Satellite maps reveal Wuhan’s tough journey of economic recovery

Country/area: China

Organisation: PhoeHub(beijing) Technology Co., Ltd. and China Global Television Network

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 11/03/2021

Credit: Production Manager: Dai Yu Script: Han Mo, Lin Yiqiao Data Support: Zhang Ke, Guo Chao, Fan Lisong, Jiao Hang, Zhang Li Graphic & Motion designer: Liu Yuetong, Guo Hongcen Editor: Zhao Yuanzhen Senior producer: Bi Jianlu Supervisor:Mei Yan


Dai Yu is the founder and CEO of PhoeHub. Before launching her own company, she worked in China for South Reviews, People’s Daily Media Technology Co., Ltd and Liberation Daily. She has led her team to win multiple prizes, including all two Gold Medals in Best Data Video in 2021 China Data Content Competition, and the Second Prize in First China Data Journalism Competition, and also writes articles about the Chinese journalism industry, which have been published in blue books of China.

Project description:

This work is rich in data, unique in news angle and strong in design. It has exclusive accesses to data, combined with different kinds of satellite photos, such as heat maps, spring plowing maps, night light maps and satellite imageries, together with data of Eleme app and statistical figures. It reveals how tough the Wuhan’s recovery road is after the city’s lockdown due to COVID-19.

Impact reached:

It has been published in China Global Television Network, received wide reputations both from the audience and experts. It won one of the Gold Medals in Best Data Video in 2021 China Data Content Competition, in regard as “this video selected an ingenious angle and offered various comparisons in data to make itself persuasive”.

Techniques/technologies used:

This work uses night light remote sensing, thermal infrared remote sensing, visible light remote sensing and other technologies to obtain image data, carries out accurate image processing, image interpretation and information extraction, and monitored plant growth through satellite images. The output above turns out as the heat maps, spring plowing maps, night light maps and satellite imageries showed in the work.

As for the design, the gray tone and color system of reddish orange are used in the design to create a sense of sadness under the perspective of technology, and make full use of the space movement of the lens to show details of satellite imageries.


What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part is to acquire various data including satellite photos throughout one year and the figures from Eleme app and then analyze them, especially when all of them are exclusive.

We set up frames to assess the situation in Wuhan and persuaded a satellite company to support this project, then cooperated with scientists in it. After we got these satellite photos, we had to category, see carefully and analyze them, and to find news angles and decide how to depict the whole situation and picture.

Take the heat map for example, we compared the whole city’s heat map in and after the lockdown and found that two industrial districts are the key parts and the “warmest” area was just the famous Wuhan Iron and Steel Group. This findings came from these maps and help with the logic in narratives.

Moreover, we thought the online orders in Wuhan should have boomed after the lockdown, but it didn’t happen. Surprisingly, we found its wave was very similar to the city’s economic changes of industrial figures, which pieced together the general trend of this city.

The collection of data and images is highly-cost in this work, and their analysis is also tough and requiring carefulness and comprehensive judgment.

What can others learn from this project?

This work can strongly extend the boundaries what satellite imageries can help with reporting in other journalists’ minds. In the past, satellite imageries were rarely used to assess but to present, and the number and variety of those imageries were limited in one piece of reporting.

Satellite imageries can not only be used in showing what objects are on the earth and presenting the pictures of heat and night light, but also assess the situations of spring plowing and planting on the basis of remote sensing images analysis, contributing to search every corner even in the past. Furthermore, satellite imageries can connect with big data collected from every user and statistical figures to achieve comprehensive conclusions.

In a word, data can come from anywhere that journalists cannot visit physically and see through the truth that journalists cannot easily abstract from what they see with their eyes.

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