Archive for bbc

Surprise 1-Day Professional Experience

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , , on March 31, 2011 by Adam Broome

On the 9th March 2011, I was invited to get some paid work experience for the BBC by John Mair – lecturer at my university and also my mentor for the Add+Vantage module I was taking. I figured there’d be students lining up for this, but that was not the case – whether it wasn’t publicized enough or something I do not know.

Anyhow, I turned up at 12 o clock, one hour before the start of a big conference between some of the highest academic minds of the BBC turned up to have a debate over whether Investigative Journalism was dying out or not. I’d already investigated this case several months ago off my own back for curiosities sake – you may remember me being told by guests lecturer Trish Adudu that formats was the future and documentary was dead. Subsequently asking Mark Kermode at the Warwick Arts Centre, the counter argument was clearly that formats is for making money, whereas documentary is more for information, statements, activism, and many other things. Documentary is never really about the money, and thus will probably never die out. However, this conference set to explore the notion even further, adding in the addition documentary style of investigative journalism – something I’d had first-hand experience of during the Demo-Lition protest march in November last year.

I tuned up as a runner, and the first major problem I was given was that one BBC camera operator couldn’t access the internet in the lecture theatre. I shot out and quickly gravitated towards the nearest ‘tech’ mind, which just happened to be a student in the common room. He outlined the solution, and I shot back to implement it. Unfortunately it didn’t work, but my friend had given me all the pieces, and I saw that the operator was trying to connect to the Ethernet rather than the Airport. A quick change over, and I signed in with my name, getting her online.

This was quickly followed up with another task – simply go and get some refreshments from the corner shop. Two drinks – anything as long as it wasn’t diet. I came back with a Sprite and Fanta, making another satisfied customer. But this was when I suddenly got promoted – the man who wanted the drinks, a guy by the name of Jon Jacob, now needed a camera operator himself to operate his ‘Z’ camera whilst he uploaded the podcast. I quickly stepped in. And stood at my post for the subsequent four hours solid (as long as the debate was in progress, I wasn’t budging). Some of the earlier shots were a little jittery, but the pans got smoother when I loosened the resistance on the tripod it was positioned on. The audio stopped several times, which I silently notified Jon of, and which got resolved quickly with the sound engineer.

I learned one key trick during this ‘shoot’ – I was advised by Jon never to keep the person I was focusing on in the centre of the shot. This was the rule of thirds in video – I had to try and keep the spokesman either to the left or to the right of the screen, but never fixated at the centre. After a while, I understood what he meant – the shots just looked better with the space. Subsequently looking back at footage from Hereward, I can see that some of the interview footage from that has centered characters, and it definitely took something away from the piece.

The most notable guests of the debate were Donal MacIntyre and David Leigh, although both interacted with the audience via Skype. Some students from Lincoln University made some good points about using social networking sites to conduct investigative journalism in the future, which would make the job safer for the journalists, but politically more difficult. The general vibe in the room continued what I’d already established – investigative journalism is, like documentaries and many other kinds of media production, a solid and well-grounded genre of media that will exist long into the future. The internet is changing everything, and all media will adapt and change accordingly. The old ways of investigative journalism will end, but a new era will begin, as people will always want to know the ‘truth’ behind the stories of the world.


Radio Shows – The Critical Review

Posted in University Work (Old) with tags , , on September 4, 2010 by Adam Broome

Radio. A lost art. Violently murdered whilst sleeping in it’s bed, by something called ‘video’ in the eighties (much to the amusement of the subsequent ‘MTV’ generation). Now, a strange world, and a funny place to find yourself in.

Radio is a no-man’s land for me. It seems like something that older people would use. The reliance on the imagination, focus and intelligence of the listener also makes today’s radio shows seem like they’re aimed at middle-to-upper class demographics.

Over the summer, I was asked to write a critical review for both a radio comedy (Chain Reaction on BBC Radio 4 – Ronnie Ancona interviews Lee Mack), and a radio drama (John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps on BBC Radio 7). Chain Reaction is a series, in which comedians interview each other. The Thirty-Nine Steps was a two-part drama, featuring Tom Baker in the lead role.

Both were recent productions, and both shows were introduced verbally by the radio presenter. The publicity for both shows was only ever aimed at radio listeners, however. With only a few exceptions, I never hear radio shows being advertised on TV or in the cinemas. There are only a few advertisements online, despite the audience the internet allows for. This suggests that perhaps radio is considered a detached medium of media, which you as a media consumer will either use, or won’t.

Once introduced, Chain Reaction went straight into cheesy music, and an applause from a live audience. The cheesy music was in similar vein to that of The One Show, setting the tone for a nice, gentle, good-humoured show. A voice over (not the radio presenter) introduced the interviewee and the recipient. After the clapping had died down, the interview commenced in earnest.

The language used was informal, friendly, and sometimes comedic. The questions that Lee Mack was asked at first appeared random, but as the interview proceeded, it was clear the questions had been constructed in a biography-style structure (ie: questions about Mack’s childhood were asked first).

Each question lead to an answer which told a story, often with Lee Mack’s usual tint of humour being used to make his answers more entertaining. Every joke was greeted by laughter from the live audience, which helped to a picture a TV show studio in the mind’s eye, and made me wonder why they hadn’t just made this series for TV in the first place.

The personalities were likable, with Lee Mack often communicating with the audience to add extra humour to his one-liners. These were in the forms of comments, or rhetorical questions. Both parties spoke clearly, and I also noted that the questions and topics were simple, and were answered with relatively simple words.  The show picked up more after the first ten minutes, as the duo seemed to relax into their roles a little more, and there was more ‘bounce’ in the two-way conversation.

The microphone had it’s ambience turned up to pick up the words clearly, but as a result, often picked up unwanted background noise as well (eg: a cup falling on the floor). Technically, the design was fairly simple, as it focused around two people talking.

I made an interesting observation in the way the interview was conducted. Lee Mack often went off on tangents in his responses. Being a stand-up, he is used to ad-libbing new material on the spot based on what he’s previously said. This meant that his answers probably often out-ran their original time. To combat this, the interviewee had to take control of the conversation back to keep it to the running order. She did this by simply stating the next subject area, and then elaborated on the topic by way of questions or commands. “eg. ‘ “Right, now. ‘Not Going Out’. Tell me about it.”

The contrast, ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’, was a drama and thus altogether different. There was a verbal introduction by the radio presenter, who warned of some of the content material (this was at 10:00am in the morning). The drama began straight away, with no introductory music or narration.

Immediately, you can hear the various sound effects being used. As this artefact is designed to tell a story that immerses the listener, sound effects are used in a different way to that of the interview. Sounds were used to ‘create’ the locations where the scenes took place – for example, a creaky old house or a bustling London street. In some ways, the sound effects acted as narration for the listener, as they informed the listener that the story was proceeding to a different location.

The vocal acting was very theatrical, and lacked the sincerity of the voices of the comedians in Chain Reaction. Accents were exaggerated almost to the point of comedic, somewhat taking the edge off what is usually a serious story. The theatrics were there to add life and emotion to the characters portrayed. Coupled with this was background music, which was used to add tension, or promote other emotions, dependant upon what the characters were saying.

An actual introduction to the drama occurred about seven minutes into the story. This helped me a lot as a listener – I felt that the drama had started so suddenly I was out of my depth. Despite knowing fully what the story is about (having seen three adaptations of the story myself), I still had difficulty differentiating who was who (another reason for the theatrical, over-the-top voice acting).

Narration then begun from the lead character (here played by the distinctive Tom Baker). I noted that occasionally there were pauses in the story, when there was nothing other than perhaps a continuation of background music. The pauses (sounds faded out and then faded back in) indicated a passage of time, meaning that the change of location was not a necessity to inform the listener that we were now further on in the narrative.

An observation here is that the conversations largely occurred between only two people at any one time, probably to avoid confusion. This also gave a rather by-the-motions mechanical feel to the drama, as two people would talk about stuff, the location would change, two people would talk about more stuff, there’d by some music and some sound effects, and then there’d be another two people.

This review teeters very close on becoming an essay on English Language, as I can comment on the vocabulary being more complex in the drama than it was during the interview (but keep in mind The Thirty-Nine Steps was first published in 1915). I chose not to do English Studies at degree level for a reason, so I’ll try to avoid any further elaboration here, although language is pivotal in both of these radio productions, as the spoken word is at the centre of both pieces.

Both artefacts featured some form of narrative, although looking around the BBC Radio websites, I found programmes that were merely topical shows (such as Stephen Fry’s English Delight). I would imagine the flexibility of radio shows is somewhat less than that of television shows, as it’s only really your ears and your imagination being used.