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BBC Online and preparing for the Olympic Games - London 2012

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Phil Fearnley Phil Fearnley | 14:10 UK time, Tuesday, 6 September 2011

BBC Olympics website

Current BBC London 2012 portal, bbc.co.uk/2012

At the Media Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival I took part in a session about the BBC's plans for London 2012. BBC Director of 2012 Roger Mosey opened with an overview of our editorial ambitions for the Games, also announcing plans to capture key moments in Super Hi Vision and show these across three UK locations - reported here in The Guardian. I followed by presenting a 'sneak peek' of the BBC's online plans.

The BBC holds digital media rights for the Games, and more licence-fee payers than ever before are now connected: according to Ofcom 74% of people now have broadband; more than a quarter of adults (and half of all teens) own a smartphone; and one million internet-enabled TVs were sold during 2010. London 2012 provides an unparalleled opportunity to make the sporting and cultural celebration the most connected and inclusive yet.

This is also an opportunity to offer audiences unprecedented choice: last month we outlined our intention to deliver to audiences over 2,000 hours of live sport online via 24 High Definition streams - every sport, from every location on every day - but it's not just about choice of content. In line with our 'Delivering Quality First' strategy for BBC Online, we plan to make services available across four screens: computers, mobiles, tablets and connected TVs, or as Ralph Rivera has put it in the past "on whatever piece of glass you choose".

Key innovations

At Edinburgh, I talked about some of the innovations that we're experimenting with, with a view to including in the final BBC Olympics experience.

"Intelligent video"

To create a more active and immersive viewing experience when you're on the web. We plan to enrich video streams by providing context-sensitive data overlays. These overlays can then allow embedding of direct links to content. So if you're watching the fencing, for instance, you could click on the athlete's name in the data overlay on the video to jump straight to his profile page. And vice versa, through sophisticated tagging you could go direct from a leader board, into the video of a winning finish, for instance.

Dynamic curation

We're developing a new publishing platform that delivers pages that are dynamically and automatically created. Content can be tagged with an identifier that can be automatically pulled into the relevant page to provide a real-time, extensive, and trusted companion to events. We delivered a page for each country, squad and player during the World Cup in 2010 using this model and we're scaling this up for next year to deliver unparalleled up to the minute detail on each athlete, country and event. Delivering such a detailed and broad service via traditional editorial curation would be cost prohibitive.

Visual-first navigation

Pulling all this together is a user-experience based on horizontal navigation, consistent across all devices. This highly-visual "stream" allows us to give greater prominence to video and encourage browsing beyond this, making the breadth of content more accessible. Already popular in smartphone and tablet design, this natural and intuitive way to browse content is just like flicking through a magazine. Filters too, would enable users to tailor content on the page, like opting for more video according to their preferences.

Location-based mobile experience

Mobile will be integral to the way many follow events and interact with others. We'll be leveraging the distinct benefits of devices to improve London 2012 for audiences.

With half of teens now owning a smartphone (and 60% considering themselves to be 'highly' addicted to them - especially for social media) the mobile experience is going to be important for them. We envisage a digital experience that's as seamlessly social on mobile as on the web - with geo-location used to identify activity near to where users are and tools to share with friends on the move.

In the living room


The Independent summarised our plans to bring the Games into the living room
- connected TV is another area of focus.

Analysts are forecasting that around 36 million TVs with built-in internet capability will be in homes by the end of 2016, and forthcoming innovations from the likes of Google TV and platforms such as YouView will help increase the penetration of connected TV before the games.

Our BBC iPlayer product for connected TV is available on over 300 devices (most recently Sony PS3), and we recently launched a BBC News app for connected TV which we'll be rolling out across further devices this year. For the Olympics we're developing a similarly structured product, with a navigational panel allowing users to flick between the 24 live streams via their remote control, and access stories and updates in full from the internet on the living-room TV.

Beyond London 2012

These innovations don't start and end with London 2012. Many will find feet in the other products of BBC Online over time. And, we'll continue to explore ways to improve our four-screen offer - the development of broadcast technology is iterative and we're some way from realising the connected storytelling vision that Ralph Rivera has outlined in the past (where a highly social and seamless experience is enjoyed through all four screens) - but the Games provide an opportunity to take real steps in that direction.

Phil Fearnley is General Manager for News & Knowledge, BBC Future Media responsible for the delivery of the Digital Olympics.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    "announcing plans to capture key moments in Super Hi Vision and show these across three UK locations"

    Will all 3 displays be at 7680x4320 resolution? Why only 3 displays? What frame rate will it be shot at?

  • Comment number 2.

    Provisional framerate spec for Super Hi-Vision is 120p. That really is a lot of data.
    The audio spec is 24 channel (22.2) which seems extremely unlikely in a live situation!

  • Comment number 3.

    Yes but for the last BBC SHV trial they only used 60 fps - I was wondering whether they were actually going to use 120 fps this time, now that that is what Japan is aiming for. Or whether they will be using a 50 fps multiple (like 100 fps) since that might be more compatible with UK lighting (and converting down for other UK/European broadcasts).

  • Comment number 4.

    3. At 12:14 7th Sep 2011, HD1080

    I expect that the SHV coverage will in fact be produced by the technology partners under the umbrella of BBC (as the host broadcaster).
    I have only seen a SHV camera once and did not have the opportunity to ask about supported frame rates. I would be surprised if it could handle multiples of 50Hz being a Japanese demo system.
    Your point about lights is a good one, perhaps the ODA specify venue lights that are flickerless as I presume there are both PAL and NTSC based opt out cameras at many venues.
    I expect SHV 60 fps will be what we see, mainly due to the required data rates to deliver anything better. As with the 3D Wimbledon tests I expect down conversion is not an issue, it will be totally separate coverage.

  • Comment number 5.

    I am from BBC R&D and I am working with NHK on SHV. The current prototype SHV systems work at 60 frames per second (fps) progressive; however standards are being drafted for both 60 and 120 fps or 50 and 100 fps depending on the country in which it might be used. 60 fps will be the frame rate used for the Olympics mainly due to most of the SHV equipment available being early prototypes designed for use in Japan; the higher frame rate was too difficult to achieve at the time the prototypes were built.

    Research at both the BBC and NHK indicates that a shutter of around 1/300th second and a frame rate of over 90 fps is required to see continuous motion with sharp images. At 60 fps, the shutter may need to be slowed slightly to avoid motion judder.

    There are only going to be three viewing sites in the UK due to lack of equipment. The viewing sites will all show full 7680x4320 images.

  • Comment number 6.

    Thanks a lot for the answers.

    Above a certain frame rate, wouldn't it be better (ie. more accurate and more like real life), to use an open shutter, so objects move normally, without jumping (judder/stobing)?

    It seems that since HD, Europe gets the lower spec system once again - ie. the same spatial resolution but a lower maximum frame rate (like with normal HD using 50Hz instead of 60Hz in Europe). Couldn't Europe also allow eg. 150 fps (or even higher - like if you're already using a 1/300th of second shutter - surely you wouldn't need any more light to shoot at 300 fps with an open shutter?)- wouldn't that provide an improvement in motion compared to 100 fps especially on big (eg. almost wall sized) 7680x4320 screens that may be in people's homes within not much more than a decade.

    eg. BBC Research said when you increase the spatial resolution (eg. for SD->1080 line TV) you need to increase the the temporal resolution (and in a white paper showed that there were advantages to 1080p at 300 fps). But now the specs for an almost wall sized TV (where any problems with strobing/judder/unrealistic motion and blur will be made a lot more apparent) at 7680x4320 are being made, and the specs for Europe are only going to go up to 100 fps instead of higher (like other countries are getting, and as was demonstrated that 300 was superior even for 1080 line TV).

    Also, couldn't SHV footage be made available to consumer's displays in some way (since by the time the Olympics is broadcast, there should be 4K consumer displays available)?

  • Comment number 7.

    "however standards are being drafted for both 60 and 120 fps or 50 and 100 fps depending on the country in which it might be used"

    Also, as well as my comments about the advantages of higher fps above, wouldn't it be better if the standards drafted allowed (or actually mandated) multiple frame rates in all countries? eg. if Europeans are watching US shot 120 fps content, wouldn't it be displayed better at 120 fps (or a multiple of it), and for US/Japanese TVs displaying European shot SHV (say 100 fps), wouldn't it be better for them to watch it at a 100 fps multiple instead of doing format conversions?

    If the TV standards worldwide don't support mandatory display of the fps being used in the various countries, that will surely lead to lower quality TV (eg. standards conversions) and more media being made to consumers in un-necessarily converted lower picture quality formats (such as happens today on broadcast TV, optical media, online etc.).

 

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