A unique challenge

Shaping Cloud were approached by Microsoft in November 2014 to help them in delivering an application for the launch of BBC Earth’s new documentary film Enchanted Kingdom. Set in Africa, Enchanted Kingdom is a nature documentary/film hybrid. It takes the user on an ‘enchanted’ journey through the beautiful continent showcasing its amazing wildlife. The aim of the app was to deliver a rich learning experience in the classroom powered by Windows laptops, tablets and phones.

With only a few weeks of development time before the European launch of the film it was clear that there would simply not be time to build the app from scratch. Instead Shaping Cloud worked with the engineering team at Microsoft to leverage a new piece of technology to deliver the app. The Web Application Template (WAT).

Rapid Application Development

Microsoft’s Web Application Template is a smart¬†technology that ‘wraps’ around an existing website and generates a native Windows Universal App (and now an Android app too). We thought this would be a great opportunity to use the WAT wrapper as we needed to keep the app experience as close to the website as possible, what could be better than using the website itself!

Getting started with the WAT couldn’t be easier. You’re given a configuration file in which you specify the start-up URL and you’re away. The BBC had a few tweaks regarding the functionality and appearance of the application which meant we needed to dig a little bit deeper into the WAT toolkit. The requests were mainly cosmetic and they also asked us to remove certain sections of the site that weren’t relevant to the application. Fortunately, the WAT wrapper allows you to inject custom CSS into the site.

The¬†wrapper generates a Windows universal application template. This is ideal as the majority of your site’s code can be applied to both a Windows Application and also a Windows Phone application. This meant that with very little extra overhead, we had a fully functional Windows Phone app that used the exact same code base as the Windows application.

enchanted

When both Shaping Cloud and the BBC were happy with both applications (the Windows app and the Windows Phone app), we were able to quickly and easily upload the packages to the Windows Store. Within a matter of hours the applications were live to the public ahead of their big launch at the BETT education conference.

 

Mark Stewart, Education Business Partnerships Lead at Microsoft

Shaping Cloud have a deep level of expertise in Microsoft technology platforms and we've been focussing on building out a number of plans with them in terms of how they can do more work in the education market. I was delighted that they were able to help us in delivering this important app for the BBC.

The making of Enchanted Kingdom

One of the most ambitious projects undertaken by BBC Earth

573

days of filming

2.4

tonnes of equipment

13

countries