a peacock branded bug will pop-up letting you know that you currently watching NBC, and that the Olympics are afoot (see below example). This is incredibly important for brand enforcement:


Lower Thirds

You've seen these a gazillion times. Lower thirds (usually) sit in the lower third horizontal section of the screen and have information about what's on-screen. For example: who's pictured, what the subject of a discussion is, the location of the footage, the event name of the footage, stock tickers, time of day, sports scores, even a live Twitter field:



Opening Title sequence

This one is fairly self-explanatory, though they are a little more compact than full-on title sequences. They generally introduce a program or segment quickly. Harry Marks, one of the pioneers of broadcast design, created this famous opening sequence for the ABC Movie of the Week, where the camera appears to fly through, in, and around logo-types and other, more abstract shapes:

It may look kind of dated while we sit here in the 21st century, with powerful animation software literally at our fingertips. But consider that Marks and his team did all of this without a computer, and yet we're still making use of these same ideas today:

In point of fact, Harry Marks didn't actually come up with the techniques used above all on his own: he consulted heavily with artist and designer Douglas Trumbull, fresh off the production of Stanley Kubrick's science fiction classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey:


The Title Sequence

We all know this one: the best title sequences tell you the a.)name of the show/film, b.)who made it, c.)who's in it and, most importantly and challenging, d.)the nature of the universe you are about to enter. You may even have your own favorite title sequences in mind. Here are a few examples of title sequences or logo reveals that I am really loving:


Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes



True Detective

(produced by The Mill+ and Antibody, 2018)


Stranger Things

(by Imaginary Forces for Netflix, 2016)

For a solid rundown of how this sequence was made, check out [this article]. 


Seven (1995)

(designed by Kyle Cooper of R/GA, 1995)

For a solid rundown of how this sequence was made, check out [this article].

This classic title sequence does a really good job of setting the general atmosphere for a deeply disturbing film. It also does something even more important: it introduces us to the villain John Doe, a serial killer who meticulously documents his bizarre philosophy and research about killing people. This sequence recalls to mind the macabre work of photographer Joel-Peter Witkin:


And the work of experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage:


Creation (1979) – Stan Brakhage


The short film below features designers Clive Piercy and John Sabel discussing the concept design and production process of this piece, with different production stills of the notebooks used throughout the film. It, unfortunately, doesn't show the actual process of creating the title sequence itself, but it is interesting to hear what the designers were thinking when they began creating the piece. 

And finally, take a look at these storyboards for the sequence, which precede the actual storyboard production. These are essential in narrative film and animation production because they provide designers with a solid understanding of the camera angles, camera movement, mise en scène, and the general atmosphere of the piece. 


Storyboard art by Wayne Coe