The New BBC News set: 4 small details you may not have noticed

June 14, 2022
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The new BBC News Studio B set launched last night, and there were a few things you may not have noticed about the new state-of-the-art studio, that may well point to some interesting things to come…

A close up of two of the large screens used in the background of the new BBC Studio B set, which show wavy patterns across them that follow the camera. This was shown on the tour video Huw Edwards did of the new set.

1. The parallax effects used on the screens

It’s a very subtle effect, but certain shots in the studio that were visible during the set tour Huw Edwards did have a slight wavy reflective glass effect on top of them. However, it’s not just a static effect to try and separate the backdrop a little – it actually moves with the camera, as if it were a real reflection. 

This sort of effect has been used before in BBC Election coverage in their large sets, and as will be discussed later on, this may well be a sign of interesting things to come

2. The “Studio On Air” lights at the top of the stairs

A close up a sign at the top of the stairs in the new BBC News Studio B set, which shows the words "On Air" and "Studio B" lit up. It is normally rather small in the background

The new set is far more expansive than previous sets, and one detail that might not be spotted straight away is the “On Air” sign at the top of the spiral staircase. 

Other images show that this can also display the word “Exit” when the studio is not on air, so it is indeed a functional light and not a static piece of set dressing

The references to Studio B appear to have been brought to the fore in the set design, with the large B blocks from the BBC logo featuring all around the top of the studio walls.

A comparison of the new BBC News Studio B desk shot, with a live shot of the BBC's Katya Adler behind Huw Edwards to the right, and a similar shot from the 1993-1999 set with Edward Stourton talking to a correspondent in a similar way.

3. The references to BBC News sets of the past

Inset image credit: Cllr. David Boothroyd, YouTube

The new desk in the new Studio B set is similar to the one featured in the BBC Millbank set, the one used for Politics Live, but is also reminiscent of the old curved desk used in the 1993-1999 virtual set – and, indeed, the physical set before that. The newsroom view through a short and wide window seems like an obvious homage to that particular set.

The 1993 tribute, as it were, is more obvious when you see the down the line shot to the correspondent, which looks very similar to the one used in 1993, with the curved desk and pillar with a correspondent in it.

Indeed, the similarities don’t end there. The virtual set from 1993 also featured robotic cameras with motion sensors. Speaking of which…


4. The neat features of the new cameras

A shot of the tall screen in the new Studio B, with two of the tall robotic cameras prominently shown either side. They are black pillars with cameras and script prompters inside them, with a triangular base running on sunken tracks.

As mentioned through this article, the robotic cameras unlock a bevy of opportunities for BBC News. The tracking capabilities have already been used for animating reflections to be tracked along with the camera, for example.

The camera system, produced by Electric Friends in Norway, has a tracking system built into the rails that utilises QR codes to give a very high level of accuracy in terms of the camera’s current position within a space. This allows the usage of virtual reality and augmented reality features within the studio.

As Studio B is being slated for use during General Elections, these sorts of features would doubtless come in handy.

The system also includes safety features that stop the cameras if there are obstacles or people in the way of them. You may have spotted the red flashing lights at the bottom of the robotic cameras that are part of this system.

The cameras are also capable of tracking the faces of presenters to produce better, more dynamic shots that permit the kinds of presentation that the BBC are now going for, with more movement about the studio.

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