The BBC has always been one of the innovators in technology since 1936. At this time they installed TV transmitters at Alexandra Palace to launching the UK’s first sci-fi TV series, Doctor Who, in 1963 and then earlier this year they streamed live 360 footage from the Rio Olympics.
So to continue their pioneering reputation the BBC introduced BBC Taster in January 2015. BBC Taster was designed as “a space to develop its latest ideas for digital content and emerging technology”. Thus enabling them to experiment in new ways of telling stories, put new technologies through their paces and have their audiences try, rate and share the content. With this feedback they are able to further develop and have a continuous understanding in the changing media habits of the public.
They have transported viewers on immersive journeys through VR and 360 degree videos with the likes of:
- Coming face-to-face with the largest dinosaur on earth with David Attenborough.
- Stepping out onto the Strictly Come Dancing dance floor.
- Rio Olympics 2016 with BBC sport.
- Queen’s eye view of Trooping the Colour.
‘Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur’ 360 degree
At the age of 90 Sir David Attenborough is once again at the forefront of filming technology with his ‘Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur’. The BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol created a four minute 360 film as part of a programme that reconstructed the Titanosaur which was believed to be the biggest dinosaur to have ever walked the planet.
To demonstrate the enormity of the still growing dinosaur the BBC thought that the only way to express this was to produce it in a 360° immersive experience, where you can stand alongside the Titanosaur with Sir David as your personal guide.
Paul Deane a BBC’s producer said, “It’s our highest production value 360° film and we hope it takes the viewer on a unique journey, with Sir David as host and driver. The sense of scale, particularly when viewed on a headset, can only be achieved in VR.”
When Sir David Attenborough viewed the film for the first time he said “wow” “I wish there was more of it”.
Sam Hume, the producer/director said “In the film you’re transported to a moonlit night some 100 million years ago, when the biggest of all dinosaurs roamed. It was great for us to visualise this astounding animal as it would have been, walking through its natural landscape.”
The director and producers aim of making this a 360° film was to bring the colossal dinosaur to life in an innovative and immersive way, and to the widest possible audience and they most certainly achieved this.
The 360° Strictly video which features pro dancers taking to the floor in an amazing choreographed, acrobatic performance has been viewed 170,693 times in the last year on YouTube. VR has been dubbed a boys club but judging by the comments underneath the YouTube video, female strictly fans love the experiment.
The BBC used a bespoke rig of micro cameras to enable the strictly viewers the Dave Arch and his bands’ eye view of the episode’s opening number. It wasn’t just the dancers that had to have their dancing feet on and know the choreography, so did the camera man to enable him to move around the dance floor filming.
The BBC’s innovation manager for comedy, entertainment and events, Christopher Nundy, was asked “Why Strictly?”, he replied “Other than wanting to aim high and work with an award winning programme,” “the content lends itself readily to a 360 piece; amazing visuals made up of high energy movement and numerous points of interest throughout.”
“Jason Gilkison saw the potential of the format and in sharing our enthusiasm; he has put together a stunning routine for the professional dancers, giving points of interest in all areas of the dancefloor. The routine plays to the strengths of 360 whilst always keeping the viewers in the studio and at home as the main focus. A rig was positioned in such a way to not cause too much of an obstruction to the audience or impede on the dancers performance” Christopher Nundy.
When it comes to technology the main difference is that VR is more interactive and immersive than 360 degree video. However, filmed correctly both techniques have the amazing power to inspire the imaginations and give viewers a sense of presence. This give companies like the BBC the ability to help make audiences understand important current affairs, news, science and history topics or give them a new perspective.