BBC Studios’ hugely popular celebrity TV contest Strictly Come Dancing returned for its eighteenth series at the end of 2020, with brand new visual content choreographed by Hippotizer Karst+ Media Servers.
Leading the dance was a partnership of a Karst and Karst+, with the same duo serving as backup. An average series audience of more than 10 million Brits watched as the routines played out in front of a colourful array of visual content. The main stage was constructed as a series of arching LED screens, providing an eye-catching backdrop for the cameras.
The visual content included custom-made content for each performance – created by Potion Pictures and led by David Newton – and a mix of loops, full length time-coded tracks, and live rendered visuals.
These utilised Unreal Engine and nDisplay, with the data fed into the Hippotizer Media Servers by an output splitter. Live rendered content was also used, designed by Joe Philips at Potion Pictures, and utilising a camera and lens tracking system provided by Mo-Sys.
The Hippotizers were operated by Matt Lee, with lighting design by David ‘Bish’ Bishop, who has worked on a host of high profile events including the State Opening of Parliament, The Royal Variety Performance and the Queen’s Concerts.
“Hippotizer has been my go-to choice of media server for many years,” says Bish. “They’re very reliable, easy to use and the support from the team in London is outstanding. They provide a great balance of being able to create something very quickly, while also having the option to refine the output as you wish when the opportunity presents.”
For control, Bish and his team opted for a High End Systems Roadhog4 lighting console situated in the lighting gallery, with a laptop running Hippotizer PREP for remote ZooKeeper control. Fibre networks provided Art-Net and HippoNet links to the main Hippotizers positioned on the studio floor.
Featuring a total of three outputs, as well as two ZooKeeper monitor outputs, the Karst+ was designed by Green Hippo to be a highly specified server built to drive the most demanding of shows.
“Working on Strictly is like being given a toy box – there are few shows around which have such a diverse style of performance in each show, and the trust the production team have in me enables us to blur the boundaries between theatre and TV lighting to come up with a style which I think is unique to the show. The team at Potion Pictures constantly impress with their range of designs – giving more than 100 performances a series within the same set their own identity is no easy feat, but they deliver without fail.”
Some of Britain’s best-loved celebrities took part in the series, headed up by Executive Producer Sarah James, including singer HRVY, TV presenter Ranvir Singh and actor Caroline Quentin. Comedian Bill Bailey was crowned the eventual winner, alongside professional partner Oti Mabuse.
Photo: © Matthew Lee