The Big Board

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
Don't be fooled. They are actually just playing Battlestar Galactica The Boardgame.
"Sir, you can't let him in here. He'll see everything. He'll see the Big Board!"
General "Buck" Turgidson, Dr. Strangelove

A display (whiteboard, blackboard, chart, map, whatever) can serve the dual purpose of establishing that the characters are evaluating information and providing quick exposition for the audience.

This trope includes tabletop maps where people use a "croupier stick" to move around counters. It also includes a "vertical plotting board". That's the clear piece of glass or plastic that, in the real world, is written on with a grease pencil backwards on warships. In fact, transparent versions are way more common in fiction than in reality—in the real world, their use is limited by the fact that they're hard to read, but in film and television they're frequently used as a way to get shots that include the actors' faces. Also included are dioramas, which are simply models of buildings or areas. May be used as an Exposition Diagram.

Note that Reality Is Unrealistic and most examples of this look far more dramatic in media than in Real Life. Compare Ominous Multiple Screens, which is the villainous version. Usually. Compare Room Full of Crazy, when this goes...overboard.

Examples of The Big Board include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The NERV headquarters in Neon Genesis Evangelion not only has a really, really Huge Board, but also a holographic terrain projector!
  • Big Boards appear often in Banner of the Stars. The Abh Admiralty use a particularly big one to monitor strategic fleet movements.


Comic Books[edit | hide]


Film[edit | hide]

  • The windows in A Beautiful Mind.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark examples:
    • While teaching a class on archeology, Indiana Jones writes on a chalkboard and has difficulty spelling the word "Neolithic".
    • While talking to the Army Intelligence agents, he uses a chalkboard to draw the Staff of Ra and its headpiece.
    • The Nazis in The Last Crusade, whom Indy hates, have one of these, complete with little model soldiers and tanks and things. They appear to be playing Risk.
  • In Ocean's Eleven, Danny Ocean has a hi-tech board which he uses to display various building schematics of the impenetrable casino vault.
  • The War of the Worlds (1953):
    • In the Washington military headquarters, there's a large flat world map with officers pushing around symbols representing the Martian war machines.
    • Major General Mann draws on a chalkboard to show the tactics the Martians use against the human forces. His dramatic gestures while drawing help emphasize the Martians' aggressive nature.
  • In WarGames the huge Big Boards help us to understand what is going on. It also provides some Nightmare Fuel (can you say Global Thermonuclear War?). In addition it provides some Reality Is Unrealistic, as the real NORAD does not have huge Big Boards.
  • In Patton, the German Captain Steiger is assigned the job of researching General Patton and letting the General Staff know how Patton thinks. In one scene, near the end of the war, he is holding a chalkboard with "Wounded" and "Killed" on it to list German casualties. He is seen wiping out the numbers and writing in larger ones a few times. One of the nice touches is that the words are written in German and he writes the numbers in European fashion, i.e. the number 7 has a slash in the center.
  • Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe feature big maps which follow the bombers as they start a nuclear war.
  • 1941: U.S. Army air defense center has plane models on a large flat map.
  • Battle of the Bulge: German army headquarters has a flat map of the campaign area with symbols of the military forces being moved to indicate their progress.
  • Minority Report had that interesting interactive mid-air display Tom Cruise used at the start of the movie.
  • Back to The Future Part II has a chalkboard scene where it's particularly evident that the chalkboard diagram is for the benefit of the audience rather than anyone in the film.
    • When Family Guy parodied Back to the Future, they lampshade this by having Brian wonder why they have a chalkboard in the middle of their living room in the first place.
      • Though, to be fair to BTTF, that scene did take place in an abandoned library, which would be the kind of place to have a blackboard.
    • Back to the Future oarts I and III also have dioramas to show how Marty will get, well, back to the future. They're insanely detailed, which doesn't stop Doc apologising that the scale isn't quite right, and he didn't have time to paint them.
    • Technically, it was Doc who didn't need any of the illustrations. His reason for grabbing the chalkboard and illustrating in the second film was specifically because Marty didn't understand what he was saying.
  • Memento. Remember the giant diagram with photos and association charts and everything? The degree to which an anterograde amnesiac could pull off that kind of planning was a major theme of the movie.
  • Seen in quite a few James Bond movies.
  • Catch Me If You Can: Tom Hanks's character gives a presentation on The Big Board explaining his findings on the check forgery cases, and is met with boredom from the rest of the FBI.
  • Seen in several Star Wars movies:
    • In Attack of the Clones, the separatist leaders have a real-time holographic projection on a table showing the battle for them. The star map Obi-Wan and Yoda use in the younglings scene is another example.
    • A similar real-time battle hologram is seen briefly in Revenge of the Sith. The Separatists are using it to oversee a distant battle just before they have their last conversation with Darth Sidious. There are also several in the Jedi Temple, such as one detailing the progress of the Outer Rim Sieges and another detailing movements in a battle, possibly Mygeeto since Ki-Adi-Mundi is there.
    • Similar plotting boards are seen in A New Hope during the Battle of Yavin, and in The Empire Strikes Back inside the rebel Hoth base. Although, since the boards are simply pieces of glass with unmoving lines in them, it's debatable how useful they are. A New Hope also has a (ridiculously specialized) circular table that shows the Death Star's position.
      • The pieces of glass with unmoving lines on them looked like topographical maps to me. Which, aside from being made of glass, would actually be fairly practical, though it's impossible to tell what exactly the Rebel technicians are doing with them, touching something that looks like a stylus to different points and listening to headphones. Possibly some kind of remote defense system interface?
    • The hologram used by Mon Mothma and General Madine in their briefing in Return of the Jedi. It was also the first use of CGI in the movies.
      • Actually untrue. The first Death Star animation in A New Hope (seen after R2-D2 is plugged into the Rebellion's computer network, and later at the mission briefing) is also CGI—it took so long to render that it had to be commissioned long in advance, resulting in the animation using the wrong Death Star design. (The dish was in the trench, instead of offset.) Note that this (for some reason) is the only special effects problem that wasn't fixed in the "Special Edition" re-masters...
  • Citizen Kane.
  • Fatal Instinct. Lana Ravine explains her plan to murder her husband to her co-conspirator lover by using a tabletop map as well as an audiovisual presentation.
  • In The Bourne Identity, the director of Project Treadstone announces, "I want a big map up on that wall!" once his office starts tracking down Jason Bourne. Sure enough, there's a big map of Europe up in the next scene.
  • In Mulan, there's an entire scene between Shang and his father, where the general is plotting out where the Huns have attacked and where the Imperial Army will meet them.
  • In Disney Animated Canon's |Hercules, Hades uses one where he puts various monster figures whom all are sent to destroy Hercules.
  • Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. A vast map of the world is seen spanning the wall of a zeppelin hanger of the Flying Legion, worked on by men climbing tall and unsafe-looking ladders.
  • In Werewolf Women of the SS, the Nazis have a big map of Europe, on which they appear to be playing Risk.
    • Why are so many Nazis playing Risk? Oh right, world domination.
  • Sink The Bismark - the WW 2 era British B&W version. They track ship movements on it.
  • The Godfather Part II. When Michael Corlone is under Senate investigation there is a big board with a diagram showing how the Corleone family is organized.
  • In Von Ryan's Express, the Germans have a big board with lights indicating the status of the trains running throughout Germany.
  • In The Return of the King, two characters, Faramir and one of his men, look over a map showing the cities of Middle Earth and who is attacking and from where. This is done clearly for the purposes of clarifying it to the audience.
  • Top Secret. The diorama Nigel uses to explain his plan for entering Flugendorf Castle to the other Resistance members.
  • Apollo 13 had Flight Director Gene Kranz illustrate via drawing for the audience where exactly the spacecraft was in relation to both Earth and the moon, as well as illustrate what was meant by "free-return trajectory" (using the Moon's gravity to slingshot the spacecraft back to Earth). The same diagram was used later to show how an estimated 45 hours of life support wasn't enough to get all the way back to Earth.
  • Assassination of a High School President had one at the very start of the movie to explain "the elements" (cliques) of the high school.
  • Theodore Rex tries for some neopunk style version of the giant battlemap with young waafs pushing units around with croupier rakes except the overblown size and odd dress code means that it looks more like the Olympic curling team are pushing around Hershey's Kisses.
  • The remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds plans their heist on a blackboard with UV-florescent paint. (Inability to completely wipe out this critical evidence when the first hideout gets raided by the police is how they're tipped off to what's going on.)
  • Battle of Britain shows both the tabletop diorama version and the wall display version. The calm and collected plotters moving counters around on the tabletop contrast to the chaotic and deadly air battles that they are keeping track of. At least until one of those calm collected scenes is interrupted by the roof of the command center caving in during an air raid.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden has a highly detailed tabletop model of Chicago in his basement laboratory. He can use it to find out what supernatural events are going on where in the city, and also to project his magical (not physical) presence into a given location as needed. In Small Favor, he figures out that the Faeries of the Summer Court have been tracking him through a silver talisman presented to him as a gift in an earlier novel; he confuses them by hanging it over the model in a bag of catnip on an elastic cord fixed to the ceiling; his cat Mister bats at it incessantly, making his apparent-to-the-Faeries location now here, now there.
    • Imagine being on that pursuit squad: "Why weren't we told this guy could freaking teleport across the city?"
  • The first appearance of this is in the E. E. "Doc" Smith novel Gray Lensman; the command ship Directrix has a huge specially-designed board for managing the operations of the Galactic Patrol's Grand Fleet, numbering in the billions of warships. This was the inspiration for Chester A. Nimitz to use a similar system for directing fleet operations during the Battle of Midway. From there, everybody started using them, which is how it became a trope in the first place. So this is a case of Art imitating Life imitating Art.
  • A holographic big board (with a zoomable 3-D map of the Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way) is used to plan an invasion of Romulan space to rescue the crew of U.S.S. Intrepid in the Star Trek novel "My Enemy, My Ally."
  • In Red Storm Rising, we are treated to officers in an Army-/Corps-level headquarters of the Soviet Army pushing pieces around based on radio reports, with junior officers pushing pieces around on a map. Surprisingly tense for a scene where we don't see any direct actions, only a map where the red pieces push forward on a road network.
  • In the Belgariad, Emperor Ran Borune XXIII has a really big board, actually an acre of real estate, which is covered in lead figurines of soldiers, representing his daughter's military campaign as she marched her army through Algaria to attack the Mishrak ak Thull. The more elderly members of the general staff really hated climbing up the ladder to the platform which allowed them an overhead view of the enormous scale map.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • House. Only House is allowed to touch the sacred marker.
    • Though when House is for whatever reason incapacitated, Cameron gets to write on the board. If she's not present, Foreman gets the job. Chase, however, is just not ready.
      • Though Chase gets to keep score on the board during House vs God.
    • Of course, when things get REALLY desperate, House uses an entire wall in an airport terminal, much to the displeasure of the security.
  • ER has the doctors writing their cases in a transparent board.
  • Numb3rs
  • Life: (Charlie's conspiracy chart.)
  • Regenesis
  • Homicide: Life on the Street had a white board with victims on it.
    • A similar White Board was used in The Wire, and both were taken from an actual tool of the Baltimore PD. The Baltimore PD Homicide Unit tried to take down the real board, citing poor morale, but ended up leaving it in its various precincts after officers stated that it was a useful tracking tool.
  • Angel has a whiteboard which they occasionally put lists of jobs on. It goes away when they realize it makes them more focused on keeping score than on doing good; it then comes back after Connor is born, listing everyone whom they think might be a threat.
  • Likewise, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Giles used an AV projector during "Hush", since no one could talk. Complete with stick figures. Similarly, he used picture flash cards to communicate with non-English-speaker Chao Anh.
    • Another Buffy example: Andrew's big board for explaining the First Evil to new Potential Slayers in season 7.
      • He even quotes General Turgidson when Buffy first brings Robin Wood into the house:

Andrew: Keep bringing people in, they're going to see everything! They'll see the big board!

    • Yet another one, from season 3, where Buffy is trying to compete with Cordelia for the title of Prom Queen (Or something like that), and makes a chart of the competition's strengths and weaknesses. In the end, the two other girls win, much to the chagrin of Buffy and Cordelia.
  • In Lonelygirl15 whiteboards seem to be the TAAG's favourite planning method. Additionally, every bunker belonging to the old Resistance contains one, complete with notes.
  • Most versions of CSI, Law and Order and other elaborate Police Procedurals.
    • Corkboards detailing the organization of drug gangs are also a staple of the Major Crimes Unit office.
  • In The Untouchables series from the early '90s, the heroes' headquarters was a back room with a blackboard, on which Eliot Ness would sometimes draw maps illustrating the operation they were about to carry out.
  • Battlestar Galactica has the Whiteboard of Extinction. If it counts, the big strategic planning board with all the little models as well.
  • Without a Trace tracks the missing person's movements on a big whiteboard.
  • The see-through one from Waking the Dead.
  • In News Radio, Matthew makes one with colored index cards when he's "promoted", though he's the only one who cares about it. Joe ends up taping index cards to Matthew's back spelling "SPAZ".
  • Lampshaded on Psych: when Shawn is writing on a board, he explains that he "saw it on Numb3rs".
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "Whither Canada": British Army HQ, with models of pigs being pushed around a map. View it here, starting around 8:00.
  • In one episode of Galactica 1980, some of the Colonial Warriors on Earth find a scientist's chalkboard with various formulas on it. One of them writes information on the chalkboard that will improve the scientist's knowledge (disposing of nuclear waste?).
    • This is, of course, copied from the scene in The Day the Earth Stood Still where Klaatu corrected the equation on Professor Barnhardt's chalkboard. It's not as if Galactica 1980 ever did anything original.
  • Stargate Verse has a big see-through board showing planets and displays where the wormhole turns up. In the movie there is a big board in the board room with important looking stuff on it; it rolls up for the big-reveal.
    • The large Earth developed starships also have a 3D version of the vertical plotting board (because they're in space, naturally) with two regular ones intersecting at a right angle.
  • In the pilot episode of Monk, we see that Adrian Monk's OCD is both a blessing and a curse when he starts compulsively rearranging the marker pins on a politician's campaign planning map. And then he accidentally knocks all of the pins off. And then he puts them all back as they originally were, from memory.
  • Newsnight used to have a sandpit to illustrate military activities. Read about it.
    • Hate to bust your incredulity, but sand tables are an old and high-class table-top wargaming institution. Old wargaming books used to have advice on how to build them. This isn't so much odd as the best thing they could have had.
    • War reports lost something when they switched to CGI.
  • Seen frequently on MythBusters when the plan on how to test the myth is illustrated for the watchers.
    • More recent episodes (especially the "sudden sobriety" myths and the "beer goggles" myth) have featured a tricked out, digital touchscreen big board.
  • Chuck has his own conspiracy wall hidden on the back of his framed Tron poster.
  • On The Dead Zone, Johnny Smith had a big board in his basement where he was keeping track of clues about Greg Stillson and Armageddon.
  • "On screen, Lt. Uhura/Mr. Worf/Lt. Dax/Mr. Kim/Lt. Sato."
  • Lost has the "invisible map" during season two, which was painted on one of the blast doors by Radzinsky and Kelvin, and can only be seen when ultraviolet light is shined on it. We (and Locke) only get to see it for a few seconds, but hundreds of Epileptic Trees have been based on it.
  • Big Boards appear occasionally on Babylon 5, often on warships. One episode has an EarthForce general planning an operation on the table form.
  • Not long after the nuclear attack on Jericho, the bar's TV picks up a few seconds of a news report from Asia. The reporter stands beside a Big Board map of a nuke-battered United States, which offers both the townsfolk and the viewers a first glimpse of which cities have been destroyed.
  • On season one of Heroes, Mohinder's father used a Big Board map to track where his genetic theory predicts people with Abilities are likely to emerge. After his death, Dr. Suresh's map becomes a clue for numerous characters who are working to track down Ability-users.
  • NCIS has one in the form on a plasma screen Tv hooked up to the computers. NCIS: Los Angeles has their own in the form of a ginormous touch screen interface
  • Big red and blue maps were used in The West Wing, especially during the campaign in seasons 6 and 7.
    • They also have a very sci-fi version of the White House "Situation Room." At one point Leo has "the boys" put together a simulation of a nuclear attack on Lincoln, Nebraska, just to impress the woman he likes.

"Oh, look at that, Lincoln survives the first of the -- aww, not so much."

  • In Castle, the police use a whiteboard (or, on big cases, a pair of whiteboards) to keep track of the information for that week's case. It's also revealed that Castle uses a more hi-tech version to plot out his mystery novels.
  • In La Femme Nikita, when a conference is being held in the Section One headquarters, a futuristic transparent computer monitor is used, placed in the center of the conference table.
  • Blackadder parodied the We Have Reserves mentality of World War I generals by having Field Marshall Haig sweep the model troops into a dustpan and throw them away in the finale.
    • Spoofed in the episode Private Plane where Gen. Melchett proudly shows off a table containing a display of the amount of land recaptured during the latest "Big Push"...at a one-to-one scale (17 square feet).
  • A sketch from Paul Merton: The Series has a gang planning a bank robbery this way, and as the plan drifts further from its origins they keep producing implausibly specific models to add to the map to illustrate their points.
  • Leverage: Hardison has a giant screen that he uses for presentations before a con. In "The Jailhouse Job", the presentation gets stored on a flash drive so Elliot can show it to Nate, who's in prison.
  • The Closer has one, which is used to collect photos, documents, and timeline information about the victim. It's referred to by the characters as "the murder board."
  • Briefings on both versions of |Mission Impossible usually required an electronic big board that the team could view their target and other operational data on.
  • On Grey's Anatomy, Derek draws a detailed diagram of a spine on his own bedroom wall when fretting over a complex surgery. And in a nice little bit of Continuity Nod, we see it in other episodes later on.
  • In Benson the Governor, Benson and the rest of the staff were in an underground bunker participating in a war game involving a nuclear attack. As they got 'news' that a city had been bombed, they put a little mushroom cloud on that city.
  • Fringe's Astrid used a big transparent board to solve a code - which was actually used in a nifty bit of cinematography: the shadow of the cyphers on a nearby globe gave her a crucial clue.
  • On an episode of Poirot, Scotland Yard has a large table set up with a map of London on it, and a bevy of policewomen pushing models of police cars around the map as they get radio reports from each of the cars. Taken up to a ridiculous level when the cars converge on the person they're tailing and all the cars are shoved simultaneously into a neat circle around the target in a very synchronized and rehearsed manner.
  • This was liberally used on Glenn Beck's show, to the point where it frequently shows up in stock parodies of him.
  • On Dexter there is a large white board at the police station, often with a flow chart illustrating recent events, and almost always including many large, full color photographs of the victims, suspects, and other plot elements relevant to the current investigation.
  • On Flash Forward (2009) there is a large investigation board at the FBI office. The interesting thing about this particular big board is that the main character is only inspired to put it up because he has a flash forward of himself using it to solve an investigation in six months time. As the events of the investigation transpire, he adds to it and it becomes closer to that seen in his vision.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • 1776 features a board showing the votes of the various American colonies for or against independence from England.


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • In Evil Genius, installing a giant screen on your Control Room will increase your Mooks' attention. In addition, the World Domination Screen, where you perform your missions and send your Mooks around the world, has the form of a tabletop map complete with little pawn figures for the mooks that get flicked over when they die.
    • In addition, scientists are also trained with a big blackboard.
  • In Golden Eye 1997 007, photographing or destroying the Big Board tends to be an objective. Or not destroying. It gets complicated.
  • Team Fortress 2 has a handful of these, usually in the intel rooms.
    • Each map (and the general objective thereof) is also presented in the style of a strategy session on a chalkboard.
    • The "Meet the Spy" video has a rather large and low-tech one in the BLU base, complete with a number of in-jokes.
  • Harpoon is essentially like this.
  • The Galaxy Map in the Mass Effect series is a large 3-d projection of the galaxy situated right in front of Shepard's little balcony on a raised platform that serves as the command bridge of the Normandy. In the sequel, when Shepard's not using it it switches to a 3-d image of the ship with all the installed upgrades highlighted in blue.
    • In Mass Effect 3, the Galaxy Map also shows which star systems are occupied by the Reapers. In addition, there is a second command center where various visiting foreign leaders will operate out of during joint operations, and where you can find a terminal that gives you a listing of war assets and the overal strategic situation in the war. Liara has also transplanted her command center into her quarters aboard the ship, complete with Ominous Multiple Screens showing a display of the galaxy for her.
  • Introversion Software's Uplink has one of these on a hidden machine, in direct and explicit tribute to WarGames.
    • Their later game DEFCON goes the whole hog and makes a complete game out of the exact same thing.
      • It also plays heavily on the "Nightmare Fuel" aspect of the Wargames board mentioned above, completed with mentions of the megadeath body count each bomb causes and, for those who didn't turn the sound off and can hear it, increasingly depressing music and sick and sobbing people huddled in the bunker in the background, it being a tribute to the movie.
  • City of Heroes provides the player with all sorts of goodies for their big board needs.
  • Star Wars Supremacy (Rebellion for some people) has you spend pretty much the entire game looking at one of these. Given the largest version of the galaxy contains 200 systems, it is surprisingly helpful.
  • In BioShock (series), you find one of these right before entering Ryan's office, with various photos, newspaper clippings and other pieces of paper, two audio logs and, to top it all off, Arc Words scrawled across it all in big red letters.
  • In Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, the American government is shown to have one of these, almost identical to the one in Dr. Strangelove. The only difference is that it uses peace signs to represent failed strikes.
  • World in Conflict has Colonel Sawyer using anything that we can gets his hands on to simulate on of these on the battlefield. Near the end he uses a month old donut and a ketchup bottle to simulate the space needle in Seattle when they're moving in to stop US High Command from having to Nuke it to prevent Chinese reinforcements getting into the US Mainland.
  • In Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek, one wall of the main character's hotel room is taken up by scribbles and arrowed circles connecting various facets of the case. When you've found enough evidence on a particular point and stick it up on the wall, the game opens up a new point on the chart for you to investigate.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • A holographic version in the Lancers war room in Project 0.
  • Parodied in Casey and Andy, where J.J.'s whiteboard always appears whenever she needs its assistance with some exposition.
    • This ability is likely genetic in nature, since Quantum Cop has his chalkboard, which appears whenever he needs to explain physics.
  • Two versions of a Big Board show up in Erfworld. Stanley has a tactical table with real-time intelligence and images generated by his linked casters; Ansom uses a more prosaic map-and-counters representation of his available intel.
  • In this Order of the Stick comic, Vaarsuvius explains why there will be no more random encounters that day, using a chalkboard that just happens to be there.
  • Girl Genius: Castle Wulfenbach has one here, as does Castle Heterodyne (seen here when the map was still damaged, and here after some repairs are made).


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Wile E. Coyote of Looney Tunes likes to use a chalkboard to plan his Road Runner traps.
    • Napoleon Bonaparte uses a table-mounted map to plot military strategy in the Bugs Bunny cartoon Napoleon Bunny-part. He sees Bugs on it later:

Bugs: Hey, Nappy! This has Scrabble beat a mile. You oughta patent it!

President: General, where exactly is Brainania?
General: It's uh...on The Big Board? (Gestures at said big board.)

  • Many of Dr. Drakken's lairs in Kim Possible feature one of these, as does Global Justice headquarters.
  • In The Simpsons episode where Homer goes to space, NASA (naturally) has this:

Assistant: Sir, the TV ratings for the launch are the highest in ten years.
Scientists: Yay!
Commander: And how's the spacecraft doing?
Assistant: I dunno. All this equipment is just used to measure TV ratings.

  • In Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, Mr. Whoopee explained the conundrum of the week using a collapsible animated chalkboard he called the "Three Dimensional Blackboard", or 3DBB.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Almost any depiction of Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain during World War II will have this, as it is Truth in Television. Usually women were in charge of moving the model planes around, as women were often put into those kinds of jobs.
    • This role carried on into the 1950s- Kelvedon Hatch bunker originally serving that purpose until it became a Regional Government Centre.
    • The Map Room in Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms fits the definition here.
    • The Cold War Operations Room at the RAF Air Defense Radar Museum, Neatishead, Norfolk has a pretty impressive "Big Board". This was in use until 1993 tracking Russian bombers and looking out for ICBMs, but closed when operations were moved to a new facility on the same site, and re-opened as a museum. Other parts of the site depict Fighter Command control rooms from World War II, as was originally on the site.
  • Most fictional football analysis, and many instances of real football analysis, will use this. For some of the Real Life instances, the TV screen itself is the whiteboard - the sketching is done directly over the footage, meaning a transparent "board." (The miracles of Blue Screens...)
    • ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper calls his list of the best draft prospects "The Big Board." He probably doesn't have a physical board in his office, funny as that would be, but we see the various lists on screen quite often.
  • Similarly, all TV weather maps worth their salt fall under this trope.
    • These days, TV weather maps are all computerized, but they used to be literal big boards with weather patterns drawn on them. The most distinctive example was developed by weatherman Ira Joe Fisher, who worked in Cincinnati local news for years before moving to a national morning-news show. His trademark and gimmick was a transparent weather board that he stood behind, effortlessly writing backwards on it (which was forwards to the audience) to draw weather patterns, write the forecast, and top it off with a daily cartoon.
  • NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Directorate Operations Center. Reality Is Unrealistic and it is less impressive than fictional ones. It was even much less impressive in the past, when most movies were made about it. Only recently did it actually install large wall displays.
    • Maybe that was just the one they wanted us to see.
  • The New York Stock Exchange (fittingly nicknamed the "Big Board") has these all over the place, though with a lot more running around and shouting from the spectators than in the above examples.
    • And never ending teletype ticker stock quotes mostly in place of tactical/strategic combat information displays.
  • These are essential parts of any naval Combat Information Center (CIC), particularly in US ships equipped with Aegis, an automated missile defense system.
    • Likewise, naval engineering spaces, such as Propulsion Plant control stations and Engineering Central Control will have big boards showing the status of the ships electrical grid and propulsion plant equipment.
  • Anderson Cooper's giant magical mystery touchscreen of electoral results, from CNN's election coverage.
  • Mission Control at NASA and its russian counterpart may be THE Real Life versions of this.
    • Pretty much the archetypal Real Life example, really. And one of the few that's at least as cool as most fictional examples.
      • It is not a stretch to say that when people think of the Big Board concept, it's NASA, and not NORAD, that they're thinking of.
  • Lots of modern (post-2000 or so) hospital emergency and surgical departments now feature flat-panel monitors instead of the old whiteboards. These are linked to whatever electronic medical record system the hospital supports and automatically update to show where a patient is located, what he/she requires treatment for or what procedure is being done, what labs/imaging/etc has been ordered, and other such vital information.
  • After 9/11 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control created an Emergency Operations Center which has some big screens on the wall. Used for emergencies like swine flu tracking.
  • On a less dramatic example, conflict management exercises for diplomats often involve huge whiteboards where the relations, needs, connections, aims, and strategies of various groups can be mapped extensively to determine allies, enemies, and goals.
    • On a personal example, during one such exercise (involving a civil conflict), I managed to find an excuse to enter the room of another faction in hopes of glimpsing at their board and what their strategy was. Despite being several hours in to the exercise, the board was empty except for one thing: A frowny stick figure holding a gun with the word "BAD" written underneath and next to him, a smiling stick figure holding a flower with the word "GOOD" written underneath.
  • The Network Operations Center of just about any telecom company. The prototypical one is probably the Bell System's NOC in Bedminster, New Jersey; here's what it looked like thirty years ago, and here it is today.
    • Even a small data center will have an operations room with five or ten monitors showing traffic levels and the overall health of the network, power, cooling, and other systems.
  • A number of major railroads have these, computerized to indicate where trains are on a simplified version of their network.
  • Played absolutely straight with epic results at your typical sports book in Vegas or other mega-casinos.