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The Big Board

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Don't be fooled. They're actually just playing Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.

"Are you aware of what a serious breach of security that would be? He'll see everything! He'll see the Big Board!"
General "Buck" Turgidson, Dr. Strangelove

A display (whiteboard, blackboard, chart, map, 3D hologram, 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. The Strategist, Insane Admiral, and The Brigadier tend to argue standing around this variety while in The War Room. General Ripper has a bad habit of breaking the pieces that stand for enemy troops. Chessmasters may use a literal chess board.

It also includes "vertical plotting boards". 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 the standard "actor's face behind a sea of equations" shot. Also included are dioramas, which are simply models of buildings or areas.

May be used as an Exposition Diagram or Spreading Disaster Map Graphic.

Note that Reality Is Unrealistic and most examples of this look far more dramatic in media than in Real Life.

Compare Holographic Terminal, Ominous Multiple Screens, Room Full of Crazy, String Theory, Model Planning, Planning with Props.

Not to be confused with Big Bad, the game board used on the game show Press Your Luck, or the level of the same name from Wario Land 4. See also Prop.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In DC Comics' Booster Gold, the Time Masters' chalkboard not only mentions the characters' plans, but gives away hints of the future of The DCU.
  • A reverse-subversion in Dilbert: an individual who admits he cannot explain anything without a whiteboard to diagram things. When he tries to give a presentation without a whiteboard, he ends up making ape-like noises and imitating a chimpanzee.
  • These appeared frequently in The Far Side, usually in a science lab with a nonsensical equation or diagram written thereupon.
  • In Gotham Central, the Major Crimes Unit of the Gotham City Police Department has a whiteboard which lists detectives and the cases they are assigned to (currently open cases written in red, closed cases written in black). Charlie Fields, an MCU detective, once proposed putting Batman up on the board and assigning him all the cases that had gone cold or been abandoned by their officers. However, Charlie did not mean for this to be a compliment or show of faith to Batman, but as a mark of shame for the MCU by highlighting that they needed an outsider to do their jobs for them.
  • The very first issue of The Simpsons has a shout-out to Doctor Strangelove (see Film, below), with the mayor's office apparently having both a war room and an accompanying big board of their own. Chief Wiggum fills the role of General Buck Turgidson, refusing to let Marge see it (she's there to help them find and subdue a giant-sized Homer).

    Fan Works 
  • In Crack Investigator Harry has a "Wall of Clues" in his office. On one occasion Luna strings yarn over the pushpins to form the outline of an adult female Crumple-Horned Snorkack.
  • In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, Miu has one regarding the good guy's plan for the second day in Kyoto in the Den-Liner.
  • In Hunt Harry and Hermione have a clue wall in one of the guest cabins at the Centre Parcs.
  • In A Marauder's Plan Sirius has a blackboard in the parlor at 12 Grimmauld Place which contains a plan for clearing his name and obtaining custody of Harry, as well as drawings of Remus and Harry's father.
  • In Oblivious Harry and Hermione cover one of the walls of the tent in the Forest of Dean with information and speculations and call it the "Wall of Mysteries."
  • Discworld fic The Price of Flight sees the Ankh-Morpork City Air Watch get its first dedicated Operations Room. As the pilots and commanding officers are Discworld Witches, Rule of Funny has the girls doing the flying, while male ground staff take over the function of pushing the little models around the plotting table with long sticks.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Atlantis: The Lost Empire opens with Milo giving a presentation on a chalkboard; he steps into the display when he accidentally erases part of it. Later, he also draws a diagram of the "trap" at the entrance to Atlantis.
    • In Hercules, Hades uses one where he puts various monster figures whom all are sent to destroy Hercules.
    • In Mulan, there's a 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 The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington uses a big chalkboard while trying to figure out the "formula" for Christmas.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 1941 (1979): U.S. Army air defense center has plane models on a large flat map.
  • Apollo 13 has a couple of variations:
    • The more traditional (trope-wise) Big Board is up at the front of Mission Control, variously showing plot-relevant information about the status of the mission (e.g., center engine aborting early during liftoff, where the astronauts are in relation to Earth and the Moon, etc.)
    • After the explosion and initial scrambling to stabilize the situation, the camera cuts to a conference room where Flight Director Gene Kranz illustrates via drawing on a chalkboard where exactly the spacecraft was in relation to both Earth and the Moon, as well as illustrate for the audience 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. Kranz initially tried to use an overhead projector, but the light bulb blew out as soon as he turned it on.
  • Assassination of a High School President had one at the very start of the movie to explain "the elements" (cliques) of the high school.
  • Parodied in Austin Powers when Number Two says they own the factories modeled, "-and a factory in Chicago that makes miniature models of factories".
  • Back to the Future:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The windows in A Beautiful Mind that the protagonist uses to dramatically write down his mathematical work.
  • The Big Clock: When hunting fugitives, George Stroud and the staff of Crimeways magazine set up a blackboard known as 'the clue board' where they list everything they learn about the fugitive. Under Janoth's orders, George has to set one up to in an attempt to locate the mysterious 'Jefferson Randolph': even though Jefferson Randolph is actually him.
  • Billion Dollar Brain. General Midwinter sends his private army to liberate Communist-controlled Latvia, but the Soviets are waiting for them, as shown by the attack being plotted on a table map—a single black counter marked with Mindwinter's symbol, surrounded by an array of red bomber-shaped counters being moved into position around it. After Midwinter's force is destroyed, KGB colonel Stok picks up the black counter and contemptuously tosses it over his shoulder.
  • 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.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger:
  • 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.
  • Contact: Both as a child and as a professional astronomer, Jodie Foster's astronomer character relies on sticking pins into maps to keep track of locations in the universe she has made radio contact with.
  • Deepwater Horizon: Don uses this draw a diagram illustrating his idea for why the negative flow test had such a high reading, but no mud came shooting back up.
  • In the TV movie The Deliberate Stranger, the police task force set up to catch serial killer Ted Bundy has a board showing pictures of his victims. When a detective has a heart attack after working too hard on the case, he jokes that his own picture should go up there too.
  • Dr. Strangelove features big maps which follow the bombers as they start a nuclear war. Gen. "Buck" Turgidson even names the trope; see above.
  • Edge of Tomorrow has one that explains to Cage about the Mimics, in both hierarchy and why killing one of them caught him in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. After it's done, he compliments it with "Terrific presentation!" (he used to be in Public Relations).
  • The Emperor and the Assassin. King Ying Zheng is presented with an enormous map of China laid out on the floor and notices one of the mapmakers is crying — he's from a nation that Ying Zheng has just subjugated. So Ying Zheng uses the map to state his grand vision of a united China.
  • Enola Holmes: Sherlock's got a map of London on his wall marked with the movements of the money he's trying to follow marked with string. It's big enough to hide a large secret compartment behind it.
  • 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. When her lover asks how long she's been planning this, she claims it only just came to her.
  • 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.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The bridge on the USS Argo has a giant tabletop computer touch-screen which The Team in King of the Monsters stand around several times. When they're expositing, they often use the screen to display images relevant to the immediate topic, including Titan X-rays, mythography, satellite mapping (including a Spreading Disaster Map Graphic), and bio-acoustic readings.
  • Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) 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.)
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Nova Corps uses a huge holographic board for strategics.
  • Independence Day: The control room of Area 51 has several maps and displays tracking the alien ships, along with plotting which cities have been destroyed.
    Whitmore: (walks in) Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia...destroyed...
  • Indiana Jones
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark examples:
      • While teaching a class on archeology, Dr. 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 Indiana Jones and 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.
  • Iron Eagle: While planning the rescue mission, Doug, Chappy, and their crew construct a makeshift diorama of the mission area. Somehow, Chappy's lunch winds up in the middle of city...
  • Seen in quite a few James Bond movies.
    • On Her Majesty's Secret Service. During the assault on Piz Gloria, Bond finds an electronic display board detailing the locations and identities of the Manchurian Agents dispersing the Omega virus, hidden behind a cabinet in Blofeld's office. Blofeld tries to shoot Bond in the back while he's taking photos of the board with his Minox camera.
    • The Fort Knox model from Goldfinger when the titular villain explains his plan to his financial backers. Bond is actually hiding underneath the model (which lifts up from under a retracting floor) while Goldfinger is explaining the plan.
    • Diamonds Are Forever used a model map to show off Willard Whyte's empire. This comes in handy for finding the Supervillain Lair of Blofeld (who'd kidnapped and impersonated Whyte in order to take over his business interests) when the real Whyte sees there's an oil rig off Baja California that he knows he doesn't own.
    • The Man with the Golden Gun has a plotting board example in a Chinese air defence room.
    • The Silicon Valley model in A View to a Kill with a computer simulation to show exactly how the Evil Plan to flood Silicon Valley will take place. It saved the trouble of including a Just Between You and Me scene, I guess.
    • GoldenEye: MI6 headquarters has one showing a live satellite map of Siberia and Severnaya station where the stolen Tiger helicopter was tracked to along with a pair of Russian MiGs scrambled there when the alarm is sound, just before they are all hit with an EMP by the titular weapon. At the station itself, the control room also has a big board that tracks the orbit of the titular satellite (well, satellites — keen observers will note two orbits being tracked) and time left before it fires onto the station itself. The latter board is replicated in the Big Bad's base in Cuba.
    • The map of the King Pipeline in The World Is Not Enough so that they can track a pipewall-checking vehicle carrying a nuclear weapon.
    • In MI6's situation room in Casino Royale (2006), the walls and table themselves are fancy touchscreens with Viewer Friendly Interfaces.
  • The Jewel of the Nile. Joan Wilder is recruited by the North African dictator Omar to write a puff piece on him, but she's not an idiot so goes snooping around at night and finds a map table showing his plans of conquest.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service:
    • There is one next to the Kingsman table, which they use to display the first Lancelot's investigation and some disappeared VIPs. They need their AR glasses to see anything on it, which means anyone looking in doesn't see anything strange on the mirror.
    • Valentine has one in his hideout, which he and Gazelle use to run their entire operation.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 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.
  • Lorenzo's Oil: Augusto has a whiteboard charting Lorenzo's blood fat levels by month. He repeatedly draws a kitchen sink with two faucets to illustrate and then update his understanding of how the fat level balances are supposed to work.
    Micaela: I married a plumber.
    Augusto: You married a man with a simple mind, who asks simple questions.
  • 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.
  • In the movie Midway, both the Japanese and the Americans have big boards that both commanders use to plan their moves and counter moves during the battle.
  • In Ministry of Fear the Ministry of Home Security has a map of Europe that they can project things on, like the plans for Channel mines that the Nazis are trying to steal.
  • In Ocean's Eleven, Danny Ocean has a hi-tech board which he uses to display various building schematics of the casino vault.
  • The Old Guard. Ex-CIA agent Copley has several boards in his house that, at first glance, appear to be tracking the immortal protagonists across history, but are later revealed to show how they (unknowingly) saved the lives of people who would go on to change history for the better. Close-ups of what's on the board are shown during the credits.
  • 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.
  • The titular spaceship in Prometheus has a huge holographic board for strategic operations.
  • Not just one but two(!) make an appearance in time travel command center of Rewind (2013). There's a sleek, glass version in The War Room for the military brass, which is covered in post-it notes and surrounded by blinking monitors. The support staff gets a bulletin board with photos, newspaper clippings, and plenty of red yarn.
  • Sink the Bismarck! features a plotting table in the British Admiralty headquarters showing the locations of friendly and enemy warships and convoys. Major warships are even represented by small models. At the end of the movie, Captain Shepard removes the model representing the Bismarck from the table and pockets it.
  • 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.
  • Also the windows in The Social Network. If you're writing out wicked smart equations, it's better if you can see through them.
  • Spotlight: On the back wall of the Spotlight team's office, to keep track of where the pedophile priests were every year, until they realize they're dealing with way more pedophile priests than just 13 and they swap the whiteboard for a spreadsheet.
  • 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 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.
  • The Sting: With horse racing odds and results.
  • 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.
  • A couple different ones are used over the course of the Cuban Missile Crisis in Thirteen Days: one early in the film diagrams of how far the Soviet missiles in Cuba can reach (i.e., Washington), another later on plots positions of ships following the US' implementation of the blockade.
  • Top Secret!. The diorama Nigel uses to explain his plan for entering Flugendorf Castle to the other Resistance members.
  • The Japanese in Tora! Tora! Tora! use a board to help plan the attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Under Ten Flags opens with the plotting table in the British Admiralty, and various counters being removed from the board as reports come in one-after-the-other of sinkings.
  • In Von Ryan's Express, the Germans have a big board with lights indicating the status of the trains running throughout Germany.
  • In Warcraft (2016), Llane's war room's main feature is a huge table with a 3D-ish map of Stormwind and figurines to represent Horde and Stormwind legions, which humans use to plan their campaign.
  • 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.
  • 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 Werewolf Women of the SS, the Nazis have a big map of Europe, on which they appear to be playing Risk.

  • 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 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.
  • In another Jim Butcher work, Codex Alera, a large board of the map of Alera is mixed with green sand to document the spread of the Vord.
  • 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 a hit squad of Summer Court Faeries have been using loophole abuse to track him via a silver talisman presented to him as a gift in an earlier novel. To confuse them, he MacGyvers the talisman's location to be projected at random times and places via this board and the help of his cat, Mister. By the time he actually takes it out again, the hit squad chasing him is ignoring the talisman's location entirely.
    • Other characters describe the board as a "creepy voodoo doll of Chicago".
  • One of the first appearances 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. (Although the Fighter Command HQ filter room at Bently Priory—see Real Life, below—predates both.)
  • Isaac Asimov's "Let's Get Together": Lynn taking a moment to look at a current world map on his wall is used by the narrative to explain the division of the world powers and their influence, describing how it used to be white for "Us" and red for "Them", but the colours had faded/changed to be a mild green against a light pink. Their stalemate is emphasized by telling the audience that the last exchange of territory was Formosa and East Germany some eighty years ago.
  • 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.
  • Septimus Heap: Flyte has an Observatory with a huge screen that displays a view of the countryside, including the Castle, and can be modified to see smaller objects.
  • In Starworld by Harry Harrison, this trope is used to highlight the differences between the two enemy commanders for the first ever battle in space. The arrogant Earth admiral has an Awesome, but Impractical holographic tank, while his counterpart in the rebel fleet has a Boring, but Practical version that just tells him the essential information.
  • You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger by Roger Hall. Hall attends a briefing where there's a magnificent map of German-occupied France covering a wall. Unfortunately it's protected by a sheet of celluloid, and a colonel sends the whole lot up in smoke when he uses his lit cigar as a map pointer.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Babylon 5
    • Big Boards appear occasionally, often on warships. One episode has an EarthForce general planning an operation on the table form.
    • On the station itself there is a Big Board in The War Room, depicting friendly and hostile force dispositions throughout the entire galaxy.
    • Minbari warcruisers are shown to have a 3D holographic version where everything in the room except for the spot where the viewers are standing is turned into a projection of the battlefield. Captain Sheridan is suitably impressed the first time he's introduced to it. Meanwhile the smaller White Stars have a much more modest version that essentially serves as a viewscreen similar to the ones in Star Trek, in this case a hologram projected in front of the actual window.
  • Battlestar Galactica has the Whiteboard of Extinction. If it counts, the big strategic planning board with all the little models as well. Astute viewers will notice that at some point during the first season, someone in the Fleet took time to create new miniatures of the updated Cylon Raiders, replacing the Classic-era ones they used earlier in the show.
  • 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.
  • Blackadder:
    • It 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 "Goodbyeee".
    • Spoofed in "Private Plane" where Gen. Melchett proudly shows off a table containing a display of the amount of land recaptured during the latest "Big Push" a one-to-one scale (17 square feet).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Homecoming", 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.
    • 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 in "First Date".
    • Andrew's big board for explaining the First Evil to new Potential Slayers in "Get it Done". 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!
  • 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. Beckett has one in her house for the unsolved murder case of her mother.
  • Chuck has his own conspiracy wall hidden on the back of his framed Tron poster.
  • Community - Abed, taking a class analyzing the tv show "Who's the Boss?", is challenged by the professor to teach the class to put him in his place. Instead, Abed, with a solid argument backed up with a painfully complex formula written on the blackboard, proves conclusively who the boss is.
  • 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."
  • Most versions of CSI, Law & Order and other elaborate Police Procedurals. Corkboards detailing the organization of drug gangs are also a staple of the Major Crimes Unit office.
  • 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 Dexter there is a large whiteboard 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.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries it is first used by the brilliant but annoying suspect in S1:E8 Game of Champions to prove the game was rigged. Later in the episode Dr. Blake uses it to draw connections between the two victims and all the suspects.
  • Doctor Who. Played for Laughs in "Deep Breath". Jenny is posing in a revealing dress for Madame Vastra who is working at an easel, but then she reveals it's a map of London charting the recent cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion. Jenny is not amused.
    Jenny: I thought you were painting me!
    Vastra: I was working.
    Jenny: Well, why am I posing then?
  • ER has the doctors writing their cases in a transparent board.
  • On FlashForward (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.
  • 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.
  • 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 copied from the scene in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) where Klaatu corrected the equation on Professor Barnhardt's chalkboard. It's not as if Galactica 1980 ever did anything original.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Stannis' council chamber on Dragonstone contains a table carved and painted in the shape of Westeros, around which he plans his maneuvers. Queen Daenerys makes use of it when she occupies Dragonstone herself.
    • Robb's map layouts and carved sigils to mark troop deployments gets the most close-ups of any map.
    • Roose and Ramsay also strategize around one in "Kill the Boy".
    • After Cersei seizes power, she has a map of Westeros painted on the floor, a sign of her unrealistic ambition at a time when the odds of Lannister survival (let alone success) seem hopeless. Jaime and Cersei walk back-and-forth across it as they strategize how to fight their enemies.
  • Get Smart. In "The Amazing Harry Hoo", the Chief shows Maxwell Smart a map of the United States covered in pushpins representing identified KAOS agents. Max, however notices that:
    Max: The position of all these KAOS agents can be explained. All except one.
    The Chief: Which one is that?
    Max: What's this guy doing up here in Manitoba?
    (Max removes the pin that is on Manitoba. The map falls to the floor, pins scattering everywhere.)
    The Chief: (exasperated) He was holding the map up!!
    • The same gag is recycled in "Leadside", only this time it's the Chief who causes the board to fall down.
  • This was liberally used on Glenn Beck's show, to the point where it frequently shows up in stock parodies of him.
  • 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, we see it in other episodes later on.
  • Hawaii Five-0 has the touch screen table version with plasma screens.
  • 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.
  • The Baltimore Police Department Homicide Unit Homicide: Life on the Street uses a white board with victims' names on it to track case progress.
  • 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. When things get REALLY desperate, House uses a wall in an airport terminal, much to the displeasure of the security.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, the gang uses a March Madness-like bracket on a chalkboard to determine which of the 200+ women Barney has slept with is trying to ruin his life. They narrow it down to a Final Four who he treated the most poorly (such as going camping with one woman and then stealing her car and leaving her stranded in the woods).
  • Not long after the nuclear attack on Jericho (2006), 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.
  • Knight Rider. Michael Knight goes undercover with a group of people being trained for an unknown criminal caper. At one point he sneaks into the leader's office and finds a board marked with the schematics of a high security prison. Michael passes on the information to Devon who alerts the prison governor. Then when it's time for The Caper to be revealed, their leader reveals the actually their next job after they've completed the one they've been training for, and flips over schematic to reveal another one underneath.
  • 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.
  • 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 Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Hall of Lore from Numenor has a table carved with the shape of Middle-earth. Galadriel discovered with its help that Sauron's mark was in fact a Map All Along indicating the Southlands.
  • 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.
  • The Man in the High Castle: When General Canada explains the impending Nazi attack to his soldiers, he demonstrates his defense plans on a huge planning board with little figures.
  • 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.
    • In the revival series a General Ripper is fooled into making an Engineered Public Confession by programming the electronic display board to make it appear that the illegal invasion he planned has gone ahead on schedule. After he makes a public broadcast boasting of his success, he discovers otherwise.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: So many chalkboards:
    • Detective Murdoch has a big blackboard in his office in Station House Four. He uses it for collecting leads, visualizing crime scenes, or explaining his ideas of new forensic methods. He sometimes sticks there photos of victims, reports of related older crimes, newspaper articles and so on. In some cases when he's away from his office (Anna Fulford's pub in Bristol in "The Murdoch Identity", the train bar car in "Midnight Train to Kingston", the local inn in "All That Glitters"), he borrows a chalkboard for this purpose.
    • A chalkboard also makes an occasional appearance at the city morgue. Sometimes it has drawings and notes from an unrelated case, but Dr. Grace uses it to show her work with blood typing in "Tour de Murdoch".
    • Crabtree uses the backside of Murdoch's board in "Loch Ness Murdoch" to lay out his investigation of the "Miss Purity" pageant. He turns it around to reveal his work, but Brackenreid tells him to turn it back to the notes on the "monster" inquiry.
    • In the B-plot of "Murdoch Takes Manhattan", Brackenreid and Crabtree are investigating a murder at a private club of "puzzlers" and Crabtree suggests making a chart and using Murdoch's chalkboard. Brackenreid tells Crabtree to get a chalkboard for him. Later, Brackenreid gets frustrated and pushes over the board, which in turn breaks his bottle of scotch. Even so, Brackenreid's Imagine Spot that breaks the case shows him back at that board erasing one line of the chart that so frustrated him earlier.
    • George Crabtree's ultimate wedding present to Murdoch is a small chalkboard for his home, seen in William and Julia's suite at the Windsor Hotel.
  • Seen frequently on MythBusters when the plan on how to test the myth is illustrated for the watchers. Later episodes (especially the "sudden sobriety" myths and the "beer goggles" myth) have featured a tricked out, digital touchscreen big board.
  • NCIS has one in the form of a plasma screen TV hooked up to the computers, as well as the Multiple Threat Alert Center. Incidentally, the MTAC is a real thing, although the one on the show looks an awful lot like a converted movie theatre. NCIS: Los Angeles has their own in the form of a ginormous touch screen interface. (This also gives Eric the opportunity to object to a dodgy character being let into the OSP by pointing out that "She'll see the big board!")
  • Newsnight used to have a sandpit to illustrate military activities. Peter Snow's enthusiasm for manipulating it was famous. War reports lost something when they switched to CGI.
  • In NewsRadio, 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".
  • Played for Laughs on The Office (US). In "Did I Stutter," we see that Dwight has a hierarchy board that shows who's in charge, as well as pink lines showing the women's menstrual cycles.
  • Paul Merton: The Series: In one sketch, a gang plans a bank robbery this way, and as it drifts further from its origins they keep producing implausibly specific models to add to the map to illustrate their points.
  • Person of Interest.
    • Root has a rare Oh, Crap! moment when she's snooping around the restricted floor of a mental hospital, peeks in a window and sees Greer standing in front of an enormous computer screen showing Samaritan's worldwide operations. She's just stumbled into their secret headquarters.
    • Team Machine has a battered acrylic board set up in the abandoned library they use for their headquarters, on which they put pictures and information on the Number they're currently working on. When they have to Run or Die in the Downer Ending of Season 3, the board gets smashed as the library is stormed by a SWAT team.
  • 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.
  • In Power Rangers in Space, the team used a chess board with figures of themselves and The Psycho Rangers to plot their strategy against them and keep track of which ones were destroyed. This was notable because it set off some rather frantic Epileptic Trees about the possibility of the Psycho figures used might have been prototypes for a series of Psycho Ranger action figures that never materialized.
  • Press Your Luck had one of these as the central element; filled with prizes, cash, and Whammies looking to humiliate you. Note that this version wasn't like most of these other examples; it ran off slides (at one point, they had to stop taping in the middle of an ep and finish the next day after a slide blew up) and had patterns, which Michael Larson notoriously exploited to have a seemingly endless run at the board, which ended up being two episodes long; they changed it after that.
    • Its beta version, Second Chance (1977) had the same type of board but used devils instead of Whammies.
  • Lampshaded on Psych: when Shawn is writing on a board, he explains that he "saw it on NUMB3RS".
  • Stargate 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.
  • Star Trek: The windows of the various starships, being made of Unobtanium rather than plain old glass, doubles as its big board, and is most often used as a video conferencing device. The Captain ordering his communications officer to put an incoming message "on screen" has pretty much happened at least Once per Episode in most episodes. Though in most cases, the "window" is actually a viewscreen; it wasn't until the 2009 reboot that the bridge gained actual windows onto which the viewscreen functions were projected.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation also introduced the large systems monitor display in Main Engineering, which ostensibly showed the current status of the ship's systems. (Usually it was just the default fixed, backlit cutaway image of the Enterprise-D, with the occasional overlaid or backlit effect; on rare occasions, it would be used to display other images as though it were a regular viewscreen.) There was also its companion piece, a table which had a large surface display on each end, and with which the crew interacted much more. The wall monitor would appear on other starships in the franchise, usually at the rear of the bridge, opposite the viewscreen. In addition, one alternate version of the Enterprise-D in the episode "Parallels" had a free-standing clear display behind the tactical station.
    • Star Trek: Voyager. Season 4 saw the introduction of the Astrometrics lab, which also helped avert the 2-D Space trope via a wraparound holographic wall screen. As per usual for this trope, it's used to provide exposition visually.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise has the air-hockey table at the back of the bridge. It's often used for planning away missions.
  • Treadstone. Ellen Becker is told that Treadstone, far from being a defunct Cold War program, has been reactivated by the CIA. She's brought into the operations room which has a large wallscreen showing multiple assassinations being carried out all over the world as she's watching.
  • In Trial & Error, when Josh the defense lawyer sets up one, his helpers excitedly chant "Murderboard" over and over with motions until he joins in.
  • 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.
  • Vera: Vera's first action on returning to the squad room after viewing the Victim of the Week is to set up a board with a photo of the victim, photos of suspects, timelines and whatever clues they have. It is added to over the course of the investigation as new facts are discovered.
  • The see-through one from Waking the Dead.
  • Wedding Season: The police have a board up for the Delaney case, with Stefan and Katie as the suspects in the middle and strings connecting them to other pieces of information and evidence. Stefan lampshades it as a board out of The Wire.
  • 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."
  • Without a Trace tracks the missing person's movements on a big whiteboard.
  • The Baltimore Police Department Homicide Unit in The Wire uses a white board with victims' names on it to track case progress. Each squad has a column on the board. Names written in red are unsolved; the are rewritten in black after the detectives solve the case. Sgt. Landsman gets very upset when someone—especially one of his detectives—"puts red on the board" (as when McNulty forced Homicide to eat the case of the canister of trafficked sex workers in Season 2, or when Lester Freamon opened up the vacant houses where the Stanfield Organization was disposing of bodies at the end of Season 4); he is similarly happy when his detectives "turn red to black."
    • Both the board in Homicide and The Wire were taken from an actual tool of the Baltimore PD that David Simon observed when he was embedded with Homicide while writing his book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (on which the Homicide TV series is based and which heavily informed the police plotlines of The Wire). The Baltimore PD Homicide Unit tried to take down the real board, citing poor morale and the fact that it encouraged rivalry between detectives instead of information-sharing, but ended up leaving it in its various precincts after officers stated that it was a useful tracking tool.
  • The X-Files:
    • Mulder's office has bulletin boards and walls covered with pictures, photos and newspaper clippings concerning the paranormal and the cases Mulder and Scully were working on. Considering Mulder's interest in the paranormal and the level of his obsession, some might consider his office to be a Room Full of Crazy.
    • The X-Files team would often provide a carousel slide show to present a case to each other or to other agents or detectives. Somehow plain old fashioned photographs are not good enough for them.
    • The FBI are using a big chalk blackboard for a hostage negotiation in "Duane Barry".

    Tabletop Games 
  • This is what miniatures are for. Even in games that don't need them, it's common to use minis—or whatever toys you have lying around—to illustrate combat, since otherwise it takes some doing to keep track of the relative positions of the combatants.

  • 1776 features a board showing the votes of the various American colonies. There is also a gigantic calendar showing the date.
  • Joseph Beuys produced many blackboards as art pieces. The blackboards were often physical receipts of Beuys' performance/lectures providing dramatic exposition of the intersections of art and theory.
    • "I know a lot before a start an action. I know a lot about the necessity of the general idea of sculpture, but I don’t know anything about the process in which the action will run. When the actions runs, my preparation works, because I am prepared to do a thing without knowing where it goes. You see, it would be a very uninteresting thing – it would have nothing to do with art – if it were not a new experiment for which I have no clear concept. If I had a clear concept of solving the problem, I would then speak about the concept and it wouldn’t be necessary to make an action. Every action, every artwork for me, every physical scene, drawings on the blackboard, performance, brings a new element in the whole, an unknown area, an unknown world." (Interview with Kate Horsefield, 1980, as quoted in Energy Plan for the Western man - Joseph Beuys in America, compiled by Carin Kuoni, Four Walls Eight Windows, New York, 1993, p. 73)

    Video Games 
  • Most of the Ace Combat games have regular mission briefings and debriefings given on one of these.
  • In BioShock, 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.
  • City of Heroes provides the player with all sorts of goodies for their big board needs.
  • The Inquisitor of Dragon Age: Inquisition has a "War table" in The War Room which has a map of Ferelden and Orlais that the Inquisition uses to plan battles during cutscenes and the player uses to choose which missions to undertake.
  • In both Enigmatis games the detective has one of these. In The Ghosts of Maple Creek, one wall of the main character's hotel room contains scribbles and arrowed circles connecting various facets of the case. When you find enough evidence on a particular point and stick it up on the wall, the game opens up a new point to investigate. The Mists of Ravenwood has an old tool board which serves a similar purpose.
  • 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.
  • Fallout 3 has this in its Broken Steel DLC with the wall map in the Citadel marking the locations of the remnant Enclave bases.
  • In GoldenEye 007, photographing or destroying the Big Board tends to be an objective. Or not destroying. It gets complicated.
  • Harpoon is essentially like this.
  • Introversion Software:
    • 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.
  • Kerbal Space Program has a Tracking Station and an in-flight map view that allow you to see statistics on the various bodies in the Kerbin system and monitor the progress of your active flights.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The loading screen of Strange Cases 4: The Faces of Vengeance shows a bulletin board with tons of photos and notes and a bunch of sticks spelling out "NO ESCAPE" on top of it. Later on in the game, the main character finds a stickless version of this same board which doubles as a Stalker Shrine devoted to her life and detective skills.
  • Star Wars: Rebellion has you spend the game looking at one of these. Given the largest version of the galaxy contains 200 systems, it is surprisingly helpful.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown has the Situation Room, which has a big map of the world detailing your strategic situation - your base location, where you have satellite coverage and interceptors (and how many), and the status of Council members (whether they're still onboard the project and how bad the panic is in their country). Enemy Within adds EXALT to the mix with the presence of agent cells in countries, and the whole process of elimination based on intel against these cells to find their HQ. The Geoscape has most of these informations as well as available missions, and you can pan the Hologlobe around to keep track of thingsnote .

  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • A holographic version in the Lancers war room in this scene Project 0.
  • Unsounded: Queen Sonorie uses a pymaric board depicting the city of Grenzlan to remotley oversee the liberation of the city from the Aldish military. Most of it appears to be glowing holograms but Grenzlan's khert hub is a physical model on the board.

    Web Videos 
  • The Angry Joe Show: Angry Joe has one of these on his spaceship.
  • The Doctor Who "webisode" Dreamland had the Colonel Ripper Of The Week show one of these to the Doctor. It consisted of the US marked in blue, and the USSR in bright red with a giant hammer and sickle on it and the rest of the world in grey.
  • Episode 1 of Echo Chamber has one where the cast writes their ideas about how to explain the recursive nature of the Show Within a Show.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Guru", the Earth Kingdom generals have an enormous world map to help them plan their invasion of the Fire Nation. Instead of using a stick to move the little pieces representing various troops, they just earthbend the pieces across the board.
  • Red Tornado uses a chalkboard for the exact same purpose in Batman: The Brave and the Bold's Christmas Episode.
  • Darkwing Duck: In "In Like Blunt", when Blunt asks if he has a map, Darkwing shows him a huge one that occupies one wall of his lair. He is flabbergasted when Blunt draws on it with a marker.
  • Unsurprisingly one's used on the aircraft carrier Donald's stationed on in DuckTales (1987). It evidently sees the most use letting the admiral act out fantasies of blowing up enemy ships.
  • 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.
  • Used in the Sebben and Sebben training film in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. " so much more. More potent, powerful and frightening." Cue picture of globe with markers all over it.
  • Many of Dr. Drakken's lairs in Kim Possible feature one of these, as does Global Justice headquarters.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Wile E. Coyote likes to use a chalkboard to plan his Road Runner traps.
    • Napoléon 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!
  • As of the season 5 premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Twilight Sparkle has a magical crystal map of Equestria in her home. It can send her and her friends to different places to solve friendship problems.
  • Pinky and the Brain once had an episode where Brain creates his own country, and the U.S. tries to go to war with it. Cut to a scene between the President and the Military H.Q.:
    President: General, where exactly is Brainania?
    General: It's uh... on The Big Board? [gestures at said big board]
  • 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 a first-season episode of Superfriends, Batman and Robin used an anagram board to identify the author of a message attributed to "Roy LaPost".
  • In Teen Titans (2003), when someone stole the Red X suit and identity, the Titans wrote their attempts to figure out who had done it on a whiteboard. This allows them to sneak in a Mythology Gag, as one of the names is Jason Todd.
  • 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 
  • 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.
    • Strategic Air Command HQ owned the Trope Namer; they called their Big Board the Big Board. Shown in great detail in USAF film "Power of Decision". It's so big they use forklifts to reach the upper sections.
  • 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...)
  • These are essential parts of any naval Combat Information Center (CIC) because of how complex running a single ship can be, especially the larger ones with complex defense systems.
    • US ships equipped with Aegis, an automated missile defense system, need one to oversee all the underlying systems that contribute to it so that if something breaks down the problem can be pinpointed fast.
    • 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.
    • All of the US aircraft carrier operations centers have one of these used for controlling flight operations on their flight decks. The boards even go so far as to use bolts and nuts to represent things related to equipment loaded onto the jets.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mission Control at NASA and its Russian counterpart may be THE archetypal Real Life example. 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.
  • The Network Operations Center of 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.
  • The new control room for the Moscow power grid looks like a movie set for a Bond movie. The original design also included a transparent conference room that descended from the ceiling, but that feature was not built.
  • After Salvador Allende was elected President of Chile, he constructed Cybersyn, an attempt to automatically control a national economy. Needless to say, it featured a couple of these.
  • The New York Stock Exchange (fittingly nicknamed the "Big Board") have these all over the place, with a lot more running around and shouting from the spectators and never ending teletype ticker stock quotes, since every second counts when it comes to making multi-million-dollar trades on prices that can change at a moment's notice. With so much stock trading taking place by computer because they're way faster than any human broker can possibly hope to be the floors and visual big board are largely kept in place for tradition's sake.
  • All TV weather maps worth their salt fall under this trope. These days they're 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.
  • During presidential elections in the US (and mid-terms to a lesser extent), pretty much every channel that's running continuous election coverage will have this trope in play to track their latest updates to which candidate/party "is projected" (no one wants to take that 0.01% risk of timeless embarrassment) to win and how close that gets them to 270 electoral votes/control of the House/Senate. Two examples stand out in particular:
    • Anderson Cooper's giant magical mystery touchscreen of electoral results, from CNN's election coverage.
    • NBC uses their own headquarters (Rockefeller Center in New York) as a Big Board. The building itself is used as a backdrop to show a bar graph of which candidate has how many electoral votes, while an outline map of the US is put on the open-air ice rink at the base of the building with each state lit up red or blue as results come in.
  • Played absolutely straight with epic results at your typical sports book in Vegas or other mega-casinos. With so many potential wagers on offer on any given day everyone there wants to see at a quick glance what the latest spread is.
  • Most fictional football analysis, and many instances of real football analysis and any other team sport, will use this since just seeing the eleven players on a field won't be enough for the casual observer to understand why that player is positioned there. 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" is used: the miracles of Blue Screens.
  • The NFL's annual scheduling process for each upcoming season used to be done by one person with a big pinboard who would slot scheduled games in certain prime time slots for certain weeks and dates. Each team's opponents and whether those games were home or away are determined as soon as the final regular season game is finished, but the actual schedule of those games needs months of moving things around to try to maximize potential audiences while accommodating both stadium availability and stick to travel rules to avoid putting any one team at too much of a disadvantage (e.g., no team should play three consecutive regular season games on the road). The process is done by computer nowadays and the room where the pinboard sits in has been preserved at the NFL's headquarters as a sort of memorial.
  • Beyond the games themselves, sports drafts by North American leagues also bring the trope into play both by the leagues themselves (what's the order, who's on the clock, who's been selected already, etc.) and by the media outlets covering them. 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.
  • Fox Sports Live uses a big screen in their studios to display many scores at once. They actually call it the Big Board, modelling it after the Big Board of the New York Stock Exchange for those who just want to see the final scores of some game scroll by and don't have time/care about whatever the commentator is talking about in that moment.
  • A number of major railroads and subway systems have these in the central control center, computerized to indicate where trains are on a simplified version of their network so that if an emergency occurs they know where it and the other trains in the system are and can get right to work on how to reroute everyone.
  • The departure and arrival boards in most airports and the busier train stations have these, showing the latest status of arrivals and departures of various flights/trains.
  • On a less dramatic level, 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.
  • Thanks to modern computer technology, any room with a projector can quickly feature one of these (meaning that this is one trope you can try at home!). Bonus points if you have a Smartboard or Smartpodium to allow you to easily "draw" on the screen with a stylus. These are Older Than They Think though: Overhead projectors do the same thing with mirrors, lightbulbs, and transparent acetate sheets, and have been in use since the 1940s. You can even use dry-erase markers to mark the screen as you lecture.