Thursday, September 3, 2009

CBC Google Earth Tour of Afghanistan: Review

Via a Google Earth blog post I came across this tour by CBC shown in the screenshot above. Its a good example of a news agency trying out the ability to use the Google Earth plugin to add value to a topic with a strong geographic flavour. There is a lot of potential in doing this and I'd want to encourage CBC and other news agencies to produce similar tours. However, I think they could improve what they've done by really using the geographic capabilities of GEarth. Some specific thoughts:

  • Thematic maps: I liked the use of thematic maps to show the general locations of the countries. Just plotting things on the background data of GEarth can be difficult to understand because the imagery is visually 'busy'.
  • Fading Images: The authors took the time to code in the images to fade in and out which looks slick and professional
  • Professional Audio: The audio to go with the tour was good quality and professionally done.
  • Background story: I felt the tour added useful background to the Afghanistan war story, e.g. I liked the detail about the historic buildings in Herat
  • No Introductory Logo: As Frank pointed out to me recently, an introductory screen logo helps viewers focus on what they're about to get and who is telling them the story. That being said, they do get their logo in at the end.
  • More Fly Throughs: At one point the tour refers to 'wind swept mountains' but the camera doesn't sweep through a sample mountainous valley to show us. The ability to do this is where GEarth really shines
  • Ground instead of Screen Overlay: Although I liked the overview thematic maps, the authors used a screen overlay rather than locating the map on the ground as a ground overlay. This would have been better as features in GEarth would have been related to the boundaries of the map.
  • Areas not Points: At one point the tour refers to 'Helmand province' but we aren't shown the boundary to this area on screen we just see Helmand city as a point, a province is clearly an area not a point. More detail on the general point of polygons vs placemarks in Google Earth in my Google Tech talk.
Producing GEarth tours with lots of photos and syncing with an audio commentary isn't easy. I think its a shame that having put in a lot of work to produce this they didn't use GEarth's capabilities to a greater extent. I think they ended up producing something that represents more of an audio image slideshow rather than really using the capabilities of GEarth tours. To see if you agree with me compare their tour to:
I've contacted CBC to see if they had any comments on this review, I didn't hear anything from them.


Matt said...

I've been trying to get greater control of the screen overlay fade in/out technique but the few tours I've found that do this are all embedded in the plug-in. I'd like to get my hands on some actual code. Any suggestions?

Rich Treves said...

haven't done it myself but check out animated updates in kml, fade is done by use of updates: