To put you in the picture the Met Office for the last couple of years have been using a new graphics engine for their video production of weather forecasts, both down at Exeter and at ITV and Channel 4 I believe. It’s called Visual Cortex, and they seem to be very proud of it because I bet it cost them an arm and a leg either to develop or to buy into.
Visual Cortex is our new Weather visualisation system which enhances the weather forecasting experience for both presenter and audience…
Visual Cortex exploits new technologies in computer hardware in order to provide the highest quality visualisation available. Particle effects like raindrops, snowflakes and wind arrows, dynamic lighting and detailed maps are significantly enhanced by combining the latest graphics cards with visual effects in Visual Cortex.The Met Office
Visual Cortex certainly has all the bells and whistles and helps them keep up with the fancy graphics engine used by Meteogroup across at the BBC. The only trouble with any software is that it’s only as good as how it’s used and configured. You can add layer upon layer of meteorological information and animate it, but if you over do it, the user will have trouble visualising and understanding what it is they are seeing and where in the country they live.
Here’s an example from today’s forecast video, and as you can see Clare Nasir is displaying the usual rainfall layer above a cloud layer. But is it raining in Leeds or Nottingham and what about Inverness? A simple way around this problem is to make the top overlay a coastal outline in black. It’s not very sexy and an old school solution but it works and gives the viewer a fighting chance in locating where on the map do they actually live.
The next image is totally preventable and happened when Clare was displaying a yellow warning for wind and a separate yellow warning for a different area for rain at the same time, the trouble is of course, because they are both yellow warnings they merge and you can’t see where they overlap, not a good idea.