BBCi Labs Blog

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32 burndowns

  • Rob Hardy
  • 31 Jul 08, 2:49 PM

Hello! The image above shows the burndown charts we use to track project progress - the period covered is from sometime in 2003 to mid 2007. Burndown charts are one of the artefacts used in agile software development; we've been doing agile development since at least before I joined, and we've found it works tremendously well. I'll share some personal insights here.

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Support report: video aspect ratio issue on satellite Sport service

  • Rob Hardy
  • 28 Jul 08, 5:20 PM

Like any IT service, we have a continuous flow of support issues for the live service (or incidents, if you're an ITIList).  Occasionally an issue is high profile enough to garner some outside interest, and I'll report on these here.  Here's the first report.

Symptom: Aspect ratio incorrect on certain video streams (16:9 displaying anomorphically - it looks squeezed).  This applies to the videos accessible under the Sport Multiscreen.

Diagnosis: The OpenTV middleware is responsible for handling the aspect ratio, taking into account the viewers' individual settings, and the aspect ratio of the broadcast video.  If the application uses any of the OpenTV API calls to manipulate the video, then the responsibility to maintain the aspect ratio moves to the application.  In this case our new OpenTV browser used for the sports service was overriding the middleware's automatic handling of the video aspect ratio.

Resolution: Code modified so that O_video_set_auto_mode is called with AUTO_ALL, and other video manipulation functions are inhibited for fullscreen video.  Code was released to live on 15th July.

All change in Sports

  • TVP
  • 23 Jul 08, 3:21 PM

Ruhel Ali writes:

Many sports fans may have noticed a change to our digital text service on Sky, Virgin and Freeview. These changes were made to enable a more comprehensive sports area which enabled viewers to access all sport content, both text and video, from one location.

Here I'm going to write about the new service.


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What is IPTV?

  • TVP
  • 18 Jul 08, 1:43 PM

Paul Ashun writes:

The year is 2008 and IPTV projects are beginning to make their mark on the industry and imminently, our audiences. The exciting world of TV via Internet Protocols (and all that goes with it) is at our fingertips.

Within the BBC, I have set up a Future TV Platforms Special Interest Group where we share information regarding the newest developments in TV Platforms (including but not limited to IPTV).

After so much discussion I thought it would be worth giving the outside world an overview of what IPTV is.

The presentation does not aim to answer everything, but it does aim to answer questions such as:

  • What is IPTV (or is it definable while it is still emerging?)
  • How does VOD fit into IPTV
  • What are some emerging models/companies involved in IPTV/VOD
  • What technologies/formats/protocols are involved

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing What is IPTV? (PDF) (Powerpoint)

Under the bonnet: The Two Stream Quiz

  • Rob Hardy
  • 15 Jul 08, 6:01 PM

On 26th June we jointly won the 'Best Use of Interactive TV' at the New Media Age Effectiveness awards, with our colleagues in BBC Vision Multiplatform Studios; the award was for an interactive service called 'How Green Are You?' Here's the blurb: 'The Vision team produced a visually stunning quiz based on the BBC Two Series "It's Not Easy Being Green". The application allowed viewers to interact by scoring themselves on their environmental attitudes. Through seamless video switching, positive or negative feedback was given before presenting the viewer with their own individual "green audit" scores.'

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This is a good time to go under the bonnet for this show. In TV Platforms, we've built a collection of authoring tools (or products), one of which we call the Two Stream Quiz. This product has been used for many shows, such as How Green Are You, Spooks, Child of our Time, and Doctor Who: Attack of the Graske.

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Flickr on TV

  • TVP
  • 10 Jul 08, 3:27 PM

Richard Felton of BBC Research and Innovation writes:

flickr_logo.gifIn the near future we are going to see more TVs and set-top boxes which incorporate Ethernet ports. Freesat devices already have this feature and the BBC is working with the industry to standardise how MHEG applications could utilise such a connection on compatible Freeview boxes.

To investigate the possibilities of hybrid (IP & broadcast) set-top boxes, I created an application which allows the viewer to browse Flickr feeds on their television. I used a Netgem iplayer (no relation to the BBC service) box of the type used at the recent Mashed event. My MHEG application sits on a web server and the Netgem box allows me to bookmark the URL, mapping it to a channel number. The MHEG application was developed using the MHEG+ toolkit allowing me to import useful bits of code I had written for previous applications.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

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Mashed interactive TV

  • TVP
  • 7 Jul 08, 9:43 AM

Rob Foreman of BBC Research and Innovation writes:

Mashed08: London, June 21/2 2008So, Mashed is over and now that I've caught up on some sleep it's time to sit back and look at what a great success the weekend was. Of course we'd hoped that some people would want to find out about interactive TV and in the end there was more interest than we had expected.

After the talk on Saturday morning, several developers were interested in learning MHEG and turning their interactive TV ideas into reality. MHEG is the open standard middleware used on Freeview and Freesat and increasingly in other countries. From a programmer's point of view, MHEG has some interesting features; it's a declarative language and it has some quirky syntax. Although we have a tutorial and example code, there is still less easy documentation than is available for more common languages. (The official reference, ISO/IEC 13522-5:1997 "Support for base-level interactive applications", has been cruelly overlooked by Richard and Judy yet again.)

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The importance of fish in interactive TV development

  • Andrew Bowden
  • 1 Jul 08, 2:54 PM

More than once I've been met with bemused looks when someone finds out that I have a TV on my desk at work. I've never been completely sure why this should surprise people given that I work in Interactive Television! Televisions are hugely important when you work in this field - you do need to check what you're building and supporting after all!

And as BBCi now has four different services - Sky, Freeview, Virgin Media Cable and Freesat - that naturally means that each desk has a myriad of set top boxes on it, connected up to TVs via a myriad of cable. If you've ever had trouble connecting your TV to your DVD player, then you might like to imagine how much fun it is for me to connect four or five different set top boxes to the elderly 14" portable TV that sits next to my monitor.

Credit: Tarotastic

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