Living in Virtual Reality

On this day 20 years ago, BBC News broadcast its final bulletin from its virtual reality news studio.

The first bulletin from this studio was BBC Breakfast News on April 13th 1993.

The Independent reported on the new look:

THE BBC is poised for a high-tech leap next week into a brave news world of ‘virtual reality’.

For the relatively modest investment of £650,000 and a lot of sweat by in-house computer programmers, it aims to leapfrog the competition with a glitzy modern style – and also arm itself with the swiftest and cheapest computerised graphics in British television.

Out go the flashing lightning rod that used to herald the nine-o’clock bulletin and the curious animated blue file drawer at six o’clock. In come a glass model of a globe and the BBC’s coat of arms, through which the presenters will appear in a studio set that owes a debt to science fiction.

This contrasts with ITN, whose revamped News at Ten uses fewer special effects and has a real set and real television monitors behind the presenter’s head.

The BBC said its revamp was not just a new look, but a new way of producing news programmes. From next Tuesday, the image viewers see will look like a news studio, but will, in fact, be almost entirely computer-generated. The lights, the presenters’ ‘flight desk’ and even the studio floor will not actually exist. Only the newsreaders will be real.

The relaunch brought all bulletins into the same style of set with only small changes in colouring, titles, and music to differentiate each. A computer generated cut-glass sculpture of the BBC coat of arms was the centrepiece of the programme titles until the large scale corporate rebranding of news services in 1999, which I’ll be focusing on tomorrow.

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