Answer Man

The Magic of a TV Weathercast

Channel 6 meteorologist Elizabeth Hart at work with a green screen

Samantha Sherdel

How do TV meteorologists pull off such smooth performances using the “green screen’’?

Although on-air weathercasters appear to be standing in front of a storm-tracking radar device or a list of temperatures, what’s behind them is actually a huge board painted a garish green. The graphics are there through the magic of an electronic switcher, also commonly used in movies for special effects. The switcher isolates anything green and replaces it with graphics—which is why weather folks don’t wear that color on camera, lest their torsos become a cold front across the mid-Atlantic states.

So how does a TV meteorologist convincingly point out weather activity on a blank screen? Answer Man took a tour of the weather set at WKMG-Channel 6, courtesy of weekend meteorologist Elizabeth Hart, and learned that the key is using multiple monitors. There are two in front of Hart near the camera. But more importantly, there is one at each end of the green screen. So when Hart turns to either side and appears to be looking at the screen, she’s actually looking at herself—and the image of the graphics behind her —in the side monitors.

The weekend weather segment literally is Hart’s show. Before going on air, she spends about three hours studying the weather and creating the computerized accompaniments. “Making the graphics is how I prepare,’’ says Hart, who has been a TV weathercaster for 16 years, with nearly four of them at Channel 6. “Then we put the show in play and I use the clicker [which she holds during the telecast] to advance to the next graphic.’’

And there’s not a TelePrompTer in sight: Virtually all weathercasters commit the details to memory and ad-lib. As Hart says, “It’s better just to roll with it.’’

Does a motorist have to slow down for a flashing yellow light in a school zone if school isn’t in session?

No. Well, maybe yes. But probably no.

School zone lights are programmed to come on only on days when classes are in session. So if the light is flashing and you know that students are on holiday, then there’s been a technological malfunction or they weren’t programmed properly.

But you’re still worried you’ll get a ticket even if you’re right. Relax: Authorities say they won’t ticket motorists driving at normal speeds while a school-zone light is blinking erroneously. But don’t relax too much because you may be wrong about the school being closed. You might have crossed over into a school district with a different schedule. Or maybe you forgot about summer school starting.

So is ignoring that light worth the risk? Decide for yourself. Answer Man has calculated that if you drive through a 500-foot school zone at 20 mph instead of 35 mph, here’s what you’ll lose out of your busy day:

About 7 seconds.

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