Countdown is the award-winning, popular Channel 4 show, broadcast each week from Monday to Friday, in which two contestants engage in a battle of wits, competing against the clock in games of lexical dexterity and numerical agility.

Hosted by Nick Hewer, with co-presenter Rachel Riley and resident dictionary expert Susie Dent, Countdown was the first programme to be broadcast on Channel 4 and is one of the longest running game shows in the world, celebrating over 33 years and more than 6000 episodes. Countdown is also a Guinness World Record breaker for the most series of a game show broadcast.

In 2017 as part of a set and technology refresh, Kinetic Pixel won the tender to supply new scoring and clock control systems. The existing systems were based on legacy hardware and software and had reliability issues and did not have any kind of backup.  Considering the production can make up to five shows a day, there was a significant level of risk to the production.

The first step was to rewrite the Countdown control software. On the surface a simple enough task.  However, because the system was so old there is no documentation or knowledge of the details of the system, especially concerning key format points such as the exact behaviour of CECIL (the random number generator) or the Countdown Clock control mechanics.  Working closely with the studio engineers, we managed to ‘second-guess’ most of the potential problems. During the rehearsal schedule, many of the exact details became clear and our software design was adaptable enough to make many of the subtleties as simple as changing settings.

Improving the hardware was the second part of the project.  Our engineering team designed and constructed a half-height rack containing two completely redundant systems.  These systems are completed with separate patch panels with colour-coded connections for each of the buzzers, score displays, information screens and clock control lines.  Modernising the technology meant moving to rugged GPIO controllers for the clock and buzzers, DMX interfaces for lighting control and HD-SDI video for all in-vision score displays and information screens.

The same studio rig is used for both Countdown and 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown, so it is constantly being struck and reset in different studios in Dock10, Salford.  Working closely with the set designer Rudi Thackray, our engineering team installed screens and fixed cabling into the desks with connectors for each section, allowing the set to be struck by just unplugging half a dozen cables.

The feedback we’ve had from ITV Studios, who produce the show for Channel 4, and from the studio crew has been overwhelmingly positive.  Their jobs have been made significantly easier, and the production has confidence that the scoring technology is future proofed for many years to come.


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Kinetic Pixel Limited

Unit C Caerphilly Business Park


CF83 3ED


Phone : +44(0) 2920 098 920