Big events — Super Bowls, the Oscars, the Olympics — are when media companies want to make sure their interactive features shine the brightest. The Olympics, in particular, are an interesting case because they last over the course of two weeks rather than one night, which means newsrooms need a continuous coverage plan in place for interactives.
At The New York Times, the graphics team put together an entirely new system and set of workflows to create interactive features, including videos, photo composites, and more to cover the Sochi Winter Olympics.
At Knight Lab, Times graphics editors Wilson Andrews and Larry Buchanan explain how the planning paid off in covering the events live:
The group was divided into five three-person teams of visual journalists. Each team was assigned to an event to cover and began with an intense research and pre-reporting process in the weeks before the games. Andrews, whose team focused on figure skating, said that each journalist aimed to be as educated with their designated sport as possible before the event. They contacted sources (usually experts or ex-Olympians) with whom they would speak right before and immediately after the event so that each composite would be accompanied by thorough reporting and analysis right away.
During the events themselves, members of the team in Sochi would shoot the event and run the images through a Photoshop script they’d written prior to the games, said Larry Buchanan, a Times graphics editor. The script detected the differences between images and created a composite that was “80 percent” there, Buchanan said.
They also built a variety of modules beforehand to create composites, diptychs, or finisher’s graphics depending on the sport. One of the reasons the team was able to get the graphics up so quickly is because their system allowed them to work as a singular unit.
Here’s an example of one of those composites — cooler, bigger version here: