Archives for June 2011

Open Post, Thursday 30 June 2011

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Ian McDonald Ian McDonald | 13:00 UK time, Thursday, 30 June 2011

This is an Open Post - a chance for you to say what you like about BBC Online, BBC iPlayer, and the BBC's other digital and mobile services. (As the BBC Trust has given its verdict, BBC HD picture quality is off-topic.)

It is also a chance for me to say hello. I'm Ian McDonald, and I shall be your host on this blog for a while. The BBC has let me work on some very interesting things since 2003. So it is a privilege to sit in the middle of BBC online and talk to you about the fantastic things everyone else is doing - and hear what you think of it all.

Your feedback is particularly important right now because of the impact of DQF on social media at the BBC. Nick Reynolds and I are going to change the blog a bit.

The BBC once told me that I should ask my manager three questions: what should I do more of; what should I do less of; and what should I keep on doing? Since you, the license-fee payers, are our manager, those are the questions I'd like to throw out to you.

Ian McDonald is the Content Producer, BBC Internet Blog

CBBC Newsround site relaunched

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Phil Buckley Phil Buckley | 17:00 UK time, Wednesday, 29 June 2011

When I was lucky enough to get the job of Product Manager for CBBC and CBeebies in June last year, the first thing I did was spend a number of warm summer evenings indoors looking at statistics. What could be the most popular CBBC website? The marvellous wildlife show Deadly 60? The award-winning drama Tracy Beaker? The legendary Blue Peter?

To my amazement, it was none of these: it was the children's news service Newsround. I say amazed as I knew that the site had not been touched for a number of years and was still in an older BBC templating system that was, unlike the rest of CBBC, left aligned and small in size.

 old newsround site

So, I did more research by looking into our search logs - and of all the brands we had, Newsround was the most searched for.

Children were also searching for news stories and people directly - certainly celebrity searches such as 'alicia keys' were in there, but also things in the news that children wanted to understand: in June 2010, there were more searches for 'oil spill', and 'animal testing' than for 'justin bieber'.

Recently Ralph Fiennes (who plays Voldemort in the Harry Potter films) and Nicola Roberts were among our top searches, but 'earthquakes' and 'waves' performed strongly too. Over this period we have also helped children on topics such as 'unicef' 'ice melting', 'refugees', and even 'what to do if you are struck by lightning'.

The headline I took from this - apart from The Kids Are All Right - was that Newsround was performing a huge role in helping children understand the world and that this was highly valued - both for their homework and for their general interest.

So I am delighted to say that the neck muscles of the children of Britain will no longer be cramped by turning to one side: today we are relaunching the Newsround website, and it is now the same width as the rest of the CBBC site and other BBC sites, in another move towards making BBC Online feel like a more cohesive whole.

Screenshot of new CBBC newsround website

In the relaunch the key has not been to extend the functionality greatly but instead to improve what was already a valued service.

Articles will still come with pictures, but the pictures are bigger, of higher quality. The articles are easier to read and have interactions to engage children as they go down the page.

We have also added some fantastic galleries to show off this photographic content more. Finally we have also cleaned up the architecture greatly: in our user testing it turned out that some news categories meant little to children so we have simplified our indexing to News, Sport, Entertainment, and Animals. My friend and colleague Daniel Clarke talks about the editorial drivers to refreshing Newsround here.

However, we have made a big effort to integrate Newsround more with the rest of the CBBC website. The top navigation now contains a pretty complete picture of what CBBC offers: shows, games, watch [clips and episodes], music, things to do, and news. This I hope gives a good picture of what the CBBC product is: a hub for primary school children whether it is time to play, to laugh, to be creative, or to learn about what is happening in the world.

Earlier this year I blogged about the "(Hopefully) no more tears" approach which we used to release the rest of the website. It has been much harder to step out changes with Newsround: the technology was too old and the designs too different. We have introduced children to parts of this by bringing Newsround more to the fore on the CBBC homepage, and adding News to our top navigation in advance of the relaunch; but my hope is that the site refresh is so obviously an improvement that children will come with us on this.

Now: I come on here, set the blog editor some formatting problems and crack some jokes. The actual work is done by a very talented team who deserve all the credit, and I would like to express my thanks to them. As with the rest of the CBBC site, I hope this is a good example of highly skilled people from editorial, technical, and design backgrounds, working together to create a product that really delivers what our audiences need.

Phil Buckley is Product Manager for the BBC Children's portfolio, BBC Future Media

NetMix: Create your own sound balance from Centre Court

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Rupert Brun Rupert Brun | 13:31 UK time, Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Or: how much base-line grunting can you take?

The hashtag is #NetMix


As a life-long radio engineer I care a great deal about sound quality and I know many of our listeners do too. Last summer during the last week of the BBC Proms I ran an experimental extra-high quality audio stream and asked you what you thought of it.

After a couple of days, in response to your suggestions, I made some adjustments to the sound and the response was then overwhelmingly positive. As a result of your comments the BBC made the extra-high quality stream permanently available for Radio 3 as “HD Sound”.

I now want to ask for your help with another experiment using audio delivered over the internet.

We receive regular feedback about sound quality on both radio and television and the most common complaint is that the speech (commentary or dialogue) is too quiet compared with the sound effects or music.

As a result of your feedback we have made changes to our sound balance guide-lines but we can’t please everyone all the time. Whilst some people want the speech to be much louder than the music, others complain that the announcer is louder than an entire orchestra. Making the speech too loud can destroy the sense of immersion in the event for those listening in quiet rooms on good quality sound systems or headphones.

This year I am running an experiment which lets you decide on the sound balance you want for some of our coverage of the Wimbledon Tennis. I’m afraid that for rights reasons the stream is only available in the United Kingdom.

You can download a special player and it will let you adjust the sound balance whilst listening to the tennis. You will be able to adjust the sound mix from one extreme with lots of crowd sounds and base-line grunting and the commentary as a very quiet voice, to the other extreme with loud commentary and very quiet sounds from the match. I would like you to try this, play with it for a while then complete the on-line survey to let me know what you thought of it.

I hope to learn a number of things from this experiment.

  • What are the production challenges do we face in creating this sort of stream?
  • Given a choice, where do you, the listeners, set the sound balance?
  • Do you find it useful being able to create your own sound balance between the commentary and the effects?
  • Do you think it would be useful for other types of content or on other devices?

So please go download the player and give it a try. And whilst I’m happy to answer questions here, please complete the survey to give feedback. If you are going to mention the experiment on Twitter please use #NetMix so we can follow your comments.

How does it work?

We have stereo microphones on the umpire’s chair on Centre Court and the sound from these is coded with the mono commentary as an MPEG4 audio stream with additional control data, which allows the player to “unmix” the sound.

With the player fader in the centre the commentary and court are heard at levels which are often broadcast. When you move the slider towards “court” the commentary gets quieter whilst the court atmosphere stays the same. Conversely if you move the slider towards “commentary” the court sound gets quieter whilst the commentary stays the same.

Please note that neither the court nor the commentary ever get louder than they are with the fader in the central position; for this experiment the effect is achieved by reducing the volume of the sound you want to hear less, not by amplifying the one you want to hear more.

Note for those listening on a computer on a business network.

The player does not auto-detect proxy settings.

If used on a computer which accesses the internet through a proxy (as many computers on business networks do) right click on the player and select menu option "Proxy". Enter the IP address of your proxy server and remember to finish with :80 as that’s the port where the stream can be found.

As an example, you might enter or you can enter the URL, for example You may be able to find the address of your proxy server in the “settings” menu of your web browser.

Update 30 Jun: The 5Live blog has posted an audio clip about Netmix

Rupert Brun is the Head of Technology for Audio and Music

6 Technical Principles behind BBC News on Connected TV

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Rob Hardy Rob Hardy | 10:26 UK time, Tuesday, 28 June 2011

BBC News on a connected TV

BBC News on a connected TV

I've written here before about publishing content to multiple platforms. Our newest product is BBC News for Connected TV (blog entry by Phil Fearnley) . I thought I'd write a little about how we implemented this; lots of the concepts here are standard computer science ones, but I thought it's worth reiterating as it shows the similarities between publishing to devices with different form factors and technical capabilities. So here are our six TV software design best practices:

  1. Our internal data sources need to be platform-neutral - meaning we can target multiple platforms with different front-end technologies. News content has been multiplatform for years, since we already publish to the web, mobile platforms, mobile apps and the four broadcast platforms
  2. To allow this, the content needs to be structured. A blog, for example, tends not to be a useful data source, since the markup tends to be unstructured, and contain objects like Flash videos that aren't multiplatform
  3. Each platform is a specific rendering, or a 'view' on the data. Our user-experience team and product owners need to ensure we can take advantage of the specific characteristics needed for each platform; for instance one form-factor may be a hand-held device with a touch screen, whilst another will be large screen with a remote control. Whilst the data is platform-neutral, we've learnt we can't simply take the web site and put it on a TV screen, as both the physical interaction and the mental engagement differ for each form factor
  4. We abstract away from vendor-specific APIs so that the code is platform-neutral. This lets us play back videos, or handle remote control key-presses in a way that doesn't create a large development overhead for every additional platform. We do this by creating a state machine and model-view-controller architecture that's independent of the target platform. We can hook this into the vendor's API if necessary.
  5. We use a test suite and harness to drive the implementation of the functionality. This lets us add new functionality with confidence, and also target multiple vendors to ensure the code works the same across devices
  6. Non-functional requirements, which aren't exactly sexy, feed into the project to ensure proper error handling, scalability and failover procedures in case there's a technical problem

Not all of the services we create use all the concepts above. Sometimes the front-end code is developed by a 3rd party, which can result in an independent implementation of the code (cf. Conway's Law). Other times we have legacy systems to work with - so it can becomes a bit of a balancing act to decide how much we work around an old system vs when do we invest in an wholesale upgrade and port the content. The list above is idealised - hopefully it shows the sort of things we have to think about.

What best practices do you apply in TV software development?

Rob Hardy is Broadcast Platforms Team Leader in News and Knowledge, and the technical lead for BBC News on Connected TVs

BBC Online Industry Briefing: Final Q&A

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Ralph Rivera Ralph Rivera | 16:26 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

Ralph Rivera and Roly Keating summed up the June 17 BBC Online Industry Briefing and took questions from the audience.

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Attendees retweeted Ralph's reason for trying to change the BBC's culture:

@Trendshed Culture eats strategy for lunch every day. Ha! How true..... Ralph Rivera #BBCOnline Jun 17 15:07

Two threads ran through many of the questions. 

Some were concerned that there were fewer chances for lower-scale commissions. Ben Fawkes from Sound Cloud asked about empowering folk at a lower level to make products based on BBC content. Paul Goodenough from Aerian talked about how the procurement registration process asked people to have a lot of experience. Ralph agreed this was something the BBC had to get right:

Part of it is working with our Online Advisory Group and saying “How do we get our mix right?”. I mentioned this earlier in terms of the close tenders process and making sure that we’re not always picking the same three entities to do a tender … part of the mix has to be small and entrepeneurial and innovative.

Indies were also keen they if they built an interactive project for the BBC, they were not so tied to the platform that they could not sell elsewhere. Mike Dicks of PACT asked:

Can we make sure it’s easy to sell a complete package? … [it] can be expensive to take the technology play outside the UK

Ralph said that although there were always going to be difficult technologies, the BBC were deliberatly using open APIs that would make it easier for suppliers to "lift and shift":

The key thing for us is, make it open and available, and then the partners have to figure out what does that mean in terms of the executation environment that you’re putting it into. But we’re not going to put barriers to it.

Ralph Rivera and Roly Keating are the Directors of Future Media and Archive Content, respectively.

BBC Online Industry Briefing: New Ways of Working

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Ralph Rivera Ralph Rivera | 14:40 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

Jane McCloskey, Chris Russell, Simon Lucy and Ralph Rivera gave these presentations during the June 17 BBC Online Industry Briefing, before taking audience questions.

Doing Business with BBC Online (Ralph and Jane)

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Ralph Rivera introduced Jane by talking about the need for a culture of partnership with the digital media industry. He emphasized that external spend reduced from £19.5m to c £18.5m in 11/12, not on the scale of of overall funding cuts.

We actually took more people out of the business, so that's the process that we're going through, rather than external spend.

Jane McCloskey, the head of supplier management, described how the BBC is building this more meaningful engagement - the Advisory Group, the open external events calendar, and the new external supply process. In the new system, work less than £20K will be done direct, for work between £20K and £50K three suppliers will be asked to tender, and work above £50K will go to a technical roster or an editorial open brief.

Product Management and Lifecycle (Chris Russell)

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Chris Russell laid out BBC Online's methods of product management. For example, a Product Direction Group will make the big decision for each product, and all products will follow a consistent lifecycle.

The Platform: The BBC's New Technology Stack (Simon Lucy)

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Simon Lucy began at the beginning. Andrew Fox tweeted:

AndrewFox Now: history of BBC platform. Was simple HTML with server side includes. Until very recently. 17 Jun 15:39

The system is now a presentation layer (mostly PHP) over a service layer (often Java) over a data layer. Several pan-BBC services (such as logging users in) service the service layer. Simon also described the range of tools used to document (eg Confluence), track issues (eg JIRA), and manage builds.

Simon Lucy joined Ralph Rivera, Chris Russell, and Jane McCloskey to take audience questions. These included:

  • William Makower, Panlogic about feedback on tenders
  • Chris Kempt from Kempt about when three tenders are invited
  • Pari Faramarzi from WTG asking how often the Technical Roster would be refreshed
  • Mike Dicks from Pact about how the £18m spend splits between technical and editorial


Jane McCloskey is the Head of Supplier Management, Vision. Chris Russell is the Head of Product Management News and Knowledge, Future Media. Simon Lucy is the Head of Platforms, Future Media. Ralph Rivera is the Director, Future Media.

BBC Online Industry Briefing: Knowledge and Learning Product

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Phil Fearnley Phil Fearnley | 17:23 UK time, Friday, 24 June 2011

Phil Fearnley and Sinead Rocks gave this presentation about the Knowledge and Learning Product to the June 17 BBC Online Industry Briefing.

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Phil and Sinead described how the Knowledge and Learning Product would enable learning journeys all through BBC content and on multiple devices. A film gave two examples; finding out about Madagascar Tortoises, and using BBC Food across smartphone, tablet, and TV to bake a cake and upload a victorious photograph. They took three questions.

Bookmarking live content and being able to access related content on the website is part of the plan, and the first question was about bookmarking live content across the rest of BBC online. Phil answered yes.

We see this as equally applicable across the whole of online … the recipe binder is just the same as a collection of news stories ... as a binder for your favourite sports team ... You should abstract ... across all of online.

Andrew Fox captured this ambition on twitter:


AndrewFox Nice, ambitious, K&L concepts. How to scale to all programming/content? That's the trick. #BBCOnline
17 Jun 14:29


Similarly, the the CBBC product includes the Games Grid, which the whole of BBC Online uses for persistent data.

Andy Doyle noted that the iPlayer was an App, and asked if there would be separate apps for seperate products. Phil said there was a role for both, with Apps more useful when you need native capabilities:


Whether it's around location services, whether it's around DRM, whether it's around a whole pile of things.


Finally, Sinead was asked whether individual brands, such as Bitesize, would disappear. Confirming that commissions would continue whatever the brand, Sinead said:


We're still thinking about what sits within the Knowledge and Learning banner, what is a brand in itself ... this product isn't officially launching until Autumn 2012 ... but we still need to create the same kind of content we have always created from a learning perspective ...


Phil Fearnley is the General Manager of News and Knowledge Future Media. Sinead Rocks is the Creative Director of BBC Learning.

May 2011 BBC iPlayer Performance Pack

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 21:30 UK time, Thursday, 23 June 2011

It's busy on the blog this week.

But there's still room for May's performance pack for BBC iPlayer (available as a PDF to download).

Highlights as always selected by the Communications team: 

In May 2011 the BBC iPlayer received 159 million requests for TV and radio programmes in total.

Weekly user numbers were strong this month. The week of 9th May delivered a new record of 7.2 million online users in one week (excludes Virgin Media cable).

The Apprentice and Doctor Who dominated the top ten most-requested TV episodes this month. It was also a strong month for factual content - including Louis Theroux: Miami Mega Jail, new series Inside the Human Body and Panorama: The Death of Bin Laden - as well as entertainment, including Russell Howard, the Eurovision Song Contest and Psychoville. New dramas The Shadow Line and Exile were also in the top 20.  


Nick Reynolds is Social Media Executive, BBC Online

BBC Online Industry Briefing: Evolution of iPlayer

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Daniel Danker Daniel Danker | 14:24 UK time, Thursday, 23 June 2011

Daniel Danker gave this presentation on TV iPlayer to the June 17 BBC Online Industry Briefing.

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Daniel described how changes in audience and technology are affecting online video, and how the BBC will respond. For example, on-demand viewing usually peaks at the end of the day, when viewers catch up on shows they missed. But BBC iPlayer is used on tablet devices a the same times of day as live viewing - as if tablets are becoming personal TVs.

He took questions from:

  • Robert Morgan from Magic Lantern on the Wii U
  • Owen Wallis from Less Rain asking if the BBC will release the iPlayer client for others to use
  • Neil Robinson of IPC about how indies could sell the same content to BBC Online and syndicate it to other publishers (eg abroad)
  • Chris Jackson of Metabroadcast on sharing metadata with ITV and C4
  • Andrew Bairds of Testronic about the timescale for this evolution

Daniel Danker is General Manager, Programmes and On Demand.

Your Paintings: Opening up the nation's art collection

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Nick Cohen Nick Cohen | 12:00 UK time, Thursday, 23 June 2011

Video about some of the places where Your Paintings live. 3min 18s

Today we announced the public beta launch of Your Paintings, a unique new initiative to make the UK’s entire national collection of oil paintings available to view online for the first time.

Many people don’t realise that the UK has tens of thousands of paintings in its publicly funded museums and institutions that are not currently viewable by the public, either because they are in storage or are kept in buildings that are inaccessible to the general public. The vast majority of these paintings have never been published online.

Unlocking our cultural heritage

Now, in partnership with the Public Catalogue Foundation (a charity established to document this national resource) and hundreds of galleries and collections across the country, BBC Online’s Your Paintings site will begin making these artworks available to view by anyone, anytime, for free.

You can see the site at:

Our initial beta release today already allows you to access over 60,000 paintings from over 800 collections, covering more than 15,000 individual artists. But this is just the start. We’ll be adding thousands more paintings every month, with the aim of having the complete national collection (estimated at around 200,000 works) available within 18 months.

Graphical meter: 63,000 of your paintings are now online


Building digital public space

We want Your Paintings to be much more than just a stand-alone website. This is a project rooted in a vision of the interconnected nature of online cultural resources and our ambition is be compatible with, and linked into, as wide a range of other related resources and initiatives as possible.

To enable this kind of interconnection we are working with our partner collections to investigate the provision of an API to the service. There are many complexities to be worked out involving the copyrights that exist in the images and data, but in principle we hope in time to make as much data as possible available. We would love to hear you thoughts and suggestions on this area.

How you can support the project

These paintings have the potential to be an amazingly rich learning resource – not just for art lovers, but for everyone, whether your interest is in history, society, war or even sport or fashion. This is one of the largest pre-photographic records of British society, with images dating back 600 years, and the site will play an important role in our developing knowledge and learning strategy.

We want to unlock this learning potential by working with the public to map the contents of these paintings - through the launch of Your Paintings Tagger. Your Paintings Tagger is a crowd sourced tagging application, built in collaboration with Arfon Smith and the team at Oxford University’s Astrophysics Lab, who were behind the hugely successful Galaxy Zoo website. You can access Tagger and start getting involved here.

With the beta launch today we’ve taken the first steps towards making an enormous quantity of data available to the public, but as ever with these things, there is a long way to go. As we move forward we would love to hear your thoughts, feedback and input on how we can improve and optimise the service. You can get either add a comment below or get in touch with us direct.

Nick Cohen is a Commissioning Executive, Multiplatform

BBC Online Industry Briefing: Keynote

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Ralph Rivera Ralph Rivera | 14:10 UK time, Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ralph Rivera , Director Future Media, began the BBC Online Industry Briefing on Friday 17 June with this presentation on connected storytelling.


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Delegates noted that BBC's online external spend was mostly protected from the 25% cut. Anderew Fox of Livework reported:

Aiming to work more transparently with digital media industry. Spent £19.5m last year. Expected £18m this year (post cuts).
17 Jun 15:10

Five's Kaustav Bhattacharya enjoyed the idea of media as the meeting of storytelling and technoloy - past, present, and future:

JupiterOrbit #bbconline @ralphrivera reveals that he's a Trekkie and he sees the BBC's storytelling on the holodeck of the future.
17 Jun 14:22

Drew Wilkins, director of Fish in a Bottle Ltd, might not be an EastEnders fan:

DrewMedia‎ @jupiterorbit @ralphrivera #bbconline Eastenders on the holodeck! #shudder
17 Jun 2011 14:23

Wimbledon HD HTTP Streaming Trial

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Andy Armstrong Andy Armstrong | 09:30 UK time, Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Staff watching television in an office

Andy Armstrong's colleagues testing HTTP HD streaming video

I'm Andy Armstrong, technical architect for Programmes and On Demand here at the BBC. We investigate new technologies for online video and audio delivery looking for ways to enhance existing services, provide new services and streamline the way we handle media content on the internet.

Important sporting events like Wimbledon are great opportunities for us to test new technologies. This year we're testing a number of things including high definition HTTP adaptive bit rate video streaming.

Currently we use multiple approaches to bring video to your computers and other connected devices. The majority of you are using iPlayer in your web browser. That uses RTMP - a protocol developed by Macromedia (now Adobe) specifically for streaming audio and video over the web.

Unfortunately RTMP isn't available on all of the devices we support so we have to use other protocols too - principally HTTP and HTTPS progressive download - the same mechanism that is used for web pages and images.

We're always on the lookout for ways to support a wider range of computers and connected devices. If we can find a way to do that and at the same time serve more of them with a common protocol we will be able to provide a better service and make our infrastructure simpler and more efficient.

One technology that may make that possible is adaptive bit rate HTTP streaming. It works by splitting a video into short chunks (typically between 4 and 10 seconds long). Each chunk is available in a range of bit rates and hence qualities. For each chunk the player decides which bit rate to request based on its estimate of how much bandwidth your internet connection has.

We already use ABR streaming for some sports coverage with a limited range of available bit rates. For the Wimbledon test we will be using Adobe HTTP Dynamic Streaming for the first time and will be supporting bit rates of 416k, 624k, 944k, 1408k, 2112k and 3168k and a maximum resolution of 1280x720 (720p HD).

Until the player has had a chance to assess how much bandwidth it has available it will tend to choose lower bit rates. That means that the first few seconds of the video may be lower quality. Then, if you have enough bandwidth, the player will gradually select higher bit rates until it either detects that it is using as much bandwidth as it can safely sustain or it reaches the highest available quality. To get the highest bit rate the player needs to be displaying full screen video; the embedded version will limit the maximum bit rate to 1408k.

The player maintains a small buffer of downloaded chunks so that it can keep playing without interruption as the available bandwidth varies. At times it may detect that the overall available bandwidth has reduced and switch to a lower bit rate to compensate.

All this should happen smoothly and unobtrusively. Buffering times should be greatly reduced. The fact that the player adapts to the available bandwidth is particularly helpful for live events such as Wimbledon; it allows the player to display the highest possible quality video without lagging too far behind the live action as it struggles to buffer downloaded video.

However - as you might have guessed - if we had all this working properly now we'd be using it for the main web coverage of Wimbledon rather than testing it. This is an extremely promising technology but we don't feel that we know enough about it yet to do that. We know, for example, that the method the player uses to estimate the available bandwidth will need to be adjusted and we need to see how our servers handle this new kind of traffic.

So we certainly can't promise that it will be perfect. In fact we'd be rather surprised if it was. We have been testing it with a small group of BBC staff since February; now we've reached the point at which we need your help to find out how it works for a larger, more representative audience.

row of diamonds showing increasing definition with increasing bandwidth

For the test we have placed a small icon (see above) in the upper left corner of the video that shows the current bit rate that you are viewing (1 to 5, HD). It will be interesting to hear from you how quickly the player settles to a sustainable quality - that can vary depending on the characteristics of your connection. If you haven't seen it already take a look at the test page.

We are extremely grateful for your help. We expect to run more tests of HTTP streaming over the coming months and it will be particularly valuable for us to have feedback and suggestions from those of you who have been in it from the start.

Andy Armstrong is the Technical Architect for Programmes and On Demand.

BBC Online Industry Briefing: Changing Audience Behaviours

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Holly Goodier Holly Goodier | 18:03 UK time, Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Holly Goodier gave this presentation during the BBC Online Industry Briefing on Friday 17th June.


Industry figures tweeted their way through this presentation in Friday's BBC Online Industry Briefing, responding to Holly's insights.

From indie RY, @richardcoope called the talk "simply brilliant" :

@richardcoope Holly Goodier, Head of Audiences, on 'Enduring experiences','Dispersed attention' & 'Easy participation' :-) #BBCOnline 17 Jun

Several commentators had expected on-demand viewing to make bigger inroads into watching programmes when they were broadcast:

@caroledunlop Wow, would have thought this wuld be higher. #BBCOnline 9% of TV is time-shifted says Holly Goodier, Head of Audiences. 17 Jun

What's On BBC Red Button 20th June - 4th July

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Lisa Dawson Lisa Dawson | 09:19 UK time, Tuesday, 21 June 2011

BBC Red Button Blog

Glastonbury Festival

Watch coverage of Glastonbury Festival on BBC Red Button from Friday, 24th June. Viewers can choose from up to four extra video streams, to watch performances from the four main stages plus highlights from the BBC Introducing Stage.

Friday: music from Pyramid, Other, West Holts and BBC Introducing stages.  Chunks of performance (approx 30 mins-ish each band) from the main stages, and individual songs from some BBC Introducing new bands
Saturday: music from Pyramid, Other, John Peel, West Holts and BBC Introducing stages.  Chunks of performance (approx 30 mins-ish each band) from the main stages, and individual songs from some BBC Introducing new bands
Sunday: music from Pyramid, Other, John Peel, West Holts and BBC Introducing stages.  Chunks of performance (approx 30 mins-ish each band) from the main stages, and individual songs from some BBC Introducing new bands
Highlights from the festival will also be available from Monday 27 June – Friday 1 July, when viewers can press the Red Button to enjoy a different artist each day.
Find out more at

Sky/ Freesat/ Virgin Media:
Fri 24th June, 7:00pm-2:00am
Sat 25th June, 4:00pm-6:00am
Sun 26th June, 4:00pm-2:00am

Fri 24th June, 7:00pm-2:00am
Sat 25th June, 4:00pm-6:00am
Sun 26th June, 6:00am-11:50am & 4:40pm-2:00am

Sky/ Freesat/ Virgin Media:
Mon 27th June, 6:00am-11:15am & 7:30pm-6:00am
Tue 28th June, 6:00am-11:15am & 6:30pm-6:00am
Wed 29th June, 6:00am-11:15am & 6:30pm-6:00am
Thu 30th June, 6:00am-11:15am & 6:30pm-6:00am
Fri 1st July, 6:00am-11:15am & 6:30pm-4:00am

Mon 27th June, 6:00am-11:15am & 9:10pm-6:00am
Tue 28th June, 6:00am-11:15am & 9:10pm-6:00am
Wed 29th June, 6:00am-11:15am & 9:10pm-6:00am
Thu 30th June, 6:00am-11:15am & 9:10pm-6:00am
Fri 1st July, 6:00am-11:15am & 9:10pm-4:00am



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BBC Online Industry Briefing: personal impressions

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Kate Russell Kate Russell | 21:26 UK time, Monday, 20 June 2011

Last week I was honoured to be asked to host the first of two annual BBC Online Industry Briefing days - a chance for key people from the BBC Online family to engage with partners & suppliers, sharing plans for the future and getting valuable feedback.

The event took place on Friday 17th July at BAFTA, and earlier that day the launch of the new BBC News platform for connected TVs had been announced.

A demo of this was shrouded under a black cloth as delegates arrived; all very mysterious apart from the fact that news of the launch was already spreading across the twittersphere like wildfire. The demo proved to be very popular anyway as did Director of BBC Future Media, Ralph Rivera's presentation about the way BBC Online will look in the future.

The strategy is built on the idea of leveraging new, connected technology to enhance the BBC's storytelling. 'One Service, Ten Products, Four Screens' was one of the themes for the day, and there were lots of discussions with developers and content makers about how that could take shape.

Holly Goodier at the BBC Online Industry Briefing

Picture of Holly by Richard Coope

Next up was Head of Audiences, Holly Goodier, who had some interesting statistics about how audience behaviour is changing in this digital age.

She revealed that approximately 9% of all TV viewing is now time-shifted, and that figure may grow to 15% in 2016.

After a networking and coffee break delegates had to choose one of two sessions: A series of talks on doing business with the BBC and developing content for the web, or presentations from Daniel Danker about the evolution of the iPlayer followed by Phil Fearnley and Sinead Rocks from News and Knowledge and BBC Learning.

The session with Phil and Sinead was of particular interest to me, as we regularly have viewers of BBC Click asking how they can use our material in the classroom. The duo revealed a first look at a "concept car platform" that lets audiences clip, combine & save content from a variety of different sources, to be used in whatever way they want on whatever platform they prefer.

The day closed with a question and answer session with Ralph Rivera and Executive Editor of BBC Online, Roly Keating. The delegates raised some interesting points, and it was an informative & civilised session, with lots of important contacts made during the networking sessions as suppliers had the chance to mingle with around thirty members of the ten BBC Online teams.


Videos of the event will be posted on this blog throughout the week (update: links below), so you can see for yourself what the BBC Online team has in store for the future.

Kate Russell is presenter, BBC Click

External links that may be of interest:

BBC blog posts about BBC News for Connected TVs:

Videos of the BBC Online Industry Briefing:

Other BBC blog posts you might have missed:

Updated July 6 with links to other blogs.

BBC News product for connected TV launches

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Phil Fearnley Phil Fearnley | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 17 June 2011

BBC news on IPTV

Today's announcement of the launch of the BBC News product for connected TV represents an exciting step forward in the evolution of a truly multiscreen BBC News experience.

In a previous post I explained the BBC's new approach to product development, part of a single strategic vision for BBC Online and our plans to reshape the service: from 400 websites to ten products. Such synergies in news have helped us deliver a refreshed BBC News website and the continued roll out of a web experience optimised for mobile via our popular BBC News app. Ralph Rivera has published a post today about the importance of linking these screens via the concept of 'connected storytelling.

The BBC's sixth Public Purpose is to deliver the benefits of emerging technologies to the public, and the benefits of the coming together of broadcast and broadband are clear - new ways for audiences to enjoy content, enhanced availability of services and programmes, and opportunities for audiences to curate their own experiences.

Analysts are united in their expectation of huge growth in the number of connected devices in the market - whether internet-connected TVs or browser-enabled consoles. Internet connectivity can and will make TV even better for audiences.

Today's announcement is just the latest development in the BBC News interactive story. Ceefax, its digital BBC Text replacement, BBC Red Button, and BBC News Online have provided rolling access to breaking news and analysis, collectively, for decades. The BBC News product for connected TV builds on this by providing an on-demand, video-based news experience via video clips which can be navigated via your remote control.

BBC Online news editor Steve Herrmann will blog shortly on the BBC Editors' Blog explaining how this comes together editorially in the newsroom.

Although the connected TV market is still in its infancy and the medium is not yet a mainstream proposition, our plan is to build on this initial launch with Samsung and we're looking to work with other manufacturers to bring our product to their platforms as quickly as possible - technically, as it's built in HTML, it can be repurposed simply for a wide range of different operating systems and devices. By working with standardised products (we also build in Flash and MHEG) we minimise complexity for the market, and keep our re-versioning costs low.

We'd like to get your feedback, so please leave your comments under this post or tweet using the #bbconline hashtag.

Phil Fearnley is General Manager News & Knowledge, BBC Future Media

BBC Online: improving partnerships

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Andy Conroy | 17:59 UK time, Thursday, 16 June 2011

Improving BBC Online for audiences is the job of everyone who works here. Given the nature of the web, which is built on connections and partnerships, improving how we work with partners - the wider digital media industry - is going to be critical if this goal is going to be met.

It's with this in mind that we host today what will be the first of two annual engagement days with partners. Over 175 people from a cross-section of digital media companies will convene at BAFTA in London this afternoon for a session of talks and workshops. Delegates have been invited to tweet using the hashtag #BBCOnline. BBC Online has far more partners than that (we are oversubscribed for this event), so we're going to open this event up to others by sharing material from it here on the Internet Blog over the next few days.

The hashtag is bbconline - a graphic

Today is another important step in our continuing attempts to create a new, more open engagement with the digital media industry: the second of these events will take place in the BBC's new Salford base, MediaCityUK, in October. I wrote yesterday at /commissioning to give some context to the event and explain about the various process reviews we've undertaken to improve our relationship with partners.

Clearly this event takes place at a particularly important time for BBC Online. The event builds on the announcements we made in January as part of BBC's Delivering Quality First strategy. We made a number of significant commitments; to do fewer things better, be clear on boundaries, set out the areas we were not going to enter, and to introduce Product Management as a common way of working across the BBC.

The BBC Online logo

This afternoon we want to put a little more detail to that bigger ambition. And we want to share our plans for this financial year 2011/12. So it's a broad agenda this afternoon, and for those who can't make it, here's a summary of this afternoon's presentations - most of which we'll be making available on this blog throughout next week:

Ralph Rivera - Connected Storytelling. The new director of BBC Future Media, Ralph Rivera, will open the day. He'll be talking about how BBC Online is being re-shaped as one service, comprising ten products and delivered seamlessly across four screens - PCs, mobiles, tablets and connected TVs. He'll be posting later today on the About The BBC blog with more detail.

Holly Goodier who leads one of our audience teams will talk about how audience behaviour is changing in a digital world.

Jane McCloskey - Making it easier to work with the BBC. The audience today will include many of our hundreds of suppliers. We have a special session devoted to some of the practical changes we're proposing to make it easier to work with us.

Simon Lucy, Building on our technical platform. If you're a regular reader of this blog you may have noticed the occasional tantalising mention of BBC Online's new technical platform. Simon will be giving a technical presentation on what partners need to know, as well share details of an event we're planning for later in the Summer for developers.

Chris Russell, Integrating Product Management. Chris blogged about the BBC's new approach to product management in April. Chris will give an update on how integrated Product Management is evolving.

Daniel Danker, TV & iPlayer. Daniel will share his thinking about how the product will evolve over the next two years.

Sinead Rocks and Phil Fearnley, Knowledge & Learning. Phil and Sinead will be sharing some early thoughts on how the current diverse set of Knowledge and Learning websites will be knitted together into a new product.

We are keen to make sure this stuff is discussed by as many people as possible so the presentations from the event will made available here on the blog throughout next week. And I'd like to know what you think, whether you were at the event or not, so please add your thoughts below or Tweet using #BBCOnline.

Andy Conroy is General Manager BBC Online

Update 6.30 p.m.

As part of the Briefing today we have shared BBC Online's 11/12 Workplan with the delegates.

So as promised I'm also sharing it here (as a PDF).

This follows the same style as the BBC's overall Workplan which was published a couple of weeks ago.

I'd welcome your comments.

Update: more material about the BBC Online Industry Briefing

BBC News for Connected TV's Blog Posts

BBC Online Industry Briefing Video Blogs

BBC Online Industry Briefing Blog Posts

Changes to BBC Religion and Ethics within BBC Online

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Aaqil Ahmed Aaqil Ahmed | 12:12 UK time, Monday, 13 June 2011

I wanted to let you know that we will be closing the BBC Religion and Ethics messageboards on Monday 27 June.

The messageboards will remain visible after this date but the opportunity to add new comments or open new threads will no longer be available.

The BBC Religion and Ethics web site will remain.

In January 2010 the BBC announced changes to BBC Online - 'doing fewer things, better' - in the face of a 25% budget reduction for the service. Ian Hunter, Managing Editor of BBC Online, blogged back in January about moving away from isolated discussion forums like the messageboards which appeal to relatively small audiences, to an approach that spreads comment and discussion more widely around our websites. Do read his blog post as it will give you some important background.

We've had to make some tough decisions but I want to assure you that the decision to close our BBC Religion and Ethics messageboards was not taken lightly, as I know users have enjoyed being part of the varied discussions on the messageboards about all kinds of religious and ethical topics. However, the cost of maintaining this messageboard has become impossible to justify for a relatively small group of users. What's more, as we've seen with the meteoric growth of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks - there are now many ways to interact and share information online.

I believe we can offer a more cost-efficient and a much better service online for those that want to be informed about religious and ethical news and also engage in religious and ethical debate; a service that will appeal to many, and be directly related to the religion and ethical stories of the day, and our BBC TV and Radio programmes. This is why today I am pleased to announce the new BBC Religion and Ethics Blog.

We'll launch the blog in late 2011 and it will be hosted by an expert editor, based in Salford and part of the BBC's Religion and Ethics team, with an overview across the whole of the BBC's Religious and Ethics programming on TV and Radio. We'll host contributions from leading figures in politics, religion, news, ethics and the media. The blog will be a new way to take a topic further and find out more, whilst also offering you the chance to participate in a wider religious and ethical discussion.

I will be sharing more news about the Religion and Ethics Blog soon.

All that remains for me to do now is to thank all of you who have contributed to the Religion and Ethics message boards over the years. It was a lively forum of religious and ethical debate and I hope you, and many, many others will enjoy reading and contributing to our new Religion and Ethics Blog.

Aaqil Ahmed is Commissioning Editor Religion and Head of Religion & Ethics

So what is 3DTV?

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Andy Quested Andy Quested | 11:45 UK time, Wednesday, 8 June 2011

To give it it's proper name it's plano-stereoscopic (often known as Stereo 3D or S3D), an idea that's a lot older than television and even older than cinema sound!

Stereoscopy experiments began in the 19th century starting with still images but it rapidly followed the movies into the early cinemas. Stereo camera rigs were patented around 1900 and the earliest confirmed 3-D film (The Power of Love) was shown in the Ambassador Hotel Theatre Los Angeles in September 1922!

Over the past 90 years 3D has come and gone. After each decline there have been various attempts to revive the technology: The 1950's for example, were described as the golden age of 3D with now infamous "House of Wax" released in April 1953 with stereo sound!

The 1980s were responsible not just for big hair but for a run of "part III" films ripe for the addition of a "D" at the end of the title. Jaws 3-D, Amityville 3-D and Friday 13th Part III-D, all vying to throw various dismembered body parts over an eager audience!

Each revival was usually the result of a technical advance or technique that seemed to make 3D better or a more compelling but never enough to catch a mass sustainable market.

The BBC has made 3D content in the past. In 1993 Children in Need made a Doctor Who short using the Pulfrich effect . BBC Films made the very successful Streetdance 3D and BBC Worldwide has begun exploring 3D Natural History programmes. More recently we have tried 3D 6 Nations into cinema and a special Comic Relief Strictly Come Dancing promo.

And! I'm sure you all know Sky has its own 3D channel showing a mix of sport, movies, and concerts along with a collection of other genres.

Is 3D bad for you?

There has been an incredible amount of hype and misunderstanding about alleged risks from watching 3D. Stereo 3D gives an illusion of depth but your eyes are still focused on the screen plane no matter how far in or out an object actually is. This is where some of the confusion and possible "health scares" come from!

The RNIB has done some work evaluating the experience partially sighted people have when viewing 3D and an organisation called the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) - part of the UN, has asked the World Health Organisation to report on any effects associated with watching 3DTV.

After watching a lot of 3D television myself what I can say is, well-made 3D is an enjoyable experience, poor 3D can make you feel a bit odd and can give some people headaches but quite frankly you turn poor 3D off long before that!

This site has a good explanation of parallax - I will let you guess which of the four diagrams could cause discomfort!

Some other good links for further reading are;

How do 3D TVs work?

anaglyph glasses


Finally here's a very quick overview of different 3D displays and how they work but first we are not doing colour separation 3D or anaglyph!

Anaglyph, Color Code (and other colour variants) work by showing both left and right images at the same time, the left eye image one colour and the right eye image in another.



Coloured glasses make sure the images go to the appropriate eye.


colorcode glasses


Colour performance is very variable as is the 3D effect and it is difficult to focus properly on the image. After the glasses come off the world looks very strange (coloured glasses affect normal colour vision for a while) - Impossible to watch the without the correct version of the coloured glasses






Polarised Screen

polarised glasses


Requires a 3D TV with a polarised screen. The left and right eye images are lined up behind the polarising screen, each image is given a different polarisation. To see the 3D image polarised glasses are needed. These are similar to polarised sun glasses but the lens of each eye has a different polarisation to make sure the correct image goes to each eye.


Shuttered (above)

Shuttered technology requires two active components - the screen and the glasses. Shuttered LCD glasses are controlled by an infra-red signal sent from the TV. The Left and Right eye images are flashed alternately on the screen at a high frame rate (100 times a second or more). When the Left eye image is on screen the Right eye lens of the glasses is opaque and visi-versa.

At the moment glasses from different manufactures are incompatible so you need to have the right glasses for the TV you have.

3D TV with no glasses

The technology behind 3D TVs that do not need glasses is very similar to the old 3D plastic postcards. It is based on the work done around 1840 by Sir Charles Wheatstone.

The screen is covered with tiny lenses, arranged to send zones of left/right images to the viewer.

phillips 3d image


The lenses direct the left/right images out of the screen in zones. If you sit in a zone at the correct distance you see 3D - if you move out of a zone you lose the 3D image.

Lenticular screen technology is still very new but developing rapidly.

Philips (left) was an early pioneer of this technology for domestic displays.



I will try and keep you updated between now and the finals weekend if there is news or anything changes but I will give a full explanation of the production as soon as possible after the matches.

Andy Quested is Head of Technology, BBC HD & 3D, BBC Future Media & Technology

World IPv6 Day: 8th June 2011

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Richard Cooper Richard Cooper | 10:43 UK time, Wednesday, 8 June 2011

It has long been forecast that the number of IP addresses available in the current Internet Protocol format (IPv4) is insufficient to cope with the spectacular growth of the internet and consequent number of devices that need their own IP address.

This has come into sharp relief this year, with the last remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses being allocated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). These addresses pass down to the Regional Internet Registries (the one that applies to the UK is RIPE NCC), which then allocate them to ISPs and other companies that need them.

The internet won't stop working on the day that the last IPv4 address is allocated, but a solution is required to allow the internet to continue to expand.

That solution is IPv6.

IPv6 provides a mind-boggling number of addresses (3.4 x 10^38). It's hard to find a meaningful analogy for a number this large, but if every man, woman and child on Earth had a billion devices each with an IPv6 address, you haven't even come close to scratching the surface of the number of addresses available.

Unfortunately, IPv6 is not backwards compatible with IPv4, so there's a lot of work required before end-to-end IPv6 operation becomes the norm. In practice, this means that IPv4 and IPv6 will have to co-exist with each other for a long time. As content providers, content distribution networks, network operators and equipment manufacturers introduce IPv6 there are plenty of opportunities for problems to appear that interfere with a user's experience of using the internet.

And that's where World IPv6 Day comes in - it's a 24 hour "test flight" intended to motivate relevant companies to "prepare their services for IPv6 to ensure a successful transition as IPv4 addresses run out".

In the spirit of this, the BBC is also making BBC Online available over IPv6. We're doing it in two ways:

1) We've created a new address: When you try to access this address over an IPv4 network, it simply won't work (your browser will produce an error saying something like "The requested URL could not be retrieved"). However, if you access this address over a network that supports both IPv4 and IPv6 you will see the home page as normal.

2) We've also, just for today, made the usual BBC Online address ( enabled for both IPv4 and IPv6. You shouldn't notice the difference, with the site working as normal for you. In fact, unless you're a bit of an expert, you won't be able to tell whether you're accessing the site over IPv4 or IPv6.

Very few of you will have an IPv6-capable network. If you want to try accessing the BBC's site (or any of the sites participating in World IPv6 Day), you may find that the only way, today, is to set up an IPv6 tunnel (which allows you to make an IPv6 connection over an IPv4 network). There are a number of companies that provide this service, some of which are listed here.

Under the hood, we still have a lot of work to do at the BBC to make BBC Online fully IPv6 capable.

To make the site available over IPv6 to the extent that we have, we've added a separate (much smaller) network that is both IPv6 and IPv4 enabled, and connected it to the site through a pair of load balancers that we normally use for testing purposes. The host name only has an IPv6 address registered on it, and this is the IPv6 address of the load balancers. Through this you can access pages on the BBC Online site, but note that most objects referenced by these pages are on other domains that are IPv4 only (so to see the pages correctly you must be on a both IPv6 and IPv4 enabled network). Our DNS is IPv4 only, as is our IP geolocation system that we use to serve different editions of the site as appropriate to your country, and restrict access where we only have content rights for the UK.

We'll be upgrading the site to be fully IPv6 enabled as part of our normal technology refresh programme, and we expect that will be complete sometime next year.

Meanwhile, what we've done for today allows you to see if you can make an IPv6 connection, and for us to see the problems that we have to solve and determine the work remaining for us to do to be fully IPv6 enabled.

Many thanks go to colleagues in Future Media, R&D and Siemens who pulled this all together.

Richard Cooper is Controller, Digital Distribution, BBC Future Media

Gearing up to deliver Wimbledon 3D

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Andy Quested Andy Quested | 10:37 UK time, Tuesday, 7 June 2011

As you've heard by now we are planning to transmit the Wimbledon finals in 3D this year!

It's part of the remit we have to try out and test new technologies where we can and as the main tennis coverage has moved to BBC One HD this year, we have the chance to try something new. For more details of the coverage have a look at Danielle's blog.

The Wimbledon 3D event is a collaboration between the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Sony Professional and the BBC along with many of our partners. After the finals weekend I will do an update with more details of the Outside Broadcast, camera technology and all the bits between SW19, W12 and your screen! I hope to persuade some of my R&D colleagues to write about the other technology we have used and the future of 3D TV.

What are we up to before the big weekend?

The production company working with Sony Professional and BBC Sport are trying to get the best camera positions fitted into Centre Court.

This is a schematic of the 2D and 3D camera positions on Centre Court:

centre court six cameras

More cameras are used on Centre Court during finals weekend so by the time 5 6 extra 3D camera positions have been added it looks a bit busy! Obviously we try to keep as many cameras out of shot as possible so there may be a few changes to make.

I hope to have some stills so you can see the cameras in situ as well some of the other 3D facilities on site, in time for the next post.

Back in W12, my colleagues in BBC R&D and Distribution who have been working on the satellite encoder's move to S2 and are now working on a further temporary up-date to the BBC HD Channel encoders to get them ready for 3D transmission. When they're happy, all the BBC HD Channel encoders will be updated. As we are transmitting on all platforms (Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin) there's a lot of testing to do!

When the 3D update is complete a modified BBC HD Channel Promo will replace the current version. This has a short 3D clip and a change to the test card to help us check registration.

As we are trying to fit two images into the current BBC HD Channel's signal, one of the temporary changes is change the horizontal resolution from 1440 pixels to 1920 for the trial period.

If all goes to plan, the 3D changes will be made during the morning of 16th 13th June and they will change back to the current settings on 6th July.

What will you see on the BBC HD Channel?

Just like the Sky 3D channel we will transmit a Side by Side (SbyS) image. If you are watching the channel on a 2D TV when a 3D image comes on you will see two squeezed images next to each other. This is the reason we need the1920 horizontal pixels - each image (eye) will be squeezed to 960 pixels wide but will still be 1080 high.

Federer side by side

A 3DTV takes the two half-width images and stretches them to fill the screen. How the TV displays them depends on the technology it uses.

The test card will look the same (SbyS) but when displayed on a 3D TV (in 3D mode) the two half width images should line up exactly - there should be no horizontal or vertical shift between left and right eye images. The frequency gratings will give us a good idea of the system filtering and if we are introducing alias components.

Testcard side by side

Above: SbyS Test Card as seen on a 2D TV

SbyS Test Card as seen on a 3D TV - with or without glasses!

Above: SbyS Test Card as seen on a 3D TV - With or without glasses!

If you want to know more about 3D see my next post.

Andy Quested is Head of Technology, BBC HD & 3D, BBC Future Media & Technology

See also "3D for Wimbledon - the Future of TV" by Danielle Nagler on the About The BBC blog..

N.B. Correction - the date for the encoder change is the 13th June not the 16th. This is corrected in the text above. Apologies for this error. (NR)

N.B. Correction - the previous image of Centre Court cameras was incorrect. The correct one has now been inserted. Apologies. (NR).

What's On BBC Red Button 7th - 20th June 2011

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Lisa Dawson Lisa Dawson | 16:30 UK time, Monday, 6 June 2011

BBC Red Button Blog 

Great Film Scores

From Monday morning 13th June - for one fabulous week, press red to watch Great Film Scores Live.

Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode are joined by the BBC Philharmonic for a special performance of music from popular film scores.

With help from the orchestra Simon and Mark will look at what's turned these pieces into evocative classics and why music is so important in film.

The red button show will contain performance from two 5 Live and Radio 3 film music events, both recorded in front of a live studio audience.

This is part of a season of BBC Philharmonic events, celebrating the move to their new Salford studio.
For more about the season, please see the full press release

Sky/ Virgin Media/ Freesat
Mon 13th June, 6:00am-4:00am 19th June (continuous coverage)

Mon 13th June, 6:00am-7:50pm
Tue 14th June, 6:00am-5:00pm & 6:10pm-7:50pm
Wed 15th June, 6:00am-5:00pm & 6:10pm-7:50pm
Thu 16th June, 6:00am-10:50am & 11:50am-5:00pm & 6:10pm-7:50pm
Fri 17th June, 4:10am-12:00pm & 1:00pm-5:00pm & 6:10pm-6:00am
Sat 18th June, 6:00am-1:15pm & 6:10pm-6:00am
Sun 19th June, 6:00am-8:50am & 3:10pm-4:00am

Read the rest of this entry

BBC Things To Do

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Ziad Dajani | 13:54 UK time, Monday, 6 June 2011

We've recently launched Things To Do, an online destination to help users find activities near them offered by the BBC and our partners off the back of TV, radio and learning campaigns.

Getting audiences involved in activities run by the BBC and our partners using our TV and radio programmes is at the heart of the BBC's learning strategy to inspire a life full of learning for all our audiences.

In January we announced that BBC Online would be reshaped around ten digital 'products', including a combined Knowledge and Learning proposition.

Things To Do is in line with the emerging product vision, seeking to unlock the learning potential across all BBC programming.

The BBC already runs a number of popular broadcast related activities like the Bang Goes The Theory Roadshow, the Free Family Proms or Stargazing Live activities. It has also had success in other initiatives like Breathing Places and Hands On History which let audiences know about partners' activities that engage audiences in learning about nature or history, for example.

Connecting it together

Until now though, this sort of content has lived in lots of different places within BBC Online.

Most often it was not connected and could not be searched together by location or date, had different user experiences and frequently was provided by different technical solutions.

Things To Do now brings this content altogether in a single solution making it easy for audiences to discover, and when they do, they'll find a consistent user experience that connects them with the wealth of BBC activity in this area.

All of the activities are about learning and/or participation, and are:

• Free or run on a cost-recovery basis,

• Run by the BBC or publicly funded or not-for-profit partners,

• Tied to our TV and radio programmes or learning campaigns.

So, a user might find out about one of the nature activities off the back of an on-air call to action by Kate Humble on Springwatch.

springwatch on flickr

They might then participate in an activity. Here's a nice comment on Flickr from someone who found out about a Bat Walk via Springwatch and Things To Do.

springwatch on flickr

We'll be working with some of the BBC's biggest programmes and events - Bang Goes The Theory, Countryfile, Springwatch, the Proms and the Olympics, to name a few - by putting all these events in one place we're hoping to inspire a greater number of people to interact time and time again.

We're not just trying to make things easier for audiences.

Things To Do is designed to help the BBC meet an important part of its strategy - to be a "catalyst and connector in the public space" and "help other institutions to reach and enrich the public".

To make this happen we've provided a single set of tools that makes it simpler for BBC TV and radio programmes to promote their activities online or work with partners.
And we've made it easier for the great partners we work with - organisations like the Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Museum of London. Our new admin interface will open shortly allowing, all our partners to enter their activities in just one place.

We've also announced an exciting data-sharing partnership with the online aggregator for the cultural sector, Culture24, to allow cultural institutions across the country to share easily their public-facing learning activities related to BBC programmes and brands.
We'll also be linking to their websites, where editorially appropriate, in line with our commitment to double external referrals for the benefit of the wider web.

What next?

We'll be continuing development to improve the user experience, working closely with the two agencies who have delivered Things To Do: Coob and Aerian Studios.

There are also a lot of exciting things to come, including improved mapping as well as more social and personalisation features.

The next big milestone to watch out for though is the mobile browser version of Things To Do, allowing users to find activities around them while they are out and about, the development of which is sure to keep us all really busy over the summer!

Ziad Dajani is the Editorial Lead Product Manager for BBC Things To Do, part of the BBC Online Knowledge & Learning product.

N.B. You can read Saul Nasse's thoughts on Things To Do on the About The BBC blog.

(Ziad's job title corrected 4th Jan 2012 by Ian McD)

Changes to BBC HD channels on satellite on 6th June

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Alix Pryde Alix Pryde | 16:52 UK time, Thursday, 2 June 2011

I wanted to let you know about an upcoming change to the way we broadcast our HD channels on satellite, and how this might, or might not, affect you.

One of the BBC's principles is to ensure that we use the spectrum we have available to us in the most efficient way possible. This means that from time to time, as technology develops, we make changes to the way our services are broadcast to ensure we are making best use of this scarce resource.

We will shortly be making such a change to the satellite transponder that carries BBC One HD & BBC HD. The signal on this transponder is currently broadcast using a modulation scheme called "DVB-S". On 6 June we will be upgrading to a newer "DVB-S2" scheme. This is a more efficient way of operating the transponder and it creates more capacity from the same amount of spectrum. More spectral bang for our buck, if you like.

The change will mean different things to different people:

If you watch TV using Freeview or Virgin Media or can't currently view HD channels you will not be affected.

If you have Sky, you will not notice the change and won't have to do anything on or after 6 June.

If you have Freesat you may need to put your HD box or TV into standby for 30 seconds and then restart to continue to receive the two BBC HD channels. If the channels are still unavailable then carry out a 'freesat channel retune' or a 'first time installation'. Full instructions can be found in the manual for your box or TV. Further help with retuning can be found at or by calling their customer support team on 08450 990 990.

If you have any other kind of satellite receiver, you will need to check that it is capable of receiving a DVB-S2 signal. If it can, then you can use the following parameters to tune manually into the services carried:

Satellite: Astra 2D tp.50
Frequency: 10,847MHz (vertical polarity)
Modulation: DVB-S2, QPSK
Symbol Rate: 23.0
FEC: 8/9

If you are a viewer of our HD services on satellite, I hope this change will be a smooth transition for you. And I thought you'd appreciate an explanation of how this change fits into a bigger picture of our drive to use spectrum ever more efficiently.

Alix Pryde is Director, BBC Distribution

Update 9th June: Alix has now responded to some of your comments. See comment 48 and comment 104. (NR)

BBC iPlayer Introduces Share Tools

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Dave Price Dave Price | 15:45 UK time, Thursday, 2 June 2011

A few weeks ago, we launched a new feature in BBC iPlayer: Series Record as part of our continuous evolution of BBC iPlayer. Yesterday we made some improvements to some of the social aspects of BBC iPlayer, with the launch of Share Tools.

Sharetools in BBC iPlayer

Sharetools on a BBC iPlayer page

Already rolled out to some other parts of BBC Online (e.g. BBC News, BBC Food, this blog), Share Tools make sharing content on iPlayer even easier.

Just look for the 'Share' icon underneath the player window, when you're watching or listening to any programme.



These allow you to share the page with your friends across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

We've been listening to your feedback and analysing how the new site performs since we came out of beta last September. As a consequence, Share Tools replaces the 'recommend' option on playback pages, making it even easier to share programmes with your friends.

I hope you enjoy sharing your favourite programmes with friends and family.

Dave Price is Head of BBC iPlayer, Programmes and On Demand, BBC Future Media

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