The Scottish Region visited the new BBC Scotland Headquarters and Studios in Glasgow for a guided tour on Saturday 24 April 2010.
The new building replaces the former BBC Scotland HQ at Queen Margaret Drive and the complex was opened in 2007 by the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Located at Pacific Quay on the banks of the River Clyde opposite the SECC, the £188 million building was designed by David Chipperfield Architects and it's opening marked a new era in Scottish broadcasting. The building incorporates digital broadcasting studios, offices and large public areas.
A view of the new BBC Scotland Headquarters building at Pacific Quay in Glasgow.
© John Fender, 2011
The design of the building reflects Glasgow's industrial heritage and this theme is reflected in the materials used in it's construction. There is bare concrete and exposed pipes, both being a deliberate part of the design. Red sandstone from Locharbriggs Quarry is used as the principal material for the central staircase, being a reminder of Glasgow's red sandstone tenements. Technology is incorporated everywhere in the building and on the south side, the blinds adjust themselves automatically depending on the sunlight.
The tour started off in the entrance foyer which is a public space, open to the public at all times and features an internet area, cinema, radio and TV areas, along with a coffee shop. There are a number of props from productions on display and the area can be used for making programmes if required. From there the party went to the fourth floor in one of the many lifts in the building. The view of the central atrium's open space is impressive and a particular feature is the perforated steel cladding that is used to deaden sound.
For such a busy, open space, it was surprisingly quiet. The various levels in the central atrium are used for meetings, working and connecting the various floors. The various spaces can also be used for programmes and one part was being set up for an election programme due to be made shortly. Next the party was shown the radio corridor, where there are 6 radio studios used for BBC Radio Scotland , BBC Radio nan Gàidheal and other radio stations. The state of the art facilities include the latest fully computerised music systems and library. Gaelic news programmes are made in Inverness, but are controlled from Glasgow.
From there the News area was the next stop. News programmes produced include Reporting Scotland and Good Morning Scotland. The news bulletin desk, used for the lunchtime and evening news bulletins, familiar to most viewers of BBC Scotland news was seen, complete with it's backdrop of the Clyde Arc bridge and Glasgow. Normally this is a live feed from a camera mounted on the roof, but there are occasions when the weather may require either a recording or the stand by static picture to be used.
With the use of modern technology, whoever is reading the news can do everything themselves, whereas in the old studio at Queen Margaret Drive, there was a small team to produce the bulletin. From there we were then shown Studio "C". This is the smallest HD studio in the building and has 4 cameras, three floor cameras and one ceiling mounted. This studio is used for Reporting Scotland, News Review and Sportscene. Next the Gallery was visited, this being where the director, camera operator and vision mixer works to produce programmes. The sound area is separate to ensure high sound quality.
The party then proceeded to the 5th floor where the staff restaurant is located and there was an opportunity to look our over Glasgow and take photographs of some of the landmarks, such as the Clyde Arc bridge and the Armadillo at the SECC opposite. The staff restaurant can also be used for broadcasting. The next stop was the 3rd floor where the Drama and Gaelic departments are located. There are also a number of editing suites where programmes are edited. The Multiplex Suite, used for live programmes was also seen.
Independent production companies can also use the facilities, including the largest studio outside London. This is Studio "A" and it is 8,417 square feet in area and is fully digital throughout. With up to 12 HD cameras it can be used for just about any programme. It also features seating for up to 320 in the audience and the whole seating area can be moved anywhere in the studio using "hover pad" technology, or easily taken out or put back in as required. This was the first fully HD studio in Europe.
The Mezzanine level was the next stop and this is where the various dressing rooms are located, along with the "green room". From there the party proceeded to radio studio 1 where music and drama programmes are made. In the coming year, some 85 productions are scheduled to be made in the studio. The various sound effect features were also seen, including a staircase with different surfaces to enable different sounds of people going up and down stairs was demonstrated. There is also a kitchen so that the sounds of someone making a meal will be authentic along with a bedroom. Different types of doors and windows are also available and the studio houses a Steinway Grand Piano.
The final stop on the tour was the Lab area where some members of the party were able to participate in the recording of a short radio play called "The Dinner Party". This recording stars John Yellowlees as the announcer and Butler, Donald Stirling as Stuart, Margaret Roy as Francis and John Fender as Chris. You can hear their efforts by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page - No prizes for working out who is who! There was then a question and answer session before the tour ended by handing security passes back as we left.
The Scottish Region would like to thank the BBC for hosting the tour and to our guides Annette and Colin who explained everything id detail and who answered the many questions put to them.
Report and photograph by John Fender
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