Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A brief lull...

Well, sort of a lull. Next major project is going to be as Exec Editor on the ISE Daily for the Integrated Systems Europe tradeshow that takes place at the RAI at the end of January (http://www.iseurope.org). What can I say? I must like Amsterdam (though waiting for the Number 4 tram in the depths of the Netherlands winter can be an interesting experience.

That all properly kicks off at the start of November. Keeping me honest up till then is:

SVG Europe - a regular spot examining sports broadcasting and the Connected World

Red Shark News - regular contributions about all manner of industry gubbins

Broadcast - how UK broadcasters get their content on your mobile

InBroadcast - filming extreme sports

And various other bits and pieces for various other clients.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

IBC = I'll Be Ceeing you

So, no sooner has one giant RAI-based tradeshow finished, than after a quick break I start work on a Daily magazine for another one.

Must enjoy this combination of Amsterdam, tradeshows and Intent Media, as I've just been appointed Executive Editor of the ISE Daily for ISE2013. Big show, and getting bigger all the time = big gig.

Thoughts on IBC? The show seems to find itself caught between technology waves at the moment, with no huge new products unveiled but plenty of action in areas of standards (FIMS etc) and companies jockeying for position in forthcoming areas such as Ultra-HD.

Think many people are waiting to see if autostereoscopic displays will take off in advance of the next Olympics, basically. If so, then 3D was always the horse they were backing. If not, then there's 4k to consider. Interesting to note that those with deep pockets - the Sonys of this world - currently seem to be doing both.

O Inconstant Consumer, look what chaos you're causing!

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Song is Over...

Just written an – unbylined – piece for a client on the broadcast legacy of London 2012. To summarise:

  • OBS did an okay job
  • The BBC did a brilliant one
  • NBC really, really cocked it up
  • The days of tape delaying major events and getting out of sync WITH THE ENTIRE INTERNET are over
  • Ultra slo mo looks fabulous when done right. Andy Hayford, take a bow
  • 3D is in serious danger of becoming an evolutionary cul-de-sac... again
  • The Socialympics is a horrible word, but does describe what happened. Social media is now an integral part of this sort of thing
  • Super Hi-Vision will mean much lobbying for the 2020 Games to be in Japan
  • The big broadcast story from Rio 2016 will likely be remote production

Friday, 20 July 2012

IBC = Impressively Busy Chap

It's been a while since the last update, for which I totally blame IBC. In full on production mode on the IBC Daily now, with around 150 stories under our belts already. Sounds a lot, but we're not even a quarter of the way up the mountain yet, and crampons will be required for the next stage. Also undertaking a series of '60 Seconds with...' interviews with various CEOs and high-profile speakers at the IBC Conference alongside various other bits and pieces of marketing gubbins for IBC itself. And then there's the odd feature about the Olympics broadcasting set-up. In other words, it's been a bit of a busy old time. People tell me it's been raining...

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

I'm a NightRider (asleep in the day)

[With apologies to AC/DC for nicking and sampling their song title]

So, first some history: way back in the winter months, I signed up for the Nightrider cycle ride. The ride is billed as "an exciting 100km moonlit ride past London’s iconic landmarks", but as soon as I had a start time of 00.35 from Alexandra Palace confirmed, it seemed more like it would be a terrifying 100km moonlit ride past the majority of London’s beered-up clubbers.

But still, it was for a good cause - namely the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. If my 15-month old daughter, Freya, had been born back in the 1960s – when I was, thank you for pointing that out - she would probably not have made it to her first birthday. The fact that the NHS has had to establish adult CF units in recent years, though, is testament to the hard work that the likes of the CF Trust undertake. Life expectancy is now 41 years and rising...

And so, six months later, and with the best-intentioned training plan well and truly out thrown out of a very high window, myself and my neighbour and cycling buddy Pete found ourselves donning our lycra, turning on our lights, and joining 3000 other cyclists for the ride of a nighttime!

Of course, they don’t set you all off from the same place in one go. There were two start and finish points – Crystal and Alexandra Palaces on opposite sides of London – with riders set off in semi-orderly groups of 75. This was probably dangerous enough to be honest. Not many people have cycled with more than a couple of mates at a time, and to suddenly find yourself pedalling along with 74 other people in hi-vis tops in the dark – never mind barrelling down a hill towards a crossroads and a set of lights in the first drop down from the start at Ally Pally – tends to concentrate the mind somewhat.

My cycling buddy, Pete, had kindly informed me that Highgate Hill was the highest part of London and therefore going to be an interesting part of the ride. What he hadn’t told me was that Highgate Hill was beside Alexandra Palace, so no sooner had we shwooshed down than we had to swoosh upwards again. Well, I say swoosh...I actually mean fumble desperately for granny gear and pant my way to the top while vowing not to, under any circumstances, get off and walk. I think it was about there that I noted that two training rides – one of 30k, one of 50k – was slightly under-preparing myself...not to mention that Pete seemed to be going uphill much, much easier than I was.

It was about one in the morning and London was quiet and sleepy – at least until we got to Camden, which was very much still in full swing with the pavements outside the pubs crowded with people that were having a significantly less energetic time than we were currently experiencing (unless metabolising vast amounts of Bacardi Breezers counts as energetic). Not much time or breath for long, shouted conversations beyond the ‘charity bike ride’ sort of explanation, but with several hundred of us having gone through already the message seemed to have got across and there was lots of shouted encouragement (slurred) and requests for high-fives (haphazard).

In fact, people were in general astoundingly good natured throughout. There’s probably the odd nightbus driver and taxi driver that would rather not see another group of cyclists wearing hi-vis vests and being all belligerent about their rights to their own piece of road for a while, but public support was out and about and in much evidence.

Cycling through Central London in a group was fantastic. Normally on this sort of thing you tend to string out and clump together again at the lights, where the massed sound of people clicking into their pedals almost drowns out the revving of the engines, but when the traffic gets bad you tend to look for safety in numbers and form a gaggle. This was kind of handy as the most traffic hazards I normally encounter up and about Rutland where I live involve sheep, so being able to tag along with people who are obviously experienced at cutting up and zooming past taxis/buses/cars/rickshaws/pedestrians was invaluable. It was probably all a bit dangerous, but it was also extremely exhilarating. They come up here, and I’ll return the favour: I can spot a slippery patch of sheep dung from 100 metres out.

Regent St was jammed, as was Shaftesbury Avenue, but then it all widened out and quietened down as we bombed over the Thames for the first of four crossings (I say bombed, stopped and took photos of the City and the Eye all lit up is more like it). Proving that, indeed, no one goes sarf of the river at this time of night, we loop silently down and past The Oval without much anyone else accompanying us, before heading back over the Thames and ghosting round Parliament Square as Big Ben strikes the half hour above us and the lone peace protester huddles under his blankets. Trafalgar Square, the back end of Buck House, Marble Arch...the landmarks get ticked off one by one, which is a good job too because, as soon as we get back over the Thames once more and start heading south seriously towards Crystal Palace there's bugger all of interest beyond an odd 3am traffic jam on Clapham Common.

The long drag up to the halfway point at Crystal Palace is long and dispiriting, but nothing compared to the haul from there in the dog hours of the morning before dawn back into London. Thighs burning, something pinged painfully in my right knee, and all of a sudden the only people going up the hills slower than me had actually dismounted and were walking it. Think even one of those overtook me at one point. So, sad to say that dawn finally breaking over the mists of Blackheath Common and lighting up a traditional, old school circus, all wood and garish paintwork, only seems fantastical in retrospect; while the descent through Greenwich and seeing the City lit up by the rising sun like a VFX supervisor's dream of a distant sci-fi landscape was most memorable for being on a steep, downhill slope.

Some people had already finished by now. In fact, while we wolfed down some food at Crystal Palace the first of the riders that had started there were coming home, around 3 hours and 20 minutes later, all lean, lycra-clad muscle, tanned legs, and nice bikes. By the time we got to end, we’d taken nearly eight hours to do the course. But we were leaner too...Pete’s endomondo tracking estimates that we burned through about 5000 calories all in all during the course of the night, so if anyone fancies a bit of an extreme diet programme...

A quick rest in the shadow of Tower Bridge and we were off again with 40k to go. The City was soulless – no surprises there – while as we rumbled through Bethnal Green the fryers were being turned on and breakfast was starting to be cooked (judging by the smells, you could put all the weight you’d lost on the ride on again in about three minutes flat). A loop down and through Canary Wharf felt like unnecessary cruelty, and then it was time to turn North for the long, shallow climb back to near the start (which was to be followed, inevitably, by a short, hideous climb back up to the start itself).

By this time my legs had got their second wind, but my arse felt like I’d watched the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy while sitting on a spike. So you quickly fall into a rhythm now and then of standing up and pedalling, then coasting, then pedalling a bit more, all to stop your poor pummelled perineum from having to make contact with the saddle again. Avoiding bumps in the road – and London roads have obviously been surfaced by a gang of moles – swiftly became a priority as first Mile End, then Hackney, then Highbury, then Harringay disappeared behind us.

And then there we were, at the base of the hill with Alexandra Palace up there somewhere, back where we started. The climb broke many, but I’d become familiar enough with granny gear by now that I engaged it early, dropped my eyes to about a metre in front of my tyres – sod the view, that could wait – and just kept the legs turning over. In the right mood you could go up Kilimanjaro like that, after 100k – well, actually 106k according to the GPS – it’s more a case of bloody mindedly keeping going because up there, somewhere, there’s a bacon sarnie with your name on it...

And then you get to stand up there in the full light of day and look back over the London Basin, checking off the landmarks that you’ve been past. One thing’s for certain, there was a lot of them...

Looking back on it a few days later, it seems slightly surreal that it happened at all. I mean, was I really part of that lycra-clad pack that swooped and soared and then struggled and cursed round London for all those hours? The gingerness with which I sit down and the happy £1000 sitting in the fundraising account for the CF Trust would suggest I was.

To paraphrase AC/DC once more;  I'm a NightRider, get out of my way...Shazbat. Nanoo nanoo.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Serendipity and the art of channel hopping

With thanks to Adrian Scott for initially posting it - A refresh of BBC's TV channel home pages Like everyone who reads it, for me the phrase 'serendipitous discovery' tends to jump out of the page. TV seems to be following the rest of the media industry - music is ahead of the curve - of consumers needing trusted 'gatekeepers' to sift through the sheer volume of content available. Whether that's the cloud, social media, or an 'authoritative' source like a magazine seems to be up to them. For me, as soon as I subscribed to Prog magazine and SFX, I saw an immediate uptick in my music and book purchases (which given the newly freelance status qualifies as bad timing, methinks).

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Digesting the Future

This week, Geneva hosted what has to be one of the most interesting set of debates in the broadcast industry for ages: namely the SMPTE & EBU Emerging Technologies Forum. While there’s always a slight sense of theologians debating the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin about these things – not to mention the problems of the technological deterministic mindset that tends to dominate when propeller-heads/beakers/boffins/call ‘em what you will all get together – some interesting stuff emerged.

The full dissection is over on the SMPTE Blog page maintained for this event by the ever-excellent Dick Hobbs, but here’s a quick bullet-pointed dissection of what we learned:

  • Rights are going to be a significant problem moving forward into the multiscreen era
  • Some random tech advances courtesy of Moore’s law (or at least a bastardisation thereof): 50bn connected devices by 2020; 18 stops of latitude; higher framerates; Super Hi-Vision (which is itself developing a 120fps signal) still on track for broadcast by 2020.
  • Kids simply do not have TVs in their bedrooms anymore
  • By 2015, 90% of all network traffic will be video. So codec improvement is an absolute necessity
  • A regular movie is now delivered in 200 different versions
  • Peter Hinssen, Across Technology: Although we feel we are immersed in digital technology today, we are only half way there, in the mid-point of the s-curve. As we cross into the second part of the digital s-curve we will start to talk about the benefits, not the features. Then it will become the new normal.

  • And, perhaps most importantly, Brigitta’s Five Laws of the Future should be enshrined and chanted by the audience at the start of any such future events:
  1. Anyone who claims to understand the future is either a multimillionaire or a charlatan
  2. We do not over-rate the rapidity of innovations, we under-rate it
  3. Public service broadcasting will continue to exist, but only if it develops from programme production to multimedia content production
  4. Necessary change is not dependent on technical facilities but on the ability of change management
  5. We as the decision-making group risk underestimate the impact of innovations because we are out of touch with the next generation – (Brigitta Nickelsen, Radio Bremen)

Thursday, 3 May 2012

IBC = I'm Back, Chaps

Is very happy to announce, that a whole three days after going freelance again, he's been appointed Managing Editor for this year's IBC Daily News. If past years are anything to go by - and I have done this before - that's some of June, most of July and *all*, but I mean *all*, of August accounted for. Then there's the actual show itself... It's a big gig, it's a demanding gig, but it's also a very good one, not least because a) you read everything in the magazine and thus, for a week or so only, have almost perfect knowledge of the entire broadcast industry, b) you get to see so many industry friends and colleagues in the Daily newsroom, and c) you get to work as a team with some great people producing something quite spectacular under huge pressure...and then, like true freelancers, scuttle off home again to your normal hermetic existence. See you in Amsterdam...In 125 days to be precise.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Freelance again

After just over a year spent helping launch the sports broadcasting organisation SVG Europe, have decided to go back to freelancing again with immediate effect. 1st May? Hard to pick a better date...Oh, and sorry about the pic - couldn't resist.