Strictly Come Dancing goes 360

Strictly Come Dancing dancers on the stage, as viewed through the 360 camera The aim is to bring Strictly's world-class production to a one-off virtual reality experiment, giving audiences a unique view

Strictly Come Dancing is the first BBC Entertainment show to experiment with virtual reality and 360 degree video.

Using special cameras, the aim is to deliver a new experience from the centre of the Strictly dance floor, giving fans a never seen before perspective of the professional dancers, the judges and the studio audience.

"This is the first time that the BBC will truly be able to give our audience the chance to enter and be part of the Strictly dance floor," said Christopher Nundy, Innovation Manager, BBC Entertainment, Comedy and Events.

"Working with the Strictly team, BBC Entertainment, Research and Development and the production company Rewind; this has been a genuine collaboration across the industry to truly innovate in the heart of our Saturday primetime schedule."

'Best seat in the house'

Strictly Come Dancing, produced by BBC Productions' Entertainment team has a history of innovation and engaging its audience with new immersive experiences. It was an early adopter of high definition and produced stereoscopic 3D specials for broadcast on the BBC HD Channel.

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Placing the camera in the middle of the floor was a new challenge for us choreographically”

End Quote Jason Gilkison, Director of Choreography

The programme has taken advantage of improved camera technology and new ways to watch 360 films in order to bring these innovative new techniques to a wider audience.

Research from BBC Research & Development and external industry sources indicates that 360 degree is particularly effective at engaging audiences when it provides a "best seat in the house" experience with limited cut points.

Andy Corp, Head of Technology, TV Technology, BBC Engineering said: "The immersive nature of Virtual Reality 360 is of particular interest to us because it offers audiences the chance to interact with content in ways which are complementary to traditional TV broadcast.

"It also provides us with an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of workflows which are common to many digital platforms - and we share this knowledge with the industry through our many partnership and outreach programmes."

Strictly Come Dancing dancers on the stage It's part of wider experiments from across the BBC to explore content of the future and deliver the benefits of emerging technology to audiences
Easy and accessible

During the pre-production process the team have had to overcome numerous challenges generally taken for granted in the traditional recording and delivery format, including how best to position the 360 degree camera rig to capture as much of the action as possible whilst remaining at the optimum distance to allow for perfect multi-camera stitching between shots.

Working with the production team, the Director of Choreography, Jason Gilkison, who shared enthusiasm for the project, put together a stunning routine highlighting points of interest in all areas of the dancefloor. The routine plays to the strengths of 360 whilst always keeping the viewers at home as the main focus.

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Always keeping the viewers at home as the main focus”

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Jason said: "Currently in its 13th series, Strictly Come Dancing has built up a loyal fan base who are always looking for new ways to experience the show. Using the 360 degree camera has created an incredible opportunity for us to give Strictly fans a unique and unforgettable way to be a part it.

"Placing the camera in the middle of the floor was a new challenge for us choreographically as it meant that the routine needed to be constantly moving in every direction.

"As well as giving the live audience and viewing public a full and beautiful routine, we wanted to make sure that those wanting to view through the 360 camera would be able to see things not necessarily picked up on our studio cameras.

Strictly Come Dancing dancers on the stage Strictly is the first BBC Entertainment show to experiment with virtual reality and 360 degree video

"This new technology means that Strictly fans can view the routine several times and see something different on every watch, even what the cameras and backstage crew are doing during the performance! It really has helped to create one of the most memorable moments in Strictly history."

With the launch of the YouTube 360 player, the content was able to be streamed directly on there, increasing the reach to anyone with a computer, smartphone or tablet and removing the necessity for any speciality software, downloads or equipment to enjoy the experience.

For anyone wishing to view as an immersive experience, there is also the option to view in dual eye mode via a smartphone and headset.

There is a lot of work still to be undertaken in this area with this project being one of the first trials for the BBC to this level and will help the organisation in its learning and approach to immersive content production.

With high-resolution devices due for launch in 2016, there is the expectation for potential future use for this experimental content and the BBC will retain the master source files which would allow us to recreate and deliver to those platforms when necessary.

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