Using Google Earth to add geo relevance to the news

News stations around the world have been using Google Earth to help visualize their stories for years now, and CNN has been one of the best.
Alex Walker, a producer for CNN International, shared with the +Google for Media page how they used Google Earth to illustrate the neighborhoods of Damascus, Syria.

The strike against the Syrian regime on Wednesday, killing three of President Bashar al-Assad’s top aides, was a big news item in our newsroom. Other stories mentioned hotspots in various neighborhoods around the capital city of Damascus. We needed to pull something together quickly: A map to help explain to our viewers just how close the violence was getting to the heart of the city.

In Google Earth Pro, I hand-drew polygons of districts based on an administrative map I found online; a photo overlay helped us match up borders such as streets and rivers. The slider tool in Earth was crucial, dissolving the photo on and off to line up everything accurately. In fact, it was such a cool effect that we decided to show the photo overlay in the final segment along with the new polygons. I exported the imagery and was able to use it in the chroma wall (a keyable, blue wall used for weather reports) and for video cover. I produced and edited match shots to cover in post-production, as we wanted to show details full-screen in portions.

Along with various news programs, you’ve probably also seen Google Earth featured on shows such as NCIS and similar shows, often used as a “high tech” satellite visualization tool.
If you’re a broadcaster wanting to make better use of Google Earth, Google Earth Pro offers some great tools, and Google Earth Studio can help take things even further.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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