BBC programmes Coast, Secret Britain and Great Antiques Map and have all benefitted from a recent project that encouraged use of drones (UAVs) to acquire aerial footage. Primarily set up to make drone filming affordable for BBC Features shows, the knock on effect has been to deliver programme content that’s produced in a greener way.

The environmental benefits are twofold: firstly, using drones these productions have obviously avoided using carbon emission heavy helicopters for filming. But a second aim of this project was to capture a range of glorious aerial footage for the BBC’s Factual Production Library (FPL). This material is now available for use by other BBC productions in Bristol and London providing value for money HD archive with a green conscience.

The BBC’s FPL is a secure media management system which will make it possible to search, view, log and reuse production rushes across Bristol and London via a web interface. Using more archive and shooting less means fewer air miles, hotels and car hire – so cutting carbon overall – but it also means less media management and data storage, both of which use energy and so have a significant carbon footprints. This particularly applies to the BBC’s Natural History Unit which makes programmes that shoot an enormous amount of raw footage, using a variety of frame rates and sizes. They average 150GB of media storage per hour of footage shot. In physical terms, each hour of video would fill ten 16GB iPhones. A recent NHU series shot around 1800 hours in total, needing 250TB (terabytes) of space for one copy of the native media. So, that’s 20,000 iPhones worth of storage needed for the whole series. If you stored this all on CD-ROMs and then stacked them on top of each other, your CD stack would be 4 times the height of Mount Everest.

The DPL’s main energy saving advantages are as below:

  1. Managing data better by storing media on LTO tapes, centrally and via automated systems, using fewer machines and fewer people managing more media.

  2. Enabling remote working: being browser based, you just need an internet connection, so logging and viewing can happen at home, no need to drive into the office.

  3. Being browser based, you can view your rushes on any machine - your BBC computer, your own computer, an iPad, your phone, etc - which means fewer drives and less energy consumption overall.

  4. Better access to rushes means (in theory) less media taken to the edit so less media being processed/transcoded/transported and then fewer spinning disc needed to hold it for the edit (all of these take power).

  5. Better access to rushes should mean better organization and the result that media managers from BBC Information & Archives can cull anything that isn’t needed – so we’re only keeping what’s valuable, rather than keeping everything.