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AI and AR Changing UK Broadcasters’ 2024 Election Coverage

AI and AR Changing UK Broadcasters' 2024 Election Coverage
AI and AR used by UK broadcasters for 2024 election coverage

The UK’s main broadcasters faced a special challenge on July 4th, 2024, when the nation held its general election. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave the networks only six weeks to complete their preparations for election night coverage after calling them unusually early on May 22.

BBC News, Sky News, ITV News, and Channel 4 News, among others, used cutting-edge technology and creative production approaches to provide in-depth coverage to viewers across the UK and abroad in the face of political unpredictability and urgent national crises.

On a night that saw a swift victory for the Labour Party, the broadcasters sought to make vote counting into an engaging television programme using everything from augmented reality visualisations to AI-powered data analysis.

Every network’s months-long preparation paid off once the polls closed and the exit poll was made public. The major broadcast networks covered election night in the following manner:

BBC News used a visual package full of colour bursts and tessellation to anchor their report from Studio B in the new Broadcasting House in London.

In order to cover as many of the 650 parliamentary seats as feasible, a central centre at Broadcasting House received feeds from constituencies using IP, bonded cellular, and satellite technologies. In order to give a live feed for the broadcast, BBC has deployed a mobile video package, complete with an iPhone, to each voting place.

Viz Engine 5 and Stype RedSpy’s camera tracking were used to construct an enhanced recreation of 10 Downing Street inside Studio B. Next, real-time information from Idonix was included.

The BBC covered more ground than just London; major portions of the show were filmed in Cardiff and Glasgow. Jeremy Vine showcased his Swingometer programme in Cardiff from the broadcast center’s atrium, which included an LED virtual production stage.   

To enable smooth movement on-air, this stage was outfitted with a bespoke Ross Video Furio camera track, Mo-Sys StarTracker, and Newton Stabilised head.  

The studio had many zones for various kinds of coverage, an LED floor known as the disco floor, and a giant curved LED backdrop from ROE Visual. Utilising Unreal Engine, Sky constructed an augmented reality (AR) cover for 10 Downing Street, and it also produced life-size figures of party leaders Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak.  

Grass Valley cameras were utilised by Sky News, together with a jib and wire cam for dynamic views, Mo-Sys StarTracker for tracking cameras, and Vizrt for graphics rendered using the Unreal Engine. The studio included live feeds from constituency counts, maps, and data visualisations shown on its LED displays, one of which was a high-resolution centre display.

Sky launched the Digital Camera Project (DCP) to provide remote coverage. Twenty to thirty Sky ENG cameras and sixty to eighty student operators with cameras and LiveU cellular transmission devices were deployed. Producers at Sky Studios supervised and sorted the incoming material once these feeds were sent over the cloud to a network operations centre.

For the first time in an election broadcast, the broadcaster used Ross Video OverDrive as part of an automated process on election night. This hybrid technique, especially for graphics processes, blended human control with automated aspects. After the election, the automation will still be in place and used for future studio projects.

Two production control rooms that are compatible with the studio were put up by Sky News to guarantee dependability and provide redundancy in case of technological problems.

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