Blackmagic Design today announced that Sky News UK has integrated a series of Ultimatte 12 compositing processors and an Ultimatte Smart Remote 4 to produce dynamic virtual studio segments for its award winning 24 hour rolling news cycle, in particular for its ‘Sunrise’ breakfast programming.
The installation forms part of a major relocation project, which saw the news broadcaster move to new, state of the art studio facilities within Sky Campus in West London. “Our key aim was not only to retain the extremely high quality production values that Sky News is renowned for, but also to ensure that we were able to create depth, scale and variety when presenting news output,” explains Ben Wickham, head of studio output, Sky News.
The three walled greenscreen takes up around half of the studio, and is predominantly used for Sky News’ virtual news studio, built within a highly realistic 3D VR environment. Within the virtual set, a video wall can be deployed for welcome sequences, lead item discussions, correspondent reports, sports bulletins and weather forecasts.
Ben explains that this is where the cleanness of Ultimatte’s keying and spill suppression come into their own: “As well as a range of different presenters’ hair colors, skin tones and clothing, it has to deal with changes in camera angle, and greenspill from the three walls on presenters’ heads and shoes. The Ultimatte’s real time edge handling and color separation means that we can always be confident of the results on screen, no matter how many different VR studio slots we have in the running order.”
News programming in the studio is captured by five cameras, including two dedicated VR units; one on a jib and a pedestal unit operated remotely from the gallery. “Our VR elements have to be as flexible as possible, so we can cut between our VR camera signals and also transition between the virtual set and the presenters’ desk in the other half of the studio,” continues Ben. “The integration between studio set and VR cameras has to be seamless.”
Sky News is already expanding its use of VR with Ultimatte 12 with enhancements to its editorial news elements, for example, creating a series of real life locations to recreate timelines of key news events. “Often we simply can’t film in these locations live, as they may still be an active crime scene, however by constructing a virtual recreation, we can have a presenter walk through the scene, giving the story an added dimension,” explains Ben.
“We chose Ultimatte 12 primarily because its precision, wide color space and real time image processing would match Sky News’ rigorous demands for production excellence at all times,” Ben concludes. “It’s critical that any VR elements we introduce into our studio productions retain as much authenticity as possible. Ultimatte’s flexibility, combined with high quality VR builds ensures that viewers will continue to turn to the channel as a reliable and information news source.”