In Spring 2020, BBC Sport set out requirements for a new virtual set, with separate designs for main sports coverage, sports news, and social media content. These would be broadcast from a new greenscreen studio, at BBC Sport HQ in Media City, Salford. The design had to accommodate a pre-existing desk, be built in Epic Games Unreal Engine, and be powered by the latest version of VizRT.

Behind the scenes image of the BBC Sport virtual studio. © 2021 Jim Mann

Working with BK Design, we developed designs for a suite of integrated presentation spaces, accommodated within a single volume. In effect, we created a virtual campus building,  providing a unified environment for BBC Sports virtual output.

In developing our design. we worked entirely within Epic Games’ Unreal Engine (UE). Assembling the model, materials, and lighting entirely within UE provided a powerful, and more flexible pipeline, and enabled us to present designs in real-time. We have been able to design, build and deliver a fully lit design, featuring reflections and transparency – a truly next-generation virtual set.

The first part of this project went live in March 2021, broadcasting from the main versatile sports presenting area. This area features a seated arrangement, with an adjacent standing presentation area.    It can be oriented to face inwards, toward the atrium interior of the overall design, or to face outwards onto an exterior view. Multiple options for screens, signage and colour are included in the design, along with switchable, and customisable exterior scenes.

This was the first virtual set anywhere to combine UE with VizRT, and we are grateful for the enthusiasm and generous support we received from both Epic Games, and Viz throughout this pioneering process. To date, this part of the design has been utilised for presentation of multiple sports, including Olympics football, U.S. Masters Golf , Formula E, Match of the Day, Euro 2020 Football, and the World Figure Skating Championships. The Sports News and Social Media sections of the set are expected to launch in late 2021.

Behind the scenes image of the BBC Sport virtual studio. © 2021 Jim Mann

Client: BBC Sport
Design: Lightwell + BK Design Projects
Unreal Set Build: Lightwell
Physical Set Design: BK Design Projects
Set Build: Scott Fleary



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