TVBRO Week 14 14/1/13-20/1/13

We really got down to business this week. On Monday, we shot some footage we were planning to use for the Opening Titles and then later the Tea Challenge insert, which we have decided to make into a competition between myself and Matt, which will mean we can partake in some good-natured trash-talking in the studio. Unfortunately, we didn’t wind up using anything we shot on Monday because of separate issues at each shoot (lighting and stylistic issues with the titles shoot and a sound problem with the camera for the Tea Challenge).

As a result, we re-shot my half of the Tea Challenge on Thursday – with Matt’s half being shot in the intervening time.

On Tuesday, we had another big meeting to finalise the show ahead of going further into full-scale production. There was a push at this meeting to change the show’s title, based i part on a perception that Charlie Watts, the Course Leader was not keen on the title. I pushed back against this change for several reasons. Firstly, the proposed replacement title (The Lunchbox) was guilty of many of the same apparent problems with “Tea with Paul”. One of the things said about Tea with Paul as a title was that “tea” wouldn’t necessarily be thematically appropriate for a Friday Lunchtime. Aside from the fact I don’t believe this is entirely true, “The Lunchbox” would similarly be inappropriate if the episode was replayed at any time other than lunchtime.

Second, and more importantly, we had already begun some minor promotional work around the Tea with Paul name, which means that by the time thee idea of changing the name came up, the original title was already floating around some of the CCi Channel’s audience. And thirdly, if we changed the name, the “Tea Challenge” insert, which was our only planned remote with the VOX Pops being our only other VT, would be a major non sequitur. Ultimately, it was agreed that we would stick with the “Tea with Paul” name.

We also used this meeting to decide who to invite on as guests. We had initially considered using, for example, comedians from the Union’s Comedy Society. Ultimately, we chose to book Umby and Liam Smith, from the CCi Presenters pool mainly because it was more convenient to do so given the protracted time frame we we were dealing with. Umby & Liam are each hosts of other Commissioned Shows for CCi Live, so we decide to feature them as if they were promoting those shows in the same way most guests on professional chat shows are there to “plug” a current project.

I also began making plans for what I’ve been calling the “CCi Live Light” – the 10 minute version of CCi Live which will be airing before Tea with Paul. Since it is so much shorter, the CCi Live Light features just two segments – the News and a feature. To save us from running into problems with an insert not being ready or too short because we had been focusing on Tea with Paul, I opted instead to make our feature a live interview.

Using my contacts with the University’s Go Karting Society (Of which I am a Veteran Member), I booked the Vice President to come in and give us a rundown of what the advantages of Karting with the society are, how to get involved and so on. I also selected Jo Walker and Charlie Jackson to host, as they have both done good work for us as presenters in the past so I know I can rely on them. For the news, I’ve booked Umby as he will be around for Tea with Paul anyway so the opportunity to give him some extra airtime seemed too good to miss.

On Friday, it was time to design the Tea with Paul set, using the Tricaster’s Virtual Set functionality. We had opted to use pastel blue, orange & yellow colours in the graphics & promotional art, so we matched those colours in the various controllable attributes of the set. The set also contains a couple of spots in the background which will display the Tea with Paul logo art. Apart from that it consists of a circular central “stage”, onto which we will superimpose the stools, coffee table and sofa which we are using as the physical elements of the set. Stylistically, it resembles the set of the BBC’s The Graham Norton Show, albeit considerably smaller (And mirrored – I sit stage left instead of stage right).

Over the weekend, I’ve been writing the scripts for the two shows. I have the initial draft of the CCi Live Light completely finished, but Tea with Paul will need to be tweaked as the inserts are finished during next week.

TVBRO Week 13 7/1/13-13/1/13

This week we had our first big meeting to plan out the specifics of our chat show, which airs live on the 25th of January – just a couple of weeks away! Our first concern was to name the show, since up till now we had just been referring to it as “the chat show” or “our commissioned show”.  We held a brainstorming session to come up with a list of names which fit into the conventions of the genre, which meant various riffs on the word “chat”, references to times of day or activities and use of the presenter’s name. The list we came up with was as follows:

  • Paul Douglas Chatty Guy
  • The Friday Lunch Project
  • TVB Crowd
  • Loose Paul
  • Tea With Paul

We ultimately decided to go with “Tea with Paul”, which provides a nice balance between using the name of the host and using an activity. The idea of the name is to suggest that guests are stopping by for “a cup of tea and a chat” with me, the host, and Matthew Eldridge, who we have drafted in as a sidekick in the vain of Ed McMahon or Andy Richter.

In terms of a theme for the episode, we explored several ideas for things to talk about – mostly relating to the time of year – but ultimately we chose to go with talking about “The Year That Was, 2012”, since last year was a big year in a lot of different ways and we believe reminiscing about it will be accessible and interesting to a lot of people, as well as keeping the show from being out of place when replayed on the CCi Channel later in the year.

More broadly, I stressed the need for the show to have a lighthearted tone. The kinds of chat shows we are aiming to be like are the light entertainment variety – shows like The Graham Norton Show, The Jonathan Ross Show & TBS’s Conan. As such, we need to be talking to people who have entertaining and amusing things to say. We’re not aiming to be hard-hitting, news-y or informational. This is light entertainment, in large part because that is my personal wheelhouse. I do my best presenting when things are relaxed and lighthearted.

In terms of inserts, we plan on shooting some VOX Pops of members of the public giving us their thoughts on 2012, which we will use a jumping off point in the show for the discussions about various significant parts of the year. We’re also planning a remote which riffs on the show’s title, and my existing Web Series “Paul Douglas Drinks to Beverages”, which is a drinks review show. This is the “Tea Challenge”, in which my beverage critic talents will be put to the test by trying to identify five varieties of tea by testing them.

TVBRO Week 11 3/12/12-9/12/12

It was a quiet week on the TVBRO front this week, as we only met once to have a brief discussion about our commissioned show, which we had not had time to think about in the run up to our second CCi Live episode owing to how much we had to get done for that show. Other than our earlier decision to use Alex as Producer, we hadn’t really decided anything about the commissioned show up to this week.

And to some extent, we still haven’t. Although we talked quite a bit about the two ideas we had last time (Either a cooking themed show, or a talent competition of some kind) there isn’t a particularly large amount of enthusiasm in the group for either one. This causes me to wonder if we shouldn’t be looking at doing something which we are more personally invested in.

This, after all, is a rare opportunity to produce a show that is uniquely ours in conception and execution. It should be something we’re enthusiastic about and enjoy doing.

No decision has been made as yet, but it sounds like we need to have an idea soon. At any rate, the show is the third week after the Christmas Break so we will need to know what we are doing by then anyway if we’re going to be able to pull it all together.

TVBRO Week 10 26/11/12-2/12/12

Well after the emotional roller coaster ride of last week, this week was, by any metric, much smoother. With no further shows of our own to produce before the Christmas break, we only needed to get together this week to rehearse Orange Group’s show, and then crew it when it went live. This gave us all a good few days to de-stress and recharge after the dramas of producing our own second episode.

I was particularly glad of this opportunity to rest, as I take what we do incredibly seriously and very personally. It breaks my heart if something is not good and I almost can’t bear it when something doesn’t come together at all. So when things stared blowing up last week I was really unhappy about it, and I felt like it was personally my responsibility as the producer to fix it. More than that, I felt extremely disappointed in myself if it went wrong and I wasn’t able to fix it, even if the initial problem had nothing to do with me.

A lot of this may seem melodramatic, and in some ways it is. I recognise, having been able to switch off for a little while that it’s important to try and stop these problems from getting to you. I think being caught up in the drama with so much going on in such a short space of time really prevented me from being able to take a minute to just move past the stress. Fortunately, having made it through, I feel like in future I will be better equipped to handle such situations emotionally. To some extent, it was like a baptism of fire, and now I’m aware of what I’m up against if things do go poorly, I hope to be better able to confront those problems.

In terms of this week’s show, it was a fairly painless operation. I chose to remain in my Autocue Operator role, and most of the other group members opted not to change as well. As a result, we were quickly up to speed on what needed to be done and just had to learn the specific material Orange Group had for us. After the rehearsal, we identified a few areas where they needed to make some changes. We practiced those changes in a couple of run-throughs on Friday morning and they helped quite a bit. And so we went to air and put on a pretty good show, which you can see below.

http://vimeo.com/ccitv/301112

CCi Live 30/11/2012

This weeks show focuses on a few of the most popular societies within the UoP. We show the Basketball society, the Dance society and the Comedy society. The show includes a live stand up from a member of the comedy society, and a live interview explaining how to become interested in the area. Also included in this week’s packed show, Purple Door’s placement and recruitment fayre, which includes a very informative interview with the careers manager explaining the advantages and usefulness of the graduate fayre. Our “Something Different” includes arts and crafts: How to make your own Christmas Gift, made and presented by local artist Tracy Herrity.

http://vimeo.com/ccitv/301112

TVBRO Week 9 19/11/12-25/11/12

Well, this was a pretty challenging week. Despite our best efforts to correct some of the problems we had with timeliness during the production of our first episode, we found ourselves hard up against production deadlines all throughout this week. As the old saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Despite our planning, issues kept developing which cause us problems right up to and including the morning of the show.

What I had planned to focus on this week was finishing up writing the Script. Which I did do. But it wasn’t without its problems. After submitting the first draft, I was informed that Steve Wicks, who we had planned to use as our News Presenter, was ineligible as he had not completed a Screen Test the previous week as I had instructed him. This meant I had to get in touch with a Presenter from the pool to ask them to step in. Luckily, Charlie Jackson agreed immediately. We also ran into serious slippage problems with getting drafts of the script in for the various deadlines throughout the week as I found myself constantly waiting for the News Script, which Steven had been writing separately, to be sent over.

In the end; myself, Jodie & Laura had to write more of it anyway, as once we did have it in, we were informed that it was not long enough and one of the items was unsuitable.

Amidst all this, I wound up having to take over editing the Chris Solarski insert as nobody else was available to start it on Monday when we got the rushes through from the team who filmed it. In fact, I wound up also having to source the footage of Chris’s work and film some additional cutaways myself, as there was nobody else available, with various other things going on. This meant I had less time to spend taking care of the various pieces of paperwork which fall under my purview as the Producer, an issue which eventually came to head late on Wednesday when a delay relating to staff being busy during the day meant a late review of the insert.

Essentially, by the time the insert was reviewed for broadcast approval that day, there was only Thursday left to perform any additional editing, with the mandatory rehearsal that afternoon meaning it wasn’t even all of Thursday. And with the other tasks I needed to catch up on, I was not able to dedicate the several hours of work needed to make the requested changes. As a result, Peter was encouraged by staff to come in and take over, with assistance from the Studio Manager, on Thursday.

Wit that problem (seemingly) solved, I spent Thursday making tweaks to the script and collating my paperwork ready to hand in on Friday, before attending the rehearsal as the presenter. The rehearsal went fairly smoothly, although the show was a few minutes short. I wasn’t overly surprised by this, as we had had to reduce the length of the Show Choir insert from what we originally planned for pacing reasons, and the Egg Nog insert was very short once pieced together. Not overly concerned, I added some extra discussion to the script, just to make up a bit of the shortfall, but knew we would have to make do with coming off-air around 2 minutes early.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, the new cut of the Chris Solarski insert had been reduced to a runtime significantly (Several minutes) less than it had been when I left it, and despite my having insisted that it could not be much (if any) shorter than it had been in my last cut because I was already concerned about runtime. I did’t hear about this reduction until the crewing team informed me that it did not match the running order, after Laura and I spent part of that morning finalising that and the Studio Script.

This caused a major problem, with the projected runtime now down to less than 25 minutes. We scrambled to make up some of the time by adding in some extra lines to the script, but there was only so much that could be done at that late stage with the script having been approved for air without these changes. Efforts to find a piece of archival material to fill with proved fruitless, and so unfortunately the show ran for just 23 minutes in the end.

I was incredibly disappointed about this. As we had been beginning to put the show together, it was looking very good. The quality of the inserts in isolation was generally quite high – significantly higher than those of our first episode. The trouble we had was, things we had planned kept going amiss and pushing things closer and closer towards the show, until we wound up in a situation where everything was being finished hard up against the deadlines, which consequently meant that we had no time to identify issues and then implement fixes. In this case, the issues boiled down almost entirely to runtime.

Had we been in a position to see all the inserts completely finished by Wednesday, I could have implemented a fix to make up the length of the show on Thursday – most likely by inviting another guest onto the show for a live interview. The lesson here is that you need to have flexibility and a time buffer to enable the resolution of issues as they come up.

In terms of actually presenting, I have mixed feelings about my performance. I certainly found it harder to do the show than usual, which I attribute to the fact that, by the time we actually went live, I had been stressing out about the show was running short for over an hour and racking my brains to try and implement a solution of some kind. It really isn’t a good situation to be in right before going on TV as a presenter. There is a reason it is considered poor form to give talent bad news right before they go live, and this week I lived that reason.

Unfortunately, it was a pretty unhappy week. On a more positive note though, that means the only way is up.

http://vimeo.com/ccitv/231112

TVBRO Week 8 12/11/12-18/11/12

Things are beginning to take shape as of this week. On Monday, I had a meeting with the other Producers on CCi Live to discuss upcoming show ideas, formatting etc., and agreed to feature an interview (with Chris Solarski, a video game artist who graduated from the University) being taped as a central resource for the Faculty in our show. The team filming the interview for the University will be supplying us with the Rushes of the interview, meaning we only need to film some cutaways. We will also be getting ahold of some footage of Chris’s work, which will also serve as cutaways, making this primarily an editing job, which will take place mostly next week.

That evening we had two film shoots planned – the Show Choir insert and the Man Versus Food RAG Week event. I was part of the team shooting the Show Choir Insert, operating the camera and serving as de facto director (With Jodie busy most of the time taking part in the Show Choir itself, since she is the member who we made contact through).

The main challenge on this shoot was lighting. The Show Choir practices in the Guildhall in the evening. Since it was dark during the evening, the rooms we were in had their lights on, and these lights were ether very yellow, very orange or quite dim – a fact not helped by the fact that one of the spaces we were filming in featured somewhat reflective, metal surfaces. This bathed the room in slightly off-colour glows.

Consequently, it was important to get the white-balancing on the Sony EX1 we were filming with correct, to give the editors the best possible chance of correcting the colours in the edit process. Having never used an EX1 before, it took me a little time to get it set up the way we needed. However, we had accounted for this and deliberately arrived early to get set up. The main problem with it after initial setup came in the second room we were filming in.

This room featured the aforementioned metallic surfaces, which also featured some dark coloured artwork. As the camera was moving around this room to take shots from varying angles, it became necessary to switch on the Zebra function essentially each time a major movement was made, as different walls had very different peaks and lows for light, making it quite challenging to adjust the aperture correctly as what worked in one position would result in washing out large areas of the image from another.

As it turned out, we had been given the wrong start time for the Man Vs. Food event, and so the other team were ultimately unable to film it. Fortunately we had enough Inserts ideas on the go that we were able to move on quickly from that problem, and Steven had proposed a new insert to make up the numbers the next day, which I green lit immediately. This insert is a simple shoot showing how to make homemade egg nog, and we agreed to shoot it today (Sunday).

On this shoot, I took on the role of sound operator, monitoring the levels and adjusting them as needed. Since the shoot was relatively simple, this was a fairly painless experience for me and I found it quite enjoyable. When monitoring the sound, it becomes necessary to listen in very intently to what is coming through the headphones, as the slightest sounds can pose major challenges in the edit if, for example, they make a line unusable and there is no other take.

In part to mitigate this problem, I insisted on multiple take of every line being recorded, so that there was at least one alternate read of each line. For lines where there were problems or Jodie, who was the talent for this insert, was struggling to get a word out or saying it in an unusual way (Actually a more common problem for presenters – especially inexperienced ones – than many would think, as it is actually pretty challenging to properly comprehend what you sound like to other people when you speak) there were as many as four or five takes.

This evening we were originally planning to shoot the RAG Week Bush Tucker Challenge, but upon arriving at the venue and observing how things were set up, we realised that we were unlikely to get much, if any, usable footage. This would have been fine if we had been able to film the Man Vs. Food challenge, as we could have used footage from both shoots to make a more general RAG Week Insert, but the Bush Tucker Challenge on its own was not going to be enough to build an insert around without expending a lot of extra effort through the week. As a result, I’ve taken the decision to pull the plug on that insert and focus our attention on the inserts we have the most chance of succeeding with – the Show Choir Insert, the Chris Solarski Interview,  the Egg Nog ‘Something Different’ Insert and another photography showcase.

Also this week, we learned of a change to the rules regarding using members of the Production team as presenters, which means that I am going to be able to present  this episode, which is great as it allows me to get more on-air, live experience. I had been worried that, with most groups either using presenters from outside the course or gravitating to a select few favourites I was going to be off the air for the rest of the year.