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The Circle, Channel 4, NEP UK

NEP UK Powers Up ‘The Circle’

NEP UK, provider of outside broadcasting, fixed rig, remote production and media workflow solutions, has played a critical role as key technical partner for a second year for the largescale production of Studio Lambert’s social media reality TV series, The Circle, for Channel 4. NEP deployed over 135 cameras, the largest number of cameras NEP has deployed on a single production.

The Circle returned to Channel 4 for its second series this autumn, with NEP UK remaining its’ trusted partner since the show’s inception in 2018, refining its talented team and adapting the equipment used to ensure it can meet the evolving requirements of the huge reality production.

Over 135 cameras cover a total of 18 apartments and breakout rooms, the largest number of cameras NEP has deployed on a single production to date, allowing up to 36 video streams to be recorded simultaneously, and editing is undertaken on an EVS backbone with a 25-minute turnaround. One of NEP’s key workflow innovations, and one that distinguishes it from previous reality show successes for the company, such as its long running support of Big Brother, is the use of 10 mini galleries in the production each using a bespoke NEP camera control platform and router setup Each of these galleries in turn feeds into a Master Gallery which stitches all the elements together.

“At NEP, we adapt our technology solutions accordingly to our clients’ needs and proactively take our existing technology knowledge and extensive experience to create new and original ideas,” comments Jason Spencer, Creative and Commercial Director at NEP UK. “When preparing for the second run of The Circle, we asked [Studio Lambert/Channel 4] if there was anything that we could improve on the workflow design and material handling from Series One, their answer was simply nothing – which is a great vote of confidence in what we do and how we understand the creative requirements, but yet we still strive to further refine our production offering.”

The Circle has a complicated technical set up, involving 24/7 monitoring by multiple teams across three interlinked sites which demands a rigorous production plan that was first put in place by NEP UK for the original series in 2018. With The Circle in control, there are games, surprises, twists and turns, with NEP facilitating the combination of new experiences for the players, additional live shows and the extension of transmissions, the 2019 production has followed an evolving production workflow to the first series of the popular late-night show.

“The Circle is a complicated build because it has to cover three large technical sites; the apartment block, the studio for the live programme, and the production building,” explains Jason. "The apartments are in fact on the other side of a busy road from the other two areas and are connected by over 130km of fibre. We also have to balance the ongoing 24/7 demands of the production, with the requirements of producing a massive live show from the middle of it, especially as any of the live sources can be put through to the live programme at a moment’s notice.”

The Circle sees players isolated and moved into individual apartments within a dedicated building in Salford, only able to communicate with each other via a bespoke voice-activated social media platform, called ‘The Circle’. Over the course of a three week series, thirteen contestants play a game of words, creating alliances either as themselves or by assuming an alternative identity as a tactic to win. Contestants build up their ‘ratings’ each day to become ‘social influencers’, whilst trying to figure out who is genuine and who is the catfish, with a goal of eliminating each other by ‘blocking’ other players from The Circle. With a £100k prize up for grabs for the most popular at the end of the competition, a winner is eventually chosen by the public in a live finale, hosted by TV’s Emma Willis.

Following on from its success in the Entertainment, Documentary and Reality TV genre earlier in the year with ITV Studios Entertainment for the summer’s biggest reality show, Love Island, NEP’s work on The Circle confirms its status as the go to provider of cutting edge rigs for the very largest, fast turnaround reality projects, as part of the NEP Worldwide Network. (10/19)


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