2019 marks the 55th year of Match of the Day (MOTD) and the iconic show has returned with a brand new look for the new football season. MOTD, MOTD 2, Football Focus and Final Score are all showcasing a 360° virtual studio designed by AE Live (AE).
Chris Izatt, Head of R&D at AE says: “We have designed a bespoke BBC Sport ‘football stadium’ as the home of all four shows. To help fully realise our concept, we enlisted the support of Streamline Studios, one of the most experienced video game development studios in the world. The result is a high quality, photo-realistic studio environment that allows presenters and pundits to utilise the space in new, engaging ways whilst incorporating each programmes’ distinctive branding and identity.”
Once completed, the studio designs were handed over to dock10 to be translated and further developed into Zero Density’s Reality Software. Reality harnesses Unreal Engine to achieve high quality, photo realistic results. AE then brought on board the award-winning set-design company Jago Design and tasked them with creating the hard set elements such as desks and rostrum. BBC Sport’s Creative Director, John Murphy and AE provided creative oversight of both the virtual and physical production processes.
Alongside the stunning new studio, a full suite of template-based augmented reality (AR) graphics have been developed and built into Reality/Unreal by AE. However, providing AR graphics in this new system has not been without its challenges as Scott Marlow, AE’s Design Development Manager explains: “Many of the tools and processes that we normally require to produce data-rich graphics content have needed to be specifically designed and built to work in Unreal Engine. Now that those issues have been overcome, we believe we have a great foundation to create immersive, game-changing graphics. We are excited for the future and the immense possibilities of working with Unreal Engine.”
Graphics have been designed around a central concept of ‘Smart Glass’ – a window that looks out to the BBC Sport virtual stadium and can display a range of dynamic imagery and video content. Viewers can also be transported through the ‘Smart Glass’ via a virtual camera fly-through into the heart of the BBC Sport stadium to discover team formations and advanced Piero match analysis.
The ‘Smart Glass’ and other AR content is controlled by an AE-developed control application, written specifically to drive graphics content within Reality. There is also a tablet-driven application that is used by a presenter to display content on a virtual screen. Traditional name supers, analysis bugs, and match highlight graphics are being supplied and delivered by AE with VizRT engines.
Lewis Phillips, AE’s Production Director, commented: “The BBC football contract is held in high esteem by all at AE and we are immensely proud to have collaborated with BBC Sport at such a pivotal moment in their coverage of the nation’s favourite sport. The project has brought out the best in AE both creatively and technically. As well as designing the studio concepts, our development teams were challenged to produce a bespoke control system for managing and triggering template-based AR graphics in Zero Density’s Reality and Unreal Engine. The opening weekends have been a resounding success and we are collectively delighted with the results.”