The Newsroom

BBC News – Behind the Scenes

Questions about the technical side of BBC News

This site closed in March 2021 and is now a read-only archive
RE
RyanE
I’ve been watching a number of behind the scenes videos of BBC news recently and I have a number of questions about it. I don‘t work in the industry but I'm technically minded and therefore I find this sort of thing fascinating.

Firstly, I see that the “ VT”’s are now run off servers compared to physical video tape as it would have been previously. Is there just one physical server with multiple outputs that plays back the content or is one required per feed? There seems to be four used normally (A, B, C and D) plus E that just seem to display an animated BBC News Logo and F that displays the filler loop. There also appears to be another two that were blank on the videos I have seen – presumably they are backups?

I take it that all the clips are put into the automation system so the next one is queued up automatically once the previous one has been played. Is it possible to manually select a different clip if required during the broadcast to put it on air early or must everything be done on the automation system?

I also saw four “Viz” players (Viz 1 to Viz 4) which presumably are for still images and graphics? It looks as though they can control the graphics, so when they are produced, this must be taken into account and a cue can be sent to the player to move it onto the next ‘slide’ (or whatever it is called officially)?

Where do the graphics come from for the catwalk screens and the screens either side of the desk? Do they all have their own feed as well? Presumably they are all automated normally be it must get complicated to send the correct VT or graphics to the correct screen if they want to make any changes? I think I saw something about them all having an Aux output from the Vision Mixer. It must be complicated as that would mean 5 Aux outputs being used!

There’s also a screen behind the guest when they interview someone that normally displays the BBC News logo during the news but I’ve seen it showing different images during The Andrew Marr Show. Is this controlled the same as the above screens (Aux output from the Vision Mixer)?

Who controls the text on the Astons? It seems to be queued from the automation system but there doesn’t seem to be anyone in the gallery producing them. Are they sat out in the newsroom?
DE
deejay
You seem to have a pretty good grasp of it all to be honest!

There’s effectively one server for all the galleries - with multiple output ports for each. Each gallery has four ports and they tend to be two for “ VT” items and two for use in the screens. However it is possible to allocate screen server ports to go full frame if you want. The others are manually allocated ports for the loops you’ve seen running, and two backup ports from a different server.

The four viz ports are used similarly but also for “pushbacks” when required.

The automation switches server, viz and other sources into the screens as required and stretches them across the catwalk or routes 16:9 images according to the programming in the running order.

The vision mixer auxes are used to feed screens, set backings etc and yes, there are a lot of them!

Text is run by a journalist or via an automatic playout system as required.
RE
RyanE

There’s effectively one server for all the galleries - with multiple output ports for each. Each gallery has four ports and they tend to be two for “VT” items and two for use in the screens. However it is possible to allocate screen server ports to go full frame if you want. The others are manually allocated ports for the loops you’ve seen running, and two backup ports from a different server.


I didn't notice that the second two are for the screens but it's clear now I've watched the video again. It's clearly quite a flexible system (I suppose it has to be!). Can the director easily put something on any screen quickly if they need to or would it be complicated to do this and therefore it's always pre-programmed?


The four viz ports are used similarly but also for “pushbacks” when required.


What are pushbacks?


The automation switches server, viz and other sources into the screens as required and stretches them across the catwalk or routes 16:9 images according to the programming in the running order.


I've watched the behind the scenes Facebook live back and I can see a VT playing and that then being stretched across the screens. I didn't realise it did that. Where does the BBC News logo come from at the start of the programme on the catwalk as I didn't see that being played out anywhere? Is there a separate viz port for that?


The vision mixer auxes are used to feed screens, set backings etc and yes, there are a lot of them!


It must be worse for Studio B - 11 screens across the two sets assuming they all come through the vision mixer?

How is the background behind the guest controlled? Likewise the background in Studio C? Is that also a vision mixer aux or just a separate computer output as they're just background screens?
DE
deejay
Pushbacks = when studio output is knocked back into a box and graphics are run on the right of the screen. Not always on air, usually just for specials like the budget and major breaking news.

The BBC News Logo is keyed separately via the lower thirds viz engines (which also provide the name straps etc).

Studio B makes use of an additional piece of kit to feed the screens.

Some auxes from the vision mixer feed the additional screens such as the ones behind guests in studio C from a separate playout device which loops video backings according to programme style.
RE
RyanE
BBC News Logo was the wrong phrase, I suppose it's just branding. I was referring to what is on the catwalk screens at, for example, the Ten O'Clock News after the titles and before the graphics of the first headline appear. While the graphics seem to play from one of the TX ports (judging by the video I mentioned above), I couldn't see the branding playing out anywhere. The video isn't the highest resolution though so it's probably on there somewhere and I just can't see it!

There's a lot of feeds coming from the vision mixer! Does it take a long time to set everything up in the automation system before a programme?
SP
Steve in Pudsey
One thing I've noticed in studio E is that animating logo on the catwalk screens sometimes gets reflected on the window behind the presenter.

Do those screens show the animation constantly or does the automation normally feed black to them if they aren't going to be seen in vision for a while?
BA
bilky asko
One thing I've noticed in studio E is that animating logo on the catwalk screens sometimes gets reflected on the window behind the presenter.

Do those screens show the animation constantly or does the automation normally feed black to them if they aren't going to be seen in vision for a while?


You can sometimes see them switching to black in the reflection.
DE
deejay
One thing I've noticed in studio E is that animating logo on the catwalk screens sometimes gets reflected on the window behind the presenter.

Do those screens show the animation constantly or does the automation normally feed black to them if they aren't going to be seen in vision for a while?


The animation is there all the time unless the automation has put something else there in its place. There’s a button to allow the director to switch it back to generic screens on demand. The reflection behind the camera is avoided by switching that catwalk screen to black, but it’s a manual operation and sometimes gets overlooked.
bilky asko and Steve in Pudsey gave kudos
DE
deejay
RyanE posted:
BBC News Logo was the wrong phrase, I suppose it's just branding. I was referring to what is on the catwalk screens at, for example, the Ten O'Clock News after the titles and before the graphics of the first headline appear. While the graphics seem to play from one of the TX ports (judging by the video I mentioned above), I couldn't see the branding playing out anywhere. The video isn't the highest resolution though so it's probably on there somewhere and I just can't see it!

There's a lot of feeds coming from the vision mixer! Does it take a long time to set everything up in the automation system before a programme?


The generic branding comes from a different source from the VTs in the programme. It takes a few moments to switch between programme branding. As for the vision mixer set up, all the routing and aux outputs are sorted out by the automation, so set up doesn’t take long at all and isn’t done manually.
RE
RyanE
One thing I've noticed in studio E is that animating logo on the catwalk screens sometimes gets reflected on the window behind the presenter.

Do those screens show the animation constantly or does the automation normally feed black to them if they aren't going to be seen in vision for a while?


The animation is there all the time unless the automation has put something else there in its place. There’s a button to allow the director to switch it back to generic screens on demand. The reflection behind the camera is avoided by switching that catwalk screen to black, but it’s a manual operation and sometimes gets overlooked.


I saw that one of the catwalk screens was black on one of the behind the scenes videos now and wondered why this was the case. Makes sense now, I didn't think about the issue of reflections.

RyanE posted:
BBC News Logo was the wrong phrase, I suppose it's just branding. I was referring to what is on the catwalk screens at, for example, the Ten O'Clock News after the titles and before the graphics of the first headline appear. While the graphics seem to play from one of the TX ports (judging by the video I mentioned above), I couldn't see the branding playing out anywhere. The video isn't the highest resolution though so it's probably on there somewhere and I just can't see it!

There's a lot of feeds coming from the vision mixer! Does it take a long time to set everything up in the automation system before a programme?


The generic branding comes from a different source from the VTs in the programme. It takes a few moments to switch between programme branding. As for the vision mixer set up, all the routing and aux outputs are sorted out by the automation, so set up doesn’t take long at all and isn’t done manually.


Seen a YouTube video from the company that makes Mosart that seems to have been recorded in Studio B's gallery. It looks as though you have a touch screen panel with various options on it so even though the automation handles most things, it would be easy to put an outside source on a screen or play a clip from the playout servers etc. if there was ever the need to do something manually?

Am I right in saying all the Astons are added to the script and then playout from there? I think this applies to VT's too?

In terms of graphics, what would normally be played from the Viz graphics ports? Are the daily coronavirus slides they show every evening played out from these for example? If so, is it one continuous playout or does someone (director or someone else) control the system to move it onto the next slide?
SP
Steve in Pudsey
IIRC The lower thirds are generated live from cues in the script, by Viz engines downstream of the studio so that the graphics can be different on different outlets, BBC One can lose the ticker or a package can have generic branding one hour and a branded programme title the next.

I think there are separate Viz facilities which are sources into the gallery.
DE
deejay
RyanE posted:
One thing I've noticed in studio E is that animating logo on the catwalk screens sometimes gets reflected on the window behind the presenter.

Do those screens show the animation constantly or does the automation normally feed black to them if they aren't going to be seen in vision for a while?


The animation is there all the time unless the automation has put something else there in its place. There’s a button to allow the director to switch it back to generic screens on demand. The reflection behind the camera is avoided by switching that catwalk screen to black, but it’s a manual operation and sometimes gets overlooked.


I saw that one of the catwalk screens was black on one of the behind the scenes videos now and wondered why this was the case. Makes sense now, I didn't think about the issue of reflections.

RyanE posted:
BBC News Logo was the wrong phrase, I suppose it's just branding. I was referring to what is on the catwalk screens at, for example, the Ten O'Clock News after the titles and before the graphics of the first headline appear. While the graphics seem to play from one of the TX ports (judging by the video I mentioned above), I couldn't see the branding playing out anywhere. The video isn't the highest resolution though so it's probably on there somewhere and I just can't see it!

There's a lot of feeds coming from the vision mixer! Does it take a long time to set everything up in the automation system before a programme?


The generic branding comes from a different source from the VTs in the programme. It takes a few moments to switch between programme branding. As for the vision mixer set up, all the routing and aux outputs are sorted out by the automation, so set up doesn’t take long at all and isn’t done manually.


Seen a YouTube video from the company that makes Mosart that seems to have been recorded in Studio B's gallery. It looks as though you have a touch screen panel with various options on it so even though the automation handles most things, it would be easy to put an outside source on a screen or play a clip from the playout servers etc. if there was ever the need to do something manually?

Am I right in saying all the Astons are added to the script and then playout from there? I think this applies to VT's too?

In terms of graphics, what would normally be played from the Viz graphics ports? Are the daily coronavirus slides they show every evening played out from these for example? If so, is it one continuous playout or does someone (director or someone else) control the system to move it onto the next slide?


Yes the touchscreen allows the director to put items to air manually on the fly, whether that’s cameras, graphics, name captions, live sources. There are buttons to change what’s in the screens, change programme style etc. It’s completely up to the client as to what it can do and how it’s set up. In news, it’s obviously fine to pre-program all the stuff you know is going to happen, but you need a way to react manually to the unforseen!

For graphics, there are various ways these can get to air. Viz can be set up to have several pause points in a sequence, so the director has to animate it when the presenter reaches the appropriate point in the script, or it can be an auto mixing sequence that changes every few seconds. Sometimes though they record a viz render onto the server and cut it into separate clips. This can be safer for some programmes and it can allow for more flexibility.

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