Posts Tagged ‘Television’

woodWhat other broadcaster in the world would commission films in which there was no dialogue, no music, no camera movement and a stipulation from the director that shots should last a minimum of 10 seconds instead of the usual two or three?

Welcome to Handmade, three lovingly-made gems from the BBC that enter the workshops of three master craftsmen to separately follow the process of the creation of a glass jug, a kitchen knife and a Windsor chair.

This is slow television that reveres its subjects in a back-to-the-future style of filmmaking where the action comes to the frame rather than being pursued by the camera.

For modern audiences accustomed to frenetic delivery and torrents of supplementary detail it requires some adjustment. Lingering shots focus attention on what’s happening but there’s no commentary to explain the process.

These aren’t meant to be ‘How To’ films that will equip you with skills, they’re about appreciating the aesthetic, and the gentle pace reinforces the time and effort invested by the makers. The world may be rushed but some things can’t be hurried.

Framing of events in the workshops is exquisite: long shots, close-ups, mid-shots – if the artist Jean-Francois Millet had been asked to storyboard video scenes this is how he would have done it.

If the visuals are a delight then the audio is an especial treat, augmenting the notion that you’re there, watching and listening, but invisible to the workers.

Picking up the subtleties of natural sound doesn’t come easy: Metalworker Owen Bush has tiny microphones taped to his shirt and his turn-ups. You hear his boots scrunch through scraps of metal shavings and grunts of effort as he pounds away at his anvil.

The apparent ease with which you hear these aural embellishments belies the technical complexity of their capture and the skills of post-production editing – master craftsmen at work with master craftsmen.

There’s no ‘performance’ requirement of any of the three experts featured, they’re doing what they normally do, and the fact that they don’t speak helps concentrate the viewer on the task rather than the individual.

Each film is self-contained and lasts less than 30-minutes; together they are a serendipitous delight.

On the X/Y crosshairs of an audience data graph the series would fit the upper left hand quadrant: small audience, high appreciation, yet it’s not the kind of program-making that comes from focus groups or ask-the-audience sessions.

Handmade captures the uniquely creative essence of public-service broadcasting – a license to experiment, a chance to be original and the opportunity to tell a story free from the burdens of commercial pressure.


oscarappThe sycophantic slush of another Oscars ceremony is already a fading memory but there are some learnings from ABC’s two-screen, Backstage Pass coverage that are worth further reflection.

The 99 cent app for iPhone and iPad users gave users access to live streams from more than 25 cameras dotted around LA’s Kodak Theatre – TV gallery-type command in the palm of your hand – plus access to additional content.

ABC’s acknowledgement of the multi-tasking tendencies of TV audiences allowed people to flit away from mainstream coverage to the likes of the unruly paparazzi cam, another one focused on famous faces and one on fashion.

Alessandra Stanley writing in the New York Times said the extra feeds gave viewers “an all-too-vivid look at how the air leaves the theater and the night starts to drag.” Miaow!

She was talking about how the streams showed winners celebrating backstage while TV was left with losers “smiling tightly through their rancour and disappointment”.

Sounds to me like TV had the best of that carve-up, but it depends whether schadenfreude or success is your preferred measure of enjoyment in such things.

Stanley also queried whether advertisers would be happy about a network inviting viewers to spend commercial breaks watching backstage camera shots of stars.

Probably not, but the world of advertising, like journalism, is having to react to profound change and the Superbowl has shown that compelling ads can hold and engage audiences if they’re good enough.

Update: The Chrysler Born of Fire ad featuring Eminem that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago has been seen 8.8m times on YouTube.

The benefit of a fully integrated two-screen production is that it keeps viewers tuned in rather than turning off or going elsewhere when the televised action flags.

Having more options shows the audience you’re working harder to give them a better experience, and it doesn’t have to be confined to big set-piece event like the Oscars.

Imagine, for instance, being able to rate in real-time the performance of panellists on Question Time via a second screen, to see the results on the TV, distinguishable by location, and then to share them with friends.

Imagine watching Click and at each mention of a device or a technology getting a back-catalogue of reviews, features and stories on your second screen.

And imagine news packages being amplified with information – the assumed knowledge the audience is expected to bring – because there simply isn’t time to recap everything in a two-minute piece: What’s a Green Paper? How is inflation measured? What is the Monetary Policy Committee and how does it work?

Now it’s true that all the information is already available on the web if you’re prepared to search. But this is about tethering, about extending the leanback ease of television to make extra material available without effort.

In this same vein, there’s a much bigger body of work being undertaken by colleagues over at BBC R&D which is set out here by Stephen Jolly.

Do read it; it holds clues to the future of television.

Public service broadcasting is having a tough time on the other side of the pond.

Last Saturday the House of Representatives voted 235-189 to pass a continuing resolution that eliminates funding for public broadcasting. It still has to get Senate approval but the BBC’s situation looks pretty favourable when seen in this light.

A campaign to raise awareness and to save local television and radio called 170 million Americans argues that public broadcasting funding is too important to eliminate.

Chris Bishop, the creative director at PBS Kids put together this graphic to garner support for what it does and why it’s worth supporting.

VeepleAt the BBC, we’ve done a lot of work over the past couple of years to enhance our web stories with embedded video. The depth and richness of BBC News material makes it one of the key differentiators between us and other news providers.

Now video tech company Veeple is turning the notion of adding video to text on its head by making video the starting point for storytelling and supplementing in-picture images with interactive text and links.

Hotspots on the screen are made clickable so deeper layers of information can be reached. They can be overlaid on objects, or people, or they can be appended to areas at the top or bottom of the screen.

It’s easy to imagine product placement companies adding layers to programmes to allow viewers to find out about, or purchase, things as they appear on screen.

It’s equally possible that future storylines or whole shows might be adapted to take account of the revenue-earning potential of product lines like clothes, for instance.

Beyond commercial applications, there is also the possibility of driving deeper engagement with factual or news programmes.

Some of you may remember that a few years ago we ran trials of an Interactive 10 O’Clock news using “red button” digital services to add extra information to selected top stories.

Bandwidth constraints and the inherent limitations of digital text display made it an interesting if ultimately failed experiment.

iPTV now offers the chance to make a far richer, more engaging experience.

At its most basic level, it could involve adding extra explainers around terms commonly used though, perhaps, rarely understood, in Parliamentary reports, such as White Papers, Three-Line Whips and Early Day Motions.

The more technical language of business might also benefit from notes in the margin with options to toggle on or off as packages play-out, triggered by keywords in the audio track, or shown on a timeline.

Appending archive material, user generated content, a wider range of analysis and expert comment, additional images, maps, PDFs, and original documents are further possibilities.

As ever, the emerging options open up many new questions: Do people really want these extra layers? Does it make for a disjointed experience? Are we video-led or text led? Do we have to be both in which case what kind of content is it best-suited to serve? How can we keep a coherent thread to our storytelling? How much information is too much – when does it become overwhelming? What’s the overhead to all this extra packaging and who would do it?

Veeple’s CEO Scott Broomfield says the software is easy to use and “if you have ever put an image or an icon into a Powerpoint presentation…you know how to make your videos interactive.”

Jump to the 4’ 26” point in this video to see it in action.

The company has mobile versions of the software running on Android devices and it is working on alternatives for the iPhone and iPad.

Broomfield claims user click-through rates from interactive video are up to 10 times higher. And their software comes with a range of tools to measure engagement metrics.

With Google TV launching in the autumn in the US, and Apple’s renewed interest in Apple TV, innovations in this space are starting to gather pace.