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Eastenders goes live with BBC S&PP expertise

BBC Studios and Post Production (BBC S&PP) is providing full technical services and crew for EastEnders Live Week, the week-long celebrations which kick off today to mark the soap’s 30th anniversary.

BBC Studios and Post Production (BBC S&PP) is providing full technical services and crew for EastEnders Live Week, which kicks off today to mark the soap’s 30th anniversary. The week of drama on BBC One will include a series of live elements in all the episodes, and will culminate with a full live half-hour episode on Friday 20 February.

For the EastEnders Live Week, OB 10 provided by CTV will assist to facilitate the operation, interacting with BBC S&PP’s infrastructure on its BBC Elstree site on the edge of London, including controlling the playout. To assist with the challenge of intercutting live elements into the pre-recorded material, the pre-recorded material will be played out from an EVS server. The vision mixer then cuts to the live material and back to the pre-recorded material at the appropriate time.

Up to 30 cameras and 45 radio mics will be used in each of the live episodes cutting in with the pre-recorded material, scaling up to 41 cameras for the 30-minute live episode.

To manage the additional production crew and technical staff deployed to work on Live Week, a special comms system has been installed. A Motorola radio system will enable the production team to have complete coverage of the Elstree site: over 140 handsets are required to be deployed on set at any one time. The live dub will be managed from the OB truck and the dedicated sound facility pre-recorded foley, including background noise from the market and pub, will be inserted into the mix.

To ensure a consistent picture between the pre-recorded and live material, cameras will be wrapped in the same way as for normal recording and balanced to colour match the grade to the pre-recorded footage.

John O’Callaghan, head of studios and post production services at BBC S&PP, said: “This week marks an incredible milestone for the cast and crew of EastEnders and we’re thrilled to provide the platform to make this happen. Delivering live drama comes with its own unique set of challenges, not least the need to balance being responsive and flexible with thorough planning and rehearsal of the technical set-up. We’re looking forward to seeing it come to life this week.”

This isn’t the first time such a challenge has been attempted: in 2010 BBC S&PP delivered a half hour live episode for the soap’s 25th anniversary, as well as a live segment in 2012.