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Star Wars comes to CNN: Network uses holographic journo

Your eyes did not deceive you last night: CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer really did banter with a holographic transmission of the network’s Capitol Hill correspondent, Jessica Yellin.

The technique, an update to the split screen, is likely to become common in TV coverage when networks report from remote locations, according to the Associated Press.

Why is that better than good old-fashioned video?

"Virtual elements in a real set look so much better than a real person in a virtual set," CNN Senior Vice President David Bohrman told USA Today.

Bohrman wouldn’t say how much CNN spent on the technology, the product of two companies: the Norwegian virtual-studio outfit Vizrt, and SportVu of Israel, which makes a real-time camera tracking system used at live sporting events, according to the newspaper.

But if the virtual Yellin looked “better” than her real self (Blitzer deemed her “a terrific hologram”, Gizmodo notes), beaming her up was a lot more labor intensive than the one or two cameras newscasters typically use to file reports away from the studio. The network planned to use 44 cameras and 20 computers to get Yellin into 3-D, USA Today reported. The software and visual effects synced the camera angles on Yellin with those on Blitzer, then plugged the satellite feed into the main video, Wired’s Gadget Lab explained.

When Yellin described the process last night, it sounded as though the network accomplished the feat with less equipment. “There are 35 different high-definition cameras ‘ringing’ me,” Yellin noted during the broadcast, reports the Christian Science Monitor. “I’m in the center and they shoot my body at different angles and I’m told that transmits what looks like an entire body image back to New York.”

Back to you in the real world, Wolf.

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