A holographic image of a beating heart, projected using a flat screen TV and an acrylic pyramid. BBC/YouTube
The BBC has created an experimental ‘holographic’ TV to bring to life some of its archive footage. It produced striking footage to show how holographic TVs may be part the living rooms of the future.
The holographic TV was made as part of the broadcasting corporation’s work in exploring emerging technologies for future audiences. The BBC’s head of digital partnership, Cyrus Saihan, lead the project.
Saihan’s team used existing technologies and simple techniques to explore ways to create holographic content.
First, in order for the images to really float like a hologram, video footage had to be adapted. The team collaborated with MDH Hologram, a UK-based visual effects and hologram specialist company, which tweaked and formatted the archive footage to make it ‘holographic’.
The team selected archive footage that they thought would work well as a hologram, including clips of the London New Year’s Eve firework display and dinosaur recreations from some of the network’s natural history history footage.
Then, a simple acrylic pyramid shape was placed on top of a 46” TV, inspired by an old Victorian theatre technique. The images were then broadcast through the TV, making them appear holographic.
“The technique that we used was based on the work of John Henry Pepper who in the 1800s came up with a way of enabling ‘ghostly’ objects to appear and disappear on stage. The technique involves placing a reflective material at an angle (we used transparent acrylic) and shining an image onto that material at a certain angle, giving the impression of a ‘floating’ image,” Saihan told WIRED.
“By creating a shape like this, we were able to allow audiences to see the ‘floating’ image from a wide range of angles.”
The experiment was tested out on audience members touring the New Broadcasting House building, who felt that it brought the images to life more and made watching TV more engaging.
It was found that the images were more powerful when the ambient lighting levels were low and the room was dark. The effect of the images also worked best when the display was positioned at eye level.
Though the BBC experiment was simplistic, it demonstrated that new technologies in this area may have the potential to change the way audiences experience media content.
“This is just a toe in the water for us, but it will be interesting to see how the space develops as the augmented reality devices that various technology companies are creating start to become more widely available,” said Saihan.