When millions of viewers across Europe tune into the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final on 14th May, they’ll see the UK’s jury broadcasting from a brand new location. This year the BBC’s production base for the show is moving to its new home at dock10 in Salford, Manchester. The facility will beam the results of the UK jury to Turin, which itself will send the feed back to Salford, via London.
dock10 has played host to a number of major live events in recent months. In March, it hosted the live broadcast of Comic Relief, and has also been the home of the BBC’s coverage of both the Tokyo Summer Olympics and this year’s Beijing Winter Olympics.
For Andy Waters, head of studios at dock10, the UK jury move will be a chance to catch up with an old friend. “I used to work on the show when I worked for the BBC at Television Centre, so it’s quite nice for it to be coming up to Manchester,” he says. “It’s probably the first time it’s come out of London.
“We will be looking after all the production feeds and the distribution to the network and adding in any additional commentary, any additional requirements or graphics required for the show. That will all be based around one of our studio galleries, including things like EVS replays, etc, We’ve been doing a lot of these major events over the last couple of years with the Olympics and the the Euros and this is a sort of showbiz version of the same thing,” he smiles.
Viewers will get to see Manchester as part of the broadcast, thanks to drone footage organised by dock10’s head of marketing, Darren Deans. “That’s been great fun, actually,” Deans says. “MediaCity changes so quickly, so we’ve been doing some new drone test fights, flying them around and getting some nice shots.”
dock10 works with over 30 different connectivity providers, so connecting to Turin shouldn’t be a problem. “In addition to that, the BBCs own network of connectivity, which extends across the country, is also connected to us,” explains Waters. “So there’s going to be a combination of routes coming in and going out, but a lot of it will be over the BBCs own connectivity landing in the MCR in London, and then distributed across the country up to us. We regularly do live TX for ITV or Channel Four, and having all that connectivity available, as it was for the Euros last year when we had UHD feeds coming in from all over Europe, is really invaluable”
But with all those feeds pinging around between Italy, Manchester and the rest of the UK, is Waters worried about latency issues? “I think there’s always going to be latency no matter what network you use,” he says. “Even if the show was being transmitted from Turin directly to your television there is always going to be a slight latency issue, because the speed of light will only travel so fast. But it’s pretty damn quick.
“The thing which impacts latency more than the fibre network is routing equipment and digital technology. Even a vision mixer will have a couple of frames delay in it. But it’s nothing significant and nothing different to what we’re already very much used to.
“Eurovision would be all the poorer if there weren’’t those little satellite delays between the countries, wouldn’t it?” adds Deans.
In terms of revealing the votes of the UK jury, that will involve the BBC’s host stood in front of a camera pointed at a green screen, something the team at dock10 are well used to facilitating. “We do a lot of green screen, which has now elevated to a lot of virtual studio solutions,” says Waters. “We could do a whole lot more if the production team wanted us to, and have the UK presenter appearing to be live from the moon,” he laughs.
“This is going to be a relatively simple green screen, so quite traditional with interesting shots of MediaCity just to bring home the message that it’s not coming from London, it’s coming from another part of the UK. It’s quite nice because we’re seeing MediCity being used more by broadcasters in the UK. We hosted Comic Relief in March, which again was another first time outside of London production. In fact, we have the same studio manager looking after both.”