Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Critique of "Weather Geeks", from The Weather Channel

In my last Fog Bank segment, I went off on a rant about "Weather Geeks", the new show on The Weather Channel.

I thought it might be worth while to go into details about the show.

First, the good things about the show. The host, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, is great. It's obvious that he's having a good time with the show, and talking with his guests. His guests are great. I think Dr. Shepherd's interviewing skills will improve, as well. That's the single issue I have with Dr. Shepherd; I think he takes a little too much time asking his questions, and could get to a question more quickly, rather than setting up so much background as he asks the question. That's a pretty minor issue, and one that others may disagree upon.

It's the video production of the show that irritates me.

I'll start with what isn't in the show. On a high definition TV, the Weather Channel shrinks this show down to about 3/4 of the screen. In the space made available, they have a bottom and side bar to show stuff.

The bottom bar is almost tolerable. It has The Weather Channel logo on the left hand side, with the time & temperature alternating above that.  To the right, the local conditions & forecast are displayed.
There is a crawler bar above the current conditions, that is a distraction, and nearly content free. It showed "information" such as "PollenCast" for El Paso, Game Day Kickoff temperatures for NFL games, and non-weather headlines. It is a waste of space.

The side of the screen is worse. This portion is divided into three sections. The top section says "Brought to you by The Weather Channel". Really? I'm SO glad you told me! I might have missed the logo on the bottom, and the fact that I TURNED ON THIS CHANNEL TO WATCH THIS SHOW!

The middle section of this bar is even worse. It's showing things like days until events (fall, winter, Halloween, Christmas), barometric pressure, temperature, dewpoint, and on and on. Some of the bits of information are not uninteresting, but could be shown (and may be shown) in the bottom section along with current conditions. What is inexcusable about this section is the way the information is presented. Every single infographic is animated, in a speedometer type graphic. As the temperature is displayed, a circular line winds around until it reaches a point on the scale to match the temp. Inside the circle, the numbers flash as if they're counting up to the value being shown. Even the days to an event get animated like this. This is just stupid.

In the lower section, they show the name of the next few items that are going to be displayed in the middle section.

This is a complete waste of space.

Onto the video of the show itself.

There's a large, opaque, bottom third, showing "WxGeeks", and a banner that describes the topic under discussion. When that banner changes, it's animated. The banner slides to the left, then slides back out with the new text. If the name of the guest is shown, that's shown on top of this bottom third, taking away even more of the screen real estate.

The set has a large green screen or monitor bank behind the desk where the participants sit. The graphics shown are constantly changing, with storm clouds rolling by, lightning flashing, numerical formulas scrolling around, animated charts, and on, and on, ad nauseum. Not one single bit of that information has anything to do with what is being discussed.

My final gripe (for now) concerns the switch from the in studio cameras to footage from other locations. For every single transition like that, the screen shows an animated (less than 1 second) Wx Geeks logo screen. The footage being shown, while usually slightly relevant to the discussion, is only rarely discussed by the participants, and provides very little value to the viewer. Coming back to the studio camera, the same animation is shown.

To the directors and producers of this show, I say that just because you have a production effect capability doesn't mean that you have to use it all the time. I'll stop short of saying that someone should take a fire ax to the control board ... but that thought is in the back of my mind.

I'll continue to watch, because Dr. Shepherd & his guests are great, and the discussions are great. I might watch the show online. Doing that gets rid of the bottom & side bar, and the small screen size on a computer or tablet make the junk shown behind the guest less obtrusive. The Weather Channel should make the show easier to find on the website, though.

To paraphrase an old insult, this TV show is perfect for radio.

I'll update this post with corrections or further observations after I watch episodes.

(@WXGeeksTWC tweeted a line to the online video of the show, which, as I mentioned, does not have the bottom or side bars. It still has all of the other issues I mention.)

Fog Bank, Sept. 22, 2014

Hello, fellow weather geeks, this is David Phillips, @skydaver, with the Fog Bank.

The magazine "Communications of the ACM" has an article about high power computing, big data, & weather forecasting. I think the article is available to the public.

NWS tweeted out a FAQ on Wireless Emergency Alerts

Capital Weather Gang's Jason Samenow had a great post about the ISS-RapidScat, a new weather instrument about to be placed on the International Space Station

This pick this is going to take some time.

I finally had a chance to watch WeatherGeeks on The Weather Channel. The episode is saw was with Dr. Ucellini. I watched it on my large flat screen.

The show sucks. It sucks pond scum. It could suck a golf ball through a garden hose. I'm almost certain that the director is an 8 year old child that has eaten nothing but cotton candy for a week.

Dr. Shepard, his guests, and the discussion are great. Unfortunately, they are overwhelmed by the absolute video garbage put on the green screen behind them.
This is a television show that should be on radio. The video  is horrible, with far, far too much distraction.

On HD, the picture is shrunk down to allow a side & bottom graphic. Those graphics are intolerable.  I can just barely allow the bottom bar which is showing local conditions & forecast, The side bar is just fluff, and I can't think of any non vulgar words to describe it.
What is inexcusable and visually jarring is the animated crap that the producers put on the green screen behind the host & guests. It is horribly distracting, and has nothing whatsoever to do with what the people are discussing.
I've edited out other more intemperate remarks.
But that's just my opinion.
In the time since I wrote that, I've seen more episodes online. Those are much more tolerable, probably because the video is only 5", not 60".

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Sept. 22 has a time lapse video from a geosynchronous satellite of an equinox day.

Thanks for listening,
Skydaver Out.

Audio Fog Bank

Fog Bank, September 15, 2014

Hello, WeatherBrains listeners, this is David Phillips, skydaver on Twitter, returning with the Fog Bank.

My vacation wasn't really a month long. We left the day before one WeatherBrains, were gone for the next one, and returned the day after the third one.  I was still catching up, and wasn't able to put one together for last week.

Lets get to it.

Earth Science Picture of the day with a hole punch cloud & fall streaks

ESPOD again, with a shelf cloud photo

SpaceWeather.com for Sept. 12 had a couple of nice Aurora photos, along with a great photo of the ISS transiting the sun, next to a fairly large sunspot. Unfortunately, their site crashed the same day, and they don't have an archive for Sept. 12. (as of Sept. 23, they still don't have an archive page for the 12th.

Not weather, but I find this amazing. A photograph from the Rosetta spacecraft, which flew for ten years to rendezvous with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft is now in the vicinity of the comet, and is sending back photographs. Astronomy Picture of the Day has one of those.

ESPOD is one of my go to sites when I need to fill out my five picks. Here's a nice picture of a solar dog

SpaceWeather.com has a nice video of a recent Aurora

Thanks for listening, Skydaver out.

Audio Fog Bank

Fog Bank, August 11, 2014

CoCoRaHS will have a Webinar about Forensic Meteorology. It will be on August 14, available to 500 watchers. They will have it available for viewing August 15. Go to the CoCoRaHS site to sign up, or watch.

Title: Webinar #33 - CoCoRaHS WxTalk: Weather CSI - Forensic Meteorology
Date: Thursday, August 14, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM Eastern, Noon Central, 11:00 AM Mountain, 10:00 AM Pacific

"Television shows featuring detectives who use cutting-edge science to solve crimes are among the most popular programs on television today. But did you know there are weather detectives, too? Certified consulting meteorologists are often called on to help determine the causes of accidents for court cases, and sometimes even solve serious crimes. Any lawyer with a case that has weather as a contributing factor can enlist a forensic meteorologist to help determine whether a particular weather condition was occurring at the time of an accident and what impact it had on the event. In this talk, we will look at the role of meteorologists as expert witnesses and see some examples of the kinds of questions they need to answer in a typical weather- or climate-related case. "
Weather CSI: Forensic Meteorology  You can also go to the CoCoRaHS WeatherTalk page, and scroll down to Webinar #33.

A blog post from Bill Steffen, of WOOD in Grand Rapids Michigan. An upwelling in Lake Michigan caused Water temps in Holland State Park dropped from 63 to 39 degrees in less than 24 hours.  Most of the Great Lakes water temps are colder than they were in 2009

Astronomy picture of the day for July 31 had a photo of noctilucent clouds, taken in Gotland, Sweden

The Univ. of Wisconsin Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies has a web page showing the timeline of satellite meteorology

@Malia_Ama sent me a link to an article from the University of Hawaii on how the Kilauea volcano affected Tropical Storm Flossie, back in July, 2013

Inside the Eye, the official blog of the NHC, with an explanation of an invest

I'll be taking some vacation, so no Fog Bank until September. (I left on August 17th, the day before a WeatherBrains, and came back on Sept. 3, the day after a WeatherBrains.

Thanks for listening, Skydaver out.

Audio Fog Bank

Fog Bank, July 28, 2014

Hello, fellow weather nerds, welcome to the Fog Bank, my usually weekly contribution to the WeatherBrains podcast (www.weatherbrains.com)

My first pick is from Earth Science Picture of the Day (ESPOD),
Four Rainbows over Banks Lake, Washington

Next, Midnight sun dogs from SpaceWeather.com

ESPOD again, with a Tertiary Rainbow picture.

I've got a link for Cryosphere Today, from the Polar Research Group at the University of Illinois

I'll close with a link for the Facebook page for NWS office in Honolulu
NWS Honolulu & Central Pacific Hurricane Center

Thanks for listening, Skydaver out.

Audio Fog Bank