Research & Development

Posted by Sarah Mines on

This week we are launching the first episode of a new video series called BBC R&D Explains, where one or more of our researchers will talk about what they are working on.

In the first episode, we talk about how we’re creating personalised stories, using an approach called object-based media. Our multi-talented Graduate R&D Engineer Emma Young interviews Lead R&D Engineer Matthew Brooks to get the low down on our object-based production tool StoryFormer. The tool was recently used to produce BBC Click’s 1000th episode and a bespoke documentary called Instagrammification.

Click’s production crew created a fully interactive episode where viewers were able to choose to follow the segments they were interested in at various points throughout the programme. Choices included whether viewers wanted to watch a piece about autonomous cars or a story about a man in Malawi who is trying to save the planet one gadget at a time instead.

The Instagrammification documentary was more ‘lean back’. Viewers made their choices at the beginning of the film, such as deciding which presenter they wanted and whether they wanted to be informed or entertained and telling us if they were interested in say sport or technology. These choices changed the tone of the documentary and meant, like with Click, that if you decided to watch it again, you could have a completely different experience each time.

Also, episode one will touch on the different levels of personalisation; from recommenders and playlists to the capabilities of object-based media, and then perceptive technologies that can enable experiences unique to an individual’s context. Emma and Matt will also look at R&D’s history with object-based media; from why we think there is a need for increasingly personal content, to examining past projects that we’ve worked on within the department. Examples of these include our Make-Along Origami Jumping Frog, Casualty: A&E Audio and Responsive Radio - as well as collaborations with others such as 2Immerse with BT, Cisco and others. Finally, the episode will explain how you can try using StoryFormer to tell your own stories.

As well as wanting to tell the world about our work, BBC R&D is required to do so, as specified in its Royal Charter. We have various of ways of doing this from delivering papers at conferences, (now virtually), speaking to press, writing blog posts, publishing reports and white papers, sharing our insights across social media and of course video.

The sort of things we talk about in R&D can be niche and complex. Over the last decade, we have embraced the use of video as a highly effective way to communicate, and our films have continued to evolve in tone, style and duration. We had been talking about producing BBC R&D Explains for some time - considering it another way of letting people know what we are doing, and where relevant, to offer practical advice on taking advantage of the tools and knowledge in the department. Unfortunately, diaries and other projects got in the way, so what was supposed to be a standard format film shot in our office and lab has now had to adapt to the lockdown times at present. We didn’t want to stop production or stop sharing our work, so this episode was all filmed socially distant over the internet. Luckily we have our fantastic content producer Vicky Barlow and inventive graphic designer Joseph Turner on hand to add more than a touch of pizzazz to the final product.

Like everything in BBC R&D, this is an experiment. We don’t know if it will work or not. Is it the right tone, duration and depth? We plan to do more this summer and if you like them and think it’s a good way to hear about what we are up to we will keep going. We would love to hear what you think so do leave a comment on our YouTube Channel or Tweet us @bbcrd.

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BBC Taster - Try Click's 1000th Interactive Episode

BBC News - Click 1,000: How the pick-your-own-path episode was made

BBC R&D - Making a Personalised, Data-Driven Documentary

BBC R&D - Object-Based Media

BBC R&D - StoryFormer: Building the Next Generation of Storytelling

Tech Crunch - Interactive content is coming to Walmart’s Vudu & the BBC

Broadcast - BBC creates interactive fact-ent show

TVB Europe - BBC announces first full-length interactive programme

BBC R&D - StoryKit: An Object-Based Media Toolkit

BBC R&D - Delivering Object-Based Media at Scale with Render Engine Broadcasting

BBC R&D - How we Made the Make-Along

BBC R&D - Casualty, Loud and Clear - Our Accessible and Enhanced Audio Trial

BBC R&D - Future Content Experiences - Responsive Radio

This post is part of the Future Experience Technologies section