Crystal Vision synchronizes and augments UK election night coverage

Crystal Vision provided a large number of additional interface cards, up and down converters and keyers to convert BBC Studios and Post Production (BBC S&PP) Studio D at Elstree to a communications hub and augmented reality studio. This formed the centrepiece of the BBC’s coverage of the UK General Election in May 2015.

Studio D, at over 11,000 square feet, is normally host to large production projects such as Harry Hills' Stars in Their Eyes and Children in Need. For the night of the UK’s election it was converted into a communications hub as well as the production studio for the results coverage. The audience watching through the night needed to get the results as they came in from around the country, together with informed comment and analysis.

The HD infrastructure in Studio D already uses extensive amounts of Crystal Vision products for interfacing, conversion and distribution. For the election night coverage BBC S&PP added more, including additional Crystal Vision modules to provide for large numbers of links, and to integrate and synchronize the augmented reality areas of the studio.

Around 100 outside sources came into the studio from counts and from regional centers, across a range of dedicated lines, satellite feeds and IP circuits. All were converted to HD and synchronized by Crystal Vision modules on arrival, and fed to the production gallery, to the EVS server network for time-shifting, and to the rest of the BBC news operation.

One part of the studio used augmented reality extensively, and graphics were inserted into other areas. The virtual sets were keyed into the picture using Crystal Vision Safire 3 chroma keyers, known for their very high quality and high precision keying.

The Safire 3 also has the benefit of including a variable delay line to compensate for the camera tracking process. Cameras which were not tracked for augmented reality were also delayed, using Crystal Vision ViViD 3G cards, to provide a uniform delay across the whole production. At the point of output the audio was delayed to match the video to provide precise synchronization across the complete production.

“The audience wants to know the state of the parties in any election," said Danny Popkin of BBC S&PP. “Our goal in supporting the production was first to ensure that we could go to any remote location at any time to get comments and
to see results, and second that we could interpret the results as they came in to help the audience understand the situation as it develops.

“On such a busy and unpredictable night, there is no time to worry about technology or managing delays and synchronization,” he said. “We needed the underlying technology platform to be stable and foolproof, ensuring a seamless output.”

The additional Crystal Vision hardware for this project was contained in two 2RU frames together with a VisionPanel touch-screen controller. The configuration was set up to provide redundancy: three Safire 3 keyers were required but four were supplied, for example. It achieved the design aim of zero faults on air.

Based at Whittlesford near Cambridge in the UK and with an office in the USA, Crystal Vision provides digital keyers and a full range of interface equipment including converters, synchronizersdistribution amplifiers and audio embedders to the professional broadcasting industry worldwide.