|BBC Resources recently supported the massive 22 hours of live high definition coverage of the Live Earth concerts taking place on 7 July, which went out to over 135 countries across the world.
The new HD studio, Studio Eight, at Television Centre in London acted as the hub for the operation, where content arrived and was packaged up by BBC Resources for different international broadcasters. Every single item of HD equipment in the building was utilized and new lines were installed between BBC Resources' post production and studios divisions to transfer material and to get it out of Television Centre and around the world.
The Live Earth global concert series aimed to engage with people across all seven continents and give solutions for the climate crisis. Material from concerts in Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Hamburg, London, Rio and New York will be broadcast to over two billion people, which makes the project the largest, most complex HD broadcast in media history.
Taking place at the same time as Wimbledon, which BBC Resources was also supporting, one of the key challenges was getting hold of HD equipment, as much of it is already being used.
The Executive In Charge of Production André Mika and the World Feed Producer/Director Paul Flattery based at BBC Resources’ Studio Eight worked with a team to craft a 22-hour HD and SD programme that was broadcast via satellite (Intelsat) to an estimated audience in excess of two billion people.
The scope of the Live Earth broadcast even surpassed the Olympics.
As well as receiving material from the concerts, BBC Resources in London received additional feeds from countries holding Live Earth celebrations that wish to contribute to the programme. Feeds streamed into the BBC Resources’ hub where material was ingested into an HD environment, or was broadcast live and fed throughout the extensive satellite distribution network, coordinated by Live Earth Transmission Manager Bob Adler.
The programme was made in a totally tapeless HD environment and BBC Post Production provided around 8Tb of EVS Server Storage to record the concerts and provide live server-based editing of all the footage. All live material, pre-edited packages and highlights edits were available to the director at a moments notice.
A large number of international broadcasters were involved, with many different scheduling requirements which need to be met, which added to the challenge. Plus the different international standards which BBC Resources needed to deliver to, for example 29.97 frame HD to the US and Japan and 25 frame HD to Europe.
BBC Post Production, part of BBC Resources, used a brand new Snell and Wilcox Alchemist Ph.C – HD frame rate standards converter to make this possible. BBC Post Production was the first facilities house in the world to take delivery of this new technology and invested further in it by designing a system to support Dolby E conversions. It has already used the Alchemist on a variety of BBC programmes such as 'Planet Earth', 'Galapagos', 'Bleak House' and 'Nureyev' for worldwide sales, as well as Live Earth.
The broadcast was unprecedented mainly due to the fact the majority of host countries and venues do not broadcast in HD and in some cases the production team had to ship out and install HD equipment to support it. In the UK there was live coverage of the concerts at the new Wembley Stadium on BBC ONE and BBC TWO.
A whole host of major international artists featured, with performances from Madonna, The Beastie Boys, Razorlight, The Red Hot Chili Peppers amongst many others. Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton and Edith Bowman presented. Cable and satellite viewers were able to access three streams of global concerts via the BBC’s Interactive channels and the BBC transmission was available on the BBC’s HD Channel. In addition to television, there was coverage on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2 and the BBC World Service. Supporting the 22-hour broadcast, BBC Post Production delivered a 144 minute highlights package just hours after the end of the concert.
The Executive In Charge of Production, André Mika, said that the global coordination of content and formats combined with the creative collaboration across seven continents was unlike anything else he had previously encountered.
BBC Resources Ltd, which is currently being sold by the BBC, is one of the largest production facilities in the UK.
The company consists of: BBC Studios, BBC Outside Broadcasts and BBC Post Production.
An operational review in December 2004 concluded that BBC Resources should be sold off.