REWIND Spins BBC ‘Strictly’ into 360 Degree Video

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REWIND, the UK based VR digital production company, were commissioned by the BBC to record one of the UK’s biggest shows in immersive, VR friendly video, the first of its kind for a mainstream BBC show.

Whilst the demographics of this website may groan, UK readers are undoubtedly familiar with one of UK TV’s biggest phenomenons of recent years, Strictly Come Dancing. It’s a reality TV show that, unsurprisingly, involves dancing – or more specifically celebrities learning to dance in various styles for the audience, mentored by a professional. Each week, the dancing ‘couples’ are voted in or out according to their skill (or in many cases whether the public happen not to despise them).

REWIND, the production company behind virtual reality experiences like the Red Bull Air Race, were asked by the BBC to bring the show into the immersive realm. “The aim was to not only provide an entertaining and interactive accompaniment to the show, but to push the boundaries of what is currently possible with 360 degree immersive video across a broad spectrum of platforms,” a press release from the company states.

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According to the company, REWIND worked closely with the ‘Strictly’ production team whilst in rehearsals and during the shoot to allow for direct feedback from the award winning choreographer, Jason Gilkison, who then adapted the routine for optimal 360 degree filming conditions, whilst ensuring maximum entertainment for viewers both at home and in the studio. “It really has helped to create one of the most memorable moments in Strictly history,” said Jason Gilkison, Director of Choreography, Strictly Come Dancing.

Innovation Manager at the BBC Christopher Nundy, explains some of the hopes, constraints and challenges inherent in bringing a traditional light entertainment show to an 360 immersive format. “I wanted to produce a piece of content which genuinely tested the parameters of what could be achieved currently with 360 immersive capture and also allow the BBC to test the workflows and requirements to answer the question,” Nundy says “Can we produce 360 degree content which delivers to the same high standards of our broadcast output?”

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The pre-production process threw up various challenges:

  • How best to position the 360 degree camera rig to capture as much of the action as possible whilst remaining at the optimum distance to allow for perfect multi camera stitching.
  • Striking a balance between capturing a credible 360 viewing experience whilst not taking anything away from the core viewers watching via the primary broadcast experience on TV.
  • Delivering the content to a wide as possible audience – with the technology being so new, there are few outlets for delivering the content which is accessible to a mass market without creating bespoke applications for downloads.
The 360 camera rig used by the crew
One of the 360 camera rigs used by the crew

Despite all that however, Nundy is happy with the result “Nevertheless, I’m extremely proud of our achievement. We have delivered a fantastic piece of content which will appeal to a wide audience as it offers a never seen before view at the heart of the dance floor.”

It’s a mark of VRs rapid ingress into mainstream conciousness the traditional, mainstream media outlets are even considering such projects. And seeing one of the most traditional TV formats brought bang up to date, ready for the immersive revolution due to take place soon, is encouraging.

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  • Don Gateley

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