BBC Northern Ireland Enhances Election Coverage With AR Graphics Driven By Vizrt And Ncam
Held every five years, the elections cover the results for all 90 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. This year’s elections were held on May 5.
To deliver for audiences throughout the election coverage, BBC NI used the Ncam Mk2 tracking system alongside Viz Engine. The goal was to create AR content within the BBC studio space to increase production value and produce more engaging content for viewers. The integration between Ncam and Vizrt relies on real-time tracking data being sent from one machine to the other accurately and seamlessly.
The content ranged from small AR pop-up statistics on each Member of Parliament running in the election to huge picture board walls detailing party members and critical information. Because the graphics were AR but represented on screen, the newscasters were able to move freely and seamlessly within the studio space to discuss and offer insight into what viewers were seeing. Many of these graphics had live animations too, which meant ensuring the position of the graphics through real-time tracking was a key necessity.
The Ncam camera bar (CB) and connection box were simply mounted to the BBC’s broadcast camera, and the CB was articulated up towards the studio ceiling. BBC used the Ncam “natural core,” which solely relies on natural features to track from lighting rigs, scaffolding and any natural geometry. The Mk2 server was then racked in a separate room on a floor above the studio alongside the Viz Engines. This is where the operator would manage the Ncam system and make any adjustments.
Tom Evans, Ncam head of product management, said: “Within Ncam we can set datum points manually anywhere we need to and then save these datum points and reload them at the click of a button. Once the data has been set within Ncam and then further tweaked within Vizrt, we can consistently reload the exact same zero-point time after time with no need for daily readjustments saving time, effort, and ultimately money.”
Having the ability to zoom and focus on these graphics while maintaining their realism was crucial to BBC NI, especially as the host was often in shot or introduced to the shot whilst the graphics were live.
Using the bespoke Ncam lens calibration BBC NI was able to build a map on the lens being used, meaning any distortions of the lens were mapped out enabling users to freely zoom and focus on the host or the AR elements without the illusion being compromised. This lens profile was then exported directly from Ncam into a format that Viz Engine can process.