Putting Walford on the map

EastEnders Blog Team

If you were watching The One Show earlier, we hope you were amazed to see BBC Television Centre transformed into a giant projection screen to celebrate the launch of BBC One’s Christmas schedule. Iconic shows such as Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing and, of course, EastEnders came alive using state of the art technique known as projection mapping, which works with the shape of buildings themselves to create highly unusual effects.

To discover how it was done, we caught up with Evan Grant, founder of interactive installation specialists Seeper - situated in the nation's favourite part of the capital. "We're located in East London - so we're actually EastEnders, Evan reveals.”We're just around the corner from E20... I can see the Queen Vic out of the window! We've been going about 14 years now, but the projection mapping is a more recent thing - in the last four or five years really."

Although we suspect he's is pulling our leg about his proximity to the Vic, Evan certainly seems enthused about working with such an iconic building and TV shows. What was his brief for the project?

"The brief was primarily to do something that celebrated the launch of Christmas - the idea being that the unofficial launch of Christmas is when the BBC launches its Christmas. It was also connected to the fact that Television Centre is changing in use next year, so there was a certain degree of wanting to be nostalgic - to celebrate the architecture and the iconic nature of the building and to share that with the viewers."

And how about the EastEnders aspect of the sequence? What inspired that? "The main thing that stood out for us for EastEnders was obviously the theme, and the fact that the drum beat is probably the most iconic theme or mnemonic on television really. So we immediately started thinking about what we could do in terms of motion and animation to work with that."

"One of the things that works really, really well with projection mapping is creating the illusion of something extruding out of the building. So we made the decision to use the beats from the theme tune as triggers to have sections of the building fly forward - and then use the windows and the geometry of the building to try and form the Thames as a recreation of that iconic opening slide."

Big Switch-on

With the idea approved, the next stage is to turn it into reality. "We take an architectural plan of the building, or if one doesn't exist, we then do a laser scan of it. We create a 3D model in the computer, which obviously looks like Television Centre, and we then create the content on that model - transforming it, distorting it, moving it and whatever else we need to do with it. And then we play that back out onto the building and re-align it to the architectural geometry."

With festivities on the BBC is well and truly launched, will Evan be able to finally put his feet up and enjoy what promises to be the best Christmas Walford's ever had? "Of course, yeah. I wouldn't miss it!"

Watch The One Show on BBC iPlayer (available until 18th December 2012).

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