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How the BBC’s preparing for a Big Night In

Executive producer Peter Davey talks to TVBEurope about producing the live show

Tonight the BBC will broadcast The Big Night In, a live one-off show aiming to keep the nation entertained while also raising funds for both Children in Need and Comic Relief.

The live show, produced by BBC Studios, will feature three hosts based in The One Show’s studio at New Broadcasting House with numerous contributors joining in from home.

Typically, the BBC’s appeal shows have 200 people in the crew, with 55 members of the production team on site at the studio during transmission. Tonight, there will be approximately 20 crew members and 15 production on site with everyone else working remotely from home.

“At the studio we are limited to 11 people on the studio floor with only two cameras as opposed to 10,” executive producer Peter Davey tells TVBEurope. “An executive producer will be in the gallery and there will be one or two producers in another part of the building two metres away from each other. There will be a clear communication flow plan for how to get important messages to the gallery.”

Tonight’s live show will use satellite, Skype and Zoom to get the numerous celebrity guests on air. For pre-records the team has used both Zoom and Skype as well as an app called Filmic Pro for filming on Android devices, plus what Davey describes as “more traditional technology.” Both the internet and 4G have been employed to get content back to the main production team, with editors cabling their routers to improve internet speed.

Of course one of the strangest aspects for those who’ll be appearing on air during the show is getting used to working with a production team that itself is working remotely. Davey says all of the show’s talent and contributors have been extremely understanding and accommodating. “Our remote producing of the pre-record VTs has seen them being very involved in the technical set up and they have been very patient with this,” he adds.

Dawn French’s Vicar of Dibley will be one of tonight’s special guests

In terms of getting kit to those that have been working from home, BBC Studios used couriers and provided anti-bacterial wipes for the team to wipe down deliveries coming and going. “All possible attempts were made to keep deliveries to a minimum,” says Davey.

Another issue for a live show that’s being produced over the internet is latency. “This has been difficult,” admits Davey, “but buffers have been built into deadlines and multiple team members have been across staying on top of this.”

Production on the show began three weeks prior to the live broadcast, but surprisingly rehearsals are only happening today. “We are only rehearsing on the day of the live broadcast to keep contact between production, crew and talent to a minimum,” explains Davey.

“The team on the show have all produced BBC appeal shows prior to this, including Comic Relief, Sport Relief and Children in Need,” concludes Davey. “However, the short preproduction period and remote working has been a new challenge.”