How did TV studios create on-screen text before the digital age?

Discover how TV studios created on-screen text before the digital age using press-on letters and luma key for analog broadcasting.

How did TV studios create on-screen text before the digital age?
Photo by Oliver Pecker / Unsplash

Back in the pre-digital era, TV studios brought on-screen text to life using unconventional techniques.

Press-on letters, commonly from Letraset or Chartpak, were meticulously arranged and placed on a surface.

A camera would then capture the composed text.

Luma Key: Blending Live Action and On-Screen Text

To seamlessly integrate on-screen text with live action footage, studios employed a device known as a 'luma key.' This device used the brightness of the letters to coordinate with the live action, enabling a smooth transition between the live camera and the title camera wherever the lettering appeared.

Chroma Key for Color Cameras

The advent of color cameras brought about the use of a 'chroma key' to overlay on-screen text.

Unlike the luma key, the chroma key worked based on hue, typically tuned to blue.

Moreover, this technology was not limited to text; it was also used to place graphics behind news presenters, like the weather forecaster.

Careful Considerations in Color Usage

With the introduction of chroma key technology, careful color selection became crucial.

Talents had to be mindful not to wear any blue clothing, as the chroma key functioned by distinguishing hues, and unintended matching of clothing with the chroma color could lead to unexpected visual effects.

Legacy of Analog TV Techniques

The utilization of press-on letters and the intricate utilization of luma and chroma key devices in the analog era laid the foundation for the modern graphic overlays and on-screen text used in today's digital broadcasting landscape.

Considering the evolution of on-screen text in television, one can't help but ponder the resourcefulness of broadcast professionals.

The transition from analog methods to digital technologies has significantly impacted the present-day visual experiences of audiences worldwide.