Latest BBCi goings on

Published on 15 September 2007 in , , , , , ,

Ever since I got back from holiday, work seems to have been pretty non-stop which is the main reason I haven’t blogged much about BBCi recently. Which means this post is over a week and a half late…

But anyway if you’ve seen the CBBC channel recently, it’s all gone green and our CBBC extra service got a makeover to match. Rebrand projects always sound easier than they are – in reality “just update the service with the new colours and things” doesn’t happen so smoothly.

In industry speak CBBC extra is part of an overall CBBC, cross-media proposition, with the requirement for a cohesive brand experience. That means it’s on the web, TV and interactive TV and they want them all to look similar. So the branding designers toddle off and think about things. Obviously the main focus is the TV channel and the rest comes from there.

Once that’s all agreed, our designers work with the branding designers to manipulate their ideas in such a way that works on an interactive TV service.

Copy of the original design for CBBC extra on BBCi

The actual choice of colours for CBBC was perhaps the biggest hurdle. The palette of colours chosen for the new brand featured lots of bright greens and white. And nothing else.

For TV that’s fine – idents and logos don’t appear on screen very long, tend to be animated, and usually include some video clips as well. On websites, light colours tend to work fine as well, and you can have some animated effects to boot.

Interactive TV isn’t so lucky. For starters, everything tends to be very static on screen. Also, on a TV screen light colours tend to look very garish and not particularly easy on the eye – even on a decent TV, they tend to look awful and could potentially give people at home headaches. Not to mention the the heads of the people working on it. To get round this, we needed to get some darker colours in, just for us – but of course you can’t move too far away from the “brand” colours hence the green currently in use now probably isn’t as dark as desirable.

On Freeview, the problems aren’t over there as the boxes only having 188 colours which can be used in interactive applications. They’re all pre-determined, rather vivid and you can always guarantee that the colours you want, aren’t actually available to you! Indeed looking at the colour palette, it’s a rather strange assortment of colours – very heavy on dark greens and blues, and not much of anything else!

Freeview set top box colour palette

Incidentally, one thing I have seen on the internet about TV graphic design, is that a lot of it looks like it’s been tested on large flat screen TVs and nothing else. Now I can’t comment on other parts of the TV industry, but let me just assure you that in BBCi, we’ve got about 3 flat screen TVs. The rest – at least 80 – are cheap and often dodgy CRT TV sets. One of the TVs we use for demos is particularly dodgy with some frankly terrible colour bleed on it.

Besides colour conundrums, the rebrand of CBBC extra also saw the integration of Newsround into the CBBC service for the first time (for some reason it was never done originally), and for the first time, Newsround on BBCi has exactly the same content as it does on Ceefax (again, for some reason that was never done originally). My little contribution to the process of adding missing Ceefax content to BBCi.

As well as CBBC, two other projects went live in BBCi towers recently.

The Freeview radio service got the new station logos which BBC Radio have introduced, along with a little message saying you might need to rescan your set top box in October (if you know your DTT, Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 are moving from Mux A to Mux B). So if the Radio 2 stops working for you in a months time, don’t say you weren’t told! It’s actually rather annoying that many Freeview boxes just don’t automatically cope with such things. Most new boxes will, but the older ones don’t. For my money, simple broadcast re-configurations should be completely invisible to the viewer at home – indeed they are on Virgin and Sky – and it’s rather annoying that it often isn’t.

Also radio related, the radio service also arrived on Virgin Media as well. Go to a BBC radio channel and press red to see what Freeview users have had for years!

Annoyingly it’s not possible to automatically load an interactive application on cable – you can on Freeview – which means you just get a black screen with a small station logo on it. It would be so much nicer if cable viewers be able to get a big logo and the LiveText straight away without having to press anything. Sky’s boxes have the same problem alas. Real shame because such a simple thing, does for me, make a big difference.