What is a chyron? It’s a word we hear every now and then and seem to always wonder: what the heck does that mean? Well not anymore, because today we’re going to answer the question “what is a chyron?” by defining the term and by looking at chyron examples in television. By the end, you’ll be ready to shock your family and friends when they inevitably ask: what is a chyron?
First, let's define chyron
In 1966, Francis Mechner and Eugene Leonard founded Systems Resources Corporation – a technology-based product company, based in New York. Systems Resources Corporation developed the “Chiron” digital graphics generator. This was later renamed to Chyron to avoid trademark dispute.
Chyron quickly became the industry-leader in digital, text-based graphics; thus making its name synonymous with lower third templates. So, without further ado, let’s start with a chyron definition.
What is a chyron?
A chyron is a digital, text-based graphic that’s usually located on the lower third of an image. These are commonly used in cable news shows, sporting events, and interviews to communicate quotes, and or significant information that’s pertinent to the background event. You'll also find chyrons in filmmaking stating information about the setting (date, location, and other pertinent facts).
- Day of the week
- Date (month, day, and/or year)
- Location (including any pertinent info about it)
- Quote or partial quote
- Title card
Chyron Overlays Explained
What do chyrons look like?
Chyrons are defined as digital captions that usually cover the lower third of an image. In truth, that definition leaves interpretations of the term open-ended. But over the years, we’ve come to regard these types of text in a very specific way. So, what does a chyron look like? Here’s a famous example, from CNN.
Here, the chyron is the entire digital caption. In definition’s terms, the “Wednesday” and “Sacramento, California” are too – but we typically refer to everything outside the main lower third caption as “graphics” or “part of the graphics template.”
Yeah it can be a little confusing. Let’s take a look at another example.
In this example, it is the caption on the lower third graphic, which says “Committee For ‘Remembering How To Pass A Bill’ Emergency Session,” with a sub-line “New drug to make heart attacks 60% more enjoyable.”
Chyrons used to be the perfect tool for satire – but today they’re largely forced to play the role of truth-keeper.
Chyron Screenplay Format
Chyrons in screenplay example
News chyrons aren’t the only game in town! They are also used in screenwriting to impart text-based information. These types are usually written as “TITLE:” or “SUPER:” or even “CHYRON:”.
These are almost always reserved for shooting scripts.
However, there are also times when they help in the developmental stage of screenwriting, i.e., when you want to establish a specific setting or time-period.
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Friday, December the Eleventh
- Two Forty-Three P.M.
Watch the clip and then we'll talk about why he may have added them.
But why do you think Hitchcock added this information? The location, date and time, don't have any real bearing on the plot. It's not a true story after all.
But that's the key. He wants you to think this actually happened.
So, with some simple information like exactly when and where this story, he makes it feel just a little more real. Pretty genius if you ask me.
Now, let's see how these get written in an actual script.
Check it out below!
Here, the BlacKkKlansman script uses “superimposed” to tell us that the scene is set in the “early 70s.” The writers didn’t have to include that in the script; they could have solely communicated it in dialogue or scene descriptions instead. But there’s nothing wrong with a quick little bit of text.Here’s another chyron example from BlacKkKlansman: the title card at the beginning of the film.
Chyrons are usually lower-third graphics – but they don’t have to be. Most film/tv title cards are center-placed. For more on formatting these and other elements in a script, check out our complete guide to screenplay formatting.
Best Lower Third Templates
Ready to start writing your own on-screen text? Check out our next article where we break down the best lower third templates for Adobe Premiere Pro. There, you’ll find free download links and tons of information!