As the BBC plans to unleash the depths of its vast TV archives into iPlayer, researchers at the helm have been exploring a new ‘mood-based’ search option to help viewers with that all important decision of what to watch.

While most TV shows tend to be dumped into basic and rigid categories such as comedy, documentary or drama, etc, bosses at the BBC felt that a revitalised search process was needed for its online TV system – iPlayer.

As a result, a large scale experiment on a mood-based classification of TV programmes was conducted by the British broadcaster’s multimedia classification team.

Results from initial user trials, in which people were asked to watch clips of TV programmes and identify the change in mood as the clip progressed, showed that multiple mood terms could be reduced to two principal dimensions.

Mood categories

The first relates to the seriousness or light-heartedness of programmes and the second describes the perceived pace of a show – slow or fast.

Since the pilot study a live, but experimental prototype interface, featuring a two-dimensional scatter chart, with each axis representing one mood scale, has been developed.

This allows the user to use their mood as a navigation tool for browsing as each TV programme is represented as a dot on the mood chart.

The user simply hovers the cursor over a dot in the mood chart and then the programme title, an image and a short description of the programme are presented. The user then clicks on the dot to watch the programme.

Computer aided classification

Since the user trial with actual viewers, the BBC’s research and development team has developed several new ways of automatically analyzing and classifying programmes, looking at features such as luminosity, laughter and motion.

The computer aided classification system uses signal processing techniques on the audio and video of the programme to look for key characteristics.

BBC blogger Rosie Campbell said: “The results of this are then used to assign each programme a rating on a set of mood scales. For example, a programme with a high level of motion, but not much laughter might score 5/5 on the ‘slow-moving to fast-paced scale’, but 1/5 on the ‘serious to humorous’ scale, meaning it is quick but not very funny (a thrilling drama for instance).”

The advantage of this is that it is then possible to compare different programmes based on their mood scores.

With the BBC aiming to open up its archives to the public by 2022, it says the need for more effective search methods is ‘imperative’, both in terms of helping users find what they are looking for and for recommending content they did not know about.

[Image via sociable.co]