Christmas Lectures on BBC Four
Events, Science Communications
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Since as far back as 1825, the BBC Christmas Lectures have been a staple of the Christmas holiday season. Showcasing the possibilities of education, of science, and truly transforming information into an engaging, enjoyable and memorable experience; the show has grown an enormous following over the years.
As 2020 saw the series approach it’s second full century on the air, it was more important than ever to move audiences; and considering the global pandemic would still be in full swing, it was more important than ever to spark joy through the lectures. So, when WindFall Films approached Pufferfish for some show-stopping and content enhancing tools for communication, we made sure our solutions were front and centre.
Television is such a key medium in our modern society. We use ‘the box’ to stay informed, to be entertained, to pass the time, to distract the kids, and so much more – it’s something we simply struggle to live without. It’s no surprise then, that we all have our shows we love and simply can’t miss. For over 2 million British families, the BBC Christmas Lectures is that show for them. It’s a staple of the holiday season, a family friendly series that entertains and informs; and a show that has seen legends like Sir David Attenborough don the stage.
The team producing the 2020 Christmas Lectures, Windfall Films, knew with Covid-19 they weren’t going to get the live audience they would usually host for the lectures. They instead needed something that would act as a centre piece for the lectures, something that would focus attention and transform the scientific content being discussed, but also compliment the shots of the historic lecture hall. Something that would engage audiences, young and old, so they came to the world leaders in spherical display technology.
The Christmas lectures always host incredible minds in the scientific sector. They offer a powerful platform for global data, for astronomy, environmental science, and ultimately make understanding a real focus for all ages. With 2020 hosting Geologist Chris Jackson, physicist and oceanographer Helen Czerski, and environmental scientist Tara Shine, and seeing them ‘unravel the astonishing global systems and remarkable natural wonders that combine to keep life on Earth alive’ (RI); we knew they deserved compelling tools that would offer unforgettable context to their work.
With the large lecture space available, and full control over the lighting, we felt the space deserved multiple solutions that could transform information in different ways. With the tiered seating to be empty, it made sense to use that space as a backdrop to the lectures – and for that we would use our largest, passive solution, the PufferSphere Pro that can be ceiling mounted. With a commanding presence in any setting, these solutions ensure scientific information is displayed with a borderless view; and when it comes to exploring global data, context and understanding come from this borderless, authentic view.
To compliment the PufferSphere Pro, we also included our brightest and most intuitive solution, our multi-touch UHD PufferTouch2+. These smaller scale solutions pack a real punch with 4K projection technology, dynamic touch screens, and would allow the lecturers to interact with their data live and deepen engagement. Combined with the backdrop of a brightly coloured Pro unit, the PT2+ would act as a trigger for content, and would allow the lecturers to keep their lectures alive, energetic and exciting for audiences.
Each episode had a combination of scientific topics, so it was clear we needed dynamic applications that would showcase diverse global data, animations and video content, and act as an engaging support mechanism for the lecturer’s communications.
Episode 1 would surround our molten earth, plate tectonics and things like asteroid impacts, Episode 2 would surround oceans and astronomy, and Episode 3 would surround atmospheric changes, weather and more (as pictured here). With such diverse lectures, we sourced data sets from our comprehensive content library that supported their key topics, and consist of the world’s best data sources – NASA, NOAA, NCEO, Science on a Sphere, and so much more. We also optimised data sets the lecturers already had for the sphere.
The next stage was optimising interaction for the two different solutions. The PT2+ would house the three different lecture applications, and with multi-touch hotspots around the globe, it was set up for the lecturers to touch buttons over key geographic locations being discussed, and the app would unlock content relating to each topic. The Pro also required seamless movement, tilts and rotations, but from an external remote; so, it was a matter of optimising the content to move towards the camera and showcase the data in a clear, bright, quality image - and all in only 2 days.
With the Christmas Lectures airing on December 28th, 29th and 30th, audiences were able to see the reason behind the historic series’ following.
The episodes were vibrant, attention grabbing, informative and truly moving.
We were thrilled to be part of the Christmas Lecture artillery, and to see our world-renowned solutions glow on screen for audiences to enjoy. As a business, we believe in transforming the way information is used, viewed and understood – and this truly was a project that we stood behind with pride. It was also a testament to our team of experts for pulling off this work, including installation and content creation, within a matter of days.
"Pufferfish brought planet Earth to life inside the Royal Institution for the historic Christmas Lectures on BBC 4...
We really valued how the team worked collaboratively with us on a very tight schedule. The result was a very special and unique set of lectures for 2020. It was a pleasure to work with such a dedicated team."
Series Producer, WindFall Films
Thank you to all involved in this project, from Marissa at WindFall Films to the Lecturers Chris, Helen and Tara, The Royal Institution and the BBC, to the onset crew, and our very own Production Manager, Tom for managing the install. If you missed the show, make sure to catch it on BBC iPlayer throughout January, and also find the lectures on YouTube.