Case study


The television will be revolutionised
  • Tech: React
  • Time: 3 months
  • Team: 4 devs
  • Host: Private cloud
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The challenge

BBC Research & Development’s innovative IP Studio was a major development project. The idea was to create a broadcast television platform, based on internet technology – essentially, a vision mixer that works in a web browser. As the name suggests, vision mixing takes multiple video and audio inputs and produces a final composite output, including graphics, pre-recorded video and live feeds.

Our job was to build a front-end application that interfaces with IP Studio’s back-end services. A significant task. And to make things even more complicated, our solution had to be suitable for live television. This means it had to interface with specialist equipment that can handle 4K streams in real time with no buffering.

Traditionally, even a modest live broadcast might require half a dozen people, plus an outside broadcast van costing millions of pounds. BBC R&D wanted to operate with just a keyboard and a mouse.

How could we handle, synchronise and adjust such large files, support current editing workflows, live, all within the browser?

The proposition

Our solution had to combine multiple flows into a final synchronised output. This is fiendishly difficult because some flows arrive later than others and systems need to juggle them until everything is running together.

Also, as the vision mixing technician cuts to a different camera or fades out an image or superimposes a graphic, they have to see the effect of their decisions instantly and in the right order. This means showing lower resolution streams in the browser and sending the corresponding high resolution streams out for broadcast.

But we soon discovered that the real challenge was managing time...

The project journey

When working in areas we’re unfamiliar with, we focus on designing and building products, letting our customers provide the industry expertise. BBC R&D had written a comprehensive brief and took us to see a traditional vision mixing gallery, so we could understand the practicalities.

Because the timescale was so tight we had to be both purists and pragmatists. Dealing with the synchronisation issues demanded perfection, because any bugs would lead to instability that was impossible to trace.

On the other hand, there were some aspects of the UI that needed to perform and look excellent, but the code could be rougher around the edges. BBC R&D trusted us to juggle technical and commercial priorities and make the right decisions for the overall project.

We built the vision mixer in just eight weeks, using React.

The impact

Setting the stage for a broadcasting revolution.

Our collaborative effort with BBC R&D was really put through its paces when our vision mixer was employed at the Edinburgh Festival, showcasing its potential in a live setting.

The industry now stands on the brink of a paradigm shift, with our vision mixer playing a pivotal role. With the promise of further advancements on the horizon, we continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in broadcasting.

The project became the subject of two posts on the BBC R&D’s own blog too. And you can read about the project's technical detail in our own series of posts.

Case study

BBC News: Pictures tell a thousand words

In a world overflowing with information, BBC News envisioned a transformative leap, aiming to set a gold standard in digital journalism. Embracing the potential of emerging technologies, the project centered on delivering news with precision, speed, and depth – ensuring that every story resonates with clarity and truth in this digital age.

Explore the BBC News project

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