Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Pointless, The Masked Singer, A League Of Their Own and Countdown.
These are some of the biggest shows on television – and they’re all linked together by a Caerphilly-based company with just 12 employees.
Kinetic Pixel, which was formed eight years ago and is based on Caerphilly Business Park, plays a key role in the production of these shows.
The company designs and engineers computer systems and graphics for these shows and more, including shows across Europe, the United States and Australia.
Typically, these shows are filmed in a studio, with graphics emblazed upon giant LED screens. Kinetic Pixel produces these graphics and coordinates lighting and other visual aspects of the show, as well as any sound effects that form part of the show.
Take Pointless for example. The long-running BBC gameshow sees contestants aim to give the most obscure answers they can in an attempt to score as few points as possible. These answers are then scored on the show’s iconic score column, which ticks down from 100 to reveal the contestant’s score.
These graphics are accompanied by lighting and sound effects – this is all produced, automated and managed by Kinetic Pixel.
More recently, the company developed the ‘Interactive Virtual Audience’ for Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
Craig Hann, managing director and chief technology officer at Kinetic Pixel, described the company’s line of work as “very specialist” but called it “the glue that holds these shows together”.
Speaking to Caerphilly Observer, Mr Hann explained that normally, Kinetic Pixel will be approached by a production company to work on their shows.
Typically, it takes about six to eight weeks from being approached to having a finished product ready for the show to be filmed.
He said: “TV production doesn’t slow down for anyone. The pace is fast.
“Our reason for being is to be able to do these sorts of shows in volume.
“We do around 100 episodes of Richard Osman’s House of Games in about six or seven weeks, and around 300 episodes of Pointless in a year.”
The company normally works on around 12 to 15 shows a year. These include a mixture of well-known hits and new shows, some of which don’t make it to air.
Mr Hann said: “Our systems are specifically designed to make it as simple as possible for contestants and also allow for adaptations for people with disabilities.
“Most people probably don’t even consider that this craft even exists. We’re doing our job well when people don’t notice the complex design behind it.
“Part of the challenge is making the complicated simple, so the host doesn’t have to worry about how it all works.”
He said the most “technically challenging” shows the company has worked on are 5 Gold Rings, hosted by Philip Schofield, and Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel.
“It gives you a huge feeling of accomplishment watching a show go out. We’re doing something people are interested in – gameshows are a cultural touchpoint.”
He added: “When I speak to people they often can’t believe we are based in Wales and not the south-east of England. We have access to as skilled and talented a workforce as anywhere else in the UK and we are proud to have built the business locally and created unique opportunities for our staff.”
Kinetic Pixel’s 12 permanent employees include programmers, animators and engineers, with freelancers brought in to help out with projects.
Throughout the pandemic, the staff have been mainly working from home, with the television industry able to continue producing and filming shows with safety measures in place.
The company is hoping to expand its workforce and is looking for software developers, a systems engineer and a IT system technician.
Mr Hann admitted: “We would like to expand internationally and be involved in formats across the world.”
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