I’m writing a newsletter

Just a brief update to say I’ve started writing a newsletter. Interesting links in your inbox, every weekday.

It’s called Roo’s Letter and you can subscribe here.

Email newsletters seems to be enjoying something of a resurgence. Giles Turnbull, Leila Johnston, Robert Brook and Bobbie Johnson all got there well before me; their example is inspiring me to keep at it. I’m already up to the third installment, and as I will no doubt keep experimenting with the format any feedback is gratefully received.

Anyway, if you’re missing the regular updates here and would like to hear more from me please do sign up.

BAFTA Film Awards 2010

I was fortunate enough to be invited to help out the BAFTA online team during the Film Awards on Sunday. I spent the afternoon and evening tweeting as @baftaonline and helping their team keep their Facebook page updated.

Initially, I was mainly sharing photos from the red carpet, which meant wandering around with an ‘access all areas’ pass and trying grab pictures of the buildup while staying (unsuccessfully) out of the way of various live news cameras. Here are a handful of the photos I uploaded to Twitpic during the afternoon.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

I was only slightly hampered by not having much of an idea of who everyone was, and during the busiest time on the red carpet it was a struggle to get a photo and tweet everything. Fortunately, the Bafta/BBC TV crew I was embedded with were very helpful in confirming names of people I was unsure of, etc. Conscious of a fast-depleting iPhone battery, I was alternating between an iPhone and my Canon camera, grabbing snaps and video of whatever looked interesting.

Red Carpet Kimberley Walsh Guy Pearce on the Red Carpet James Cameron on the Red Carpet Andy Serkis on the Red Carpet Edith gets her make up touched up

Once the ceremony began, I went upstairs to the media room where I sat with the BAFTA online team watching the ceremony and backstage interviews live. I was updating their Twitter and Facebook presences with the award winners as they were announced and the response to these live updates was overwhelmingly positive. Rob (BAFTA’s online editor) had proposed a very clean, cut down style for the announcements which worked really well for giving it an official, definitive tone. Keeping it short meant it was more likely to be retweeted too.

Upstairs

During the ceremony, I had a list of who was announcing what, and had to fill in the blanks with the winner as they were announced, tweeting and updating Facebook as quickly as possible. This was pretty stressful, though obviously also an awful lot of fun. I soon found a rhythm and was pleased to be using a laptop where I could quickly copy and paste blocks of text between various windows. The iPhone is nice, but it would suck for this sort of work.

Backstage Carey Mulligan Backstage Kristen Stewart Backstage Backstage

There was some frustration, among people watching on TV, that the twitter stream was acting as a ‘spoiler’ for the event (though I should point out this was massively outweighed by vast numbers of people expressing supportive, grateful thanks for the instant updates). I think the call (which was, of course, BAFTA’s to make) to announce live, rather than in sync with the TV coverage, was the right move. People were looking to @baftaonline for the definitive results when rumours were circulating on Twitter, and it wouldn’t have made sense to wait. We should probably have been clearer as the ceremony began that the tweets were going to be out of sync, to reduce the risk of people being surprised by spoilers.

Once the ceremony was over, and I’d reluctantly handed back the iPhone, I found myself on the stage itself. This was, frankly, even more surreal than the rest of the day. Watch this video below to get a sense of what it was like.

Later in the evening, my wife and I attended the Film Awards party, which was great fun.

BAFTA Party BAFTA Party BAFTA Party BAFTA Party BAFTA Party BAFTA Party

On returning home, I discovered I’d been seen by the BBC News cameras 3 times. As Ian H pointed out, it’s a bit like playing ‘Where’s Wally’.

In the news (1 of 3) In the news  (2 of 3) In the news  (3 of 3)

This makes five times, to my knowledge, I’ve been spotted on TV. (The first and second both being on the set of Watchdog in 2008.)

So, all in all a fantastic day and what little stress I did feel was entirely exciting. Thanks to everyone at BAFTA for a brilliant time.

Holiday in Pembrokeshire

Back to work tomorrow after a great few days holiday. If you’re even in Pembrokeshire, I recommend St David’s, and Porth Clais. Between Thursday and Saturday the weather way very fine and we enjoyed long walks with the dog along the stunning Pembrokeshire coast.

Severn Bridge Bishops Palace at St David's Pigsfoot Lane Climbers Cliffs

Early Sunday morning, however, it turned not only very wet but also very very windy. Not a great combination when you’re sleeping under canvas, and we kept waking up slightly intimidated by the way our tent was being thrown around. Ray got out the camera to capture the moment (note the dog laying between our sleeping bags, 38 seconds in).

And about 20 minutes later, despite conducting emergency running repairs to the pegs and guy ropes holding us down, our tent had totally collapsed, with us inside it.

We had a lovely stay though, despite the final night. In fact, clambering out of an inside-out, soaking wet tent is a happy moment one that will stay with me for a very long time.

PaperCamp

It’s been a whole week since PaperCamp (a fringe event to Jeremy, Russell and JamesBookCamp) organised by Matt Jones.

Tagged: PaperCamp 09

I drifted between the two events (meaning I missed a couple of things, including Karsten Schmidt talking about fiducial marker generation and machine readable origami markers). I mostly stayed at PaperCamp though, so here’s a handful of what I did catch…

A very good time was had by all. I hear that a PaperCamp is happening in New York in a couple of weeks. Whatever you do, don’t miss it if you’re in NYC on 7th and 8th of February.

Behind the scenes at the One Show – take 2

Tonight I sat in an edit suite in Broadcast Centre and watched the One Show being put together, live and on-the-fly. Writing up my notes on the way home, especially after a beer, I’m afraid I am liable to gush.

As I mentioned when I visited the studio last week, it’s a half-hour show, and the preparation beforehand is pretty intense. Tonight: Sir David Attenborough. In the edit suite in the minutes before the show does live there are regular update on how many minutes to go. As the news finishes the audio is turned up and the edit suite drops into a different gear.

The room is dominated by an impressive control desk facing 38 monitors. One shows the autocue (someone sat just behind me was editing the text on the fly when necessary); another shows graphics (“Viz”), which were overlaid onto the screen, needing to be counted in and out; two monitors showing 4-way split screens (including ‘The Rivals, showing what else is on air right now); another three monitors displaying three possible outside broadcast feeds (not used tonight); four monitors showing taped VT (VT = ‘videotape’, but of course they’re actually spooled from hard disks); five monitors showing the five different cameras in the studio (including a lovely swoopy wide-angle job) and, despite about ten being blank and unused this evening, many more.

The suite is pictured in the photo above (not taken by me. It appears in Ciaran’s recent post on the One Show Backstage blog.

Camera operators are referred to by both their name or their number. So I heard instructions like

  • “Four, give me Hardeep”
  • “Give me a three-shot, Richard”

and so on.

At one point, 5 minutes before the end of the show, during the pre-filmed VT segment about the Highland Clearances, the editor asked the guy sitting next to him something like “doesn’t McCain have Scottish blood?”. It was a question he couldn’t answer of the top of his head, so he dashed to a computer and brought back a whispered answer to the editor just in time for him to pass his tip on to one of the presenters. Seconds later, as the taped segment comes to an end and the studio is once again live, Adrian Chiles chips in to the conversation with Hardeep, “McCain is of Scots descent…”, to which Hardeep responds to a (IMHO) rather weak joke about oven chips, but never mind. The point is that it went from an idea in the editors head to conversational point in a presenter’s mouth on live TV in the space of a few seconds.

After the show was over, Sir David stuck around for a short interview for the website, based on questions submitted as comments on the blog. He talked about user generated content and spoke charmingly about dragons. A consummate professional, and a lovely man. The video is now online here).

Once again, I feel very glad to be working in television. Especially that weird and relatively small bit of television that handles how we engage people as participants (rather than just viewers) online. Ciaran, and the others behind the scenes at the One Show are carefully giving a very broad audience something more than just 30 minutes of live telly. They’ve providing an opportunity for a conversation.

The episode I watched being made is already online, as is a blog post about the episode, which was being discussed before I was even on the train.

Behind the Scenes at the One Show

I was invited to go behind the scenes at The One Show tonight.

Having seen me venture on to the Watchdog set (twice), Ciarán Ryan (content producer at The One Show) recently emailed me to suggest I might want to take a look behind the scenes and watch Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley in action. Like Watchdog, The One Show is broadcast live, but rather than weekly this goes out every week-day evening, 7:00 to 7:30 pm. Because of this daily schedule the show has its own studio on the first floor of White City.

Tonight guests were Ricky Gervais, Hardeep Singh Kohli and Hector the Dalmation.

Live television really is a very special thing. The tension and excitement are palpable because, at least for the studio portions of the show, there are no second chances. My heart rate jumped the moment I stepped into the room and heard “Phones off, everyone!”.

The atmosphere in the studio is helped by having a small crowd of people off-camera, enjoying the show; there’s a healthy collection of crew and staff gathered at the back of the set watching the action. A dozen or so people stand around behind the cameras, staying out of the way and cheerfully enjoying the on-screen proceedings. Aside from weird interlopers like myself, this crowd is made up of the researchers, writers and web team who between them all make the programme happen. For most of them, this daily half-hour is the slot in which the things they’ve been planning and working on crystalise into reality, are captured and broadcast live to the nation. Obviously the VT (video tape) segments of the show are prepared earlier, and (as with Watchdog) while those are being played the atmosphere transforms. It doesn’t relax, it just takes a deep breath and gets ready for the next live chunk. “Ten seconds, everyone!” and we’re back on air.

I had no trouble staying out of the way at the back while enjoying a great view of Ricky and Hardeep chatting with Adrian and Christine on the sofa. It might not surprise to you, but I was struck by how relaxed the hosts and guests seemed about everything. This is live television; aren’t you nervous? Perhaps it’s a gene, some quirk of personality which allows someone not to seize up as soon as a camera points at them, that sets ‘on-screen talent’ apart from the rest of us.

Even Hector the dog looked relaxed. He was supposed to sing along to the One Show theme tune at the end (this being his adorable trait, which reminds me of ‘That’s Life’ and the dog that could say(?) ‘sausages’). Sadly, Hector merely looked confused and issued only a short ‘woof’. Never mind. It’s hard for a Dalmatian to look anything but adorable, and apart from climbing on the sofa (I was mentally telling him off. Down. Bad boy) he was a star.

Meanwhile, Ciarán was very busy back-stage, grabbing pictures of the action his lovely Canon 5D and regularly dashing back to his desk to upload them. Most were candid behind-the-scenes photos for the One Show backstage blog.

He was kind enough to snap one of me backstage as a memory of my visit to share with you.

Roo and Ricky
Photo by Ciarán Ryan. Thanks, Ciarán!

I really enjoyed the evening. What a privilege it is to be invited behind the scenes to see television being made. It gives me a totally different appreciation of the effort and attention to detail involved in making 30 minutes of televised output. Many thanks to Ciarán for inviting me, and to everyone else for putting up with me.

You can watch the episode I saw being made (if you’re in the UK, for the next seven days) here.

On the way out of the studio, I had a quick look at the remarkable edit suite, which boasts 20+ monitors showing each of the cameras, the taped segments, still images, and a live view of what else is being broadcast to the networks, wonderfully labeled ‘Rivals’. I’ve (somehow, wonderfully, excitingly) been invited back in a couple of weeks to watch another episode being made, but this time watching the edit rather than the studio. Geek heaven.

I think I’m hooked. I’m falling in love with television.

Back on the box

Thanks again to Nick for grabbing a ‘where’s wally’ shot of my second Watchdog appearance. (Last week’s TV debut, with detailed comments, is here.)

This week, I was invited to sit-there-and-look-busy to fill a space in the Watchdog desks. I’ve done a lot of work with them this week, so it felt quite natural to join them in their office. The computer in front of me was initially switched off, and with not much time to spare before the live broadcast began I made frantic notes and tried to ignore the camera. I turned the desktop PC on during the first pre-taped segment and proceeded to spend a very productive half-hour checking my email, blissfully unaware of the goings-on in the studio. Quite a nice place to hot-desk on a Monday night, really.

I’m on Watchdog

I’m feeling ridiculously pleased at having made it onto the set of tonight’s episode of Watchdog. As far as I know, my first ever TV appearance.

(Back left. Looking tall.)

Thanks to Nick for grabbing a screenshot while I was on train home.

Panel on Augmented Reality at Virtual Worlds Expo

I’m in LA this week for the Virtual Worlds Expo.

LA Convention Center

Tomorrow, as part of the track on the Future of Virtual Worlds, I will be moderating a panel on Augmented Reality.

Augmented Reality: Virtual Interfaces to Tangible Spaces

Augmented reality is an emerging platform with new application areas for museums, edutainment, home entertainment, research, and industry. Novel approaches have taken augmented reality beyond traditional eye-worn or hand-held displays, creating links between the real and virtual worlds. Join this panel of experts as they guide you to where the augmented world is headed next.

I’m joined by:

  • Marc Goodman, Director, Alcatel-Lucent
  • Eric Rice, Producer, Slackstreet Studios
  • Blair MacIntyre, Associate Professor, School of Interactive Computing, Director, GVU Center Augmented Environments Lab, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • David Orban, Founder & Chief Evangelist, WideTag, Inc.

I might mention the Radio 1 ‘Band in your Hand‘ project.

David Orban has already shared a summary of what’s on his mind in this space.

Blair has been doing interesting work using the open source Second Life client, augmenting reality with live embedded scenes from Second Life.

If you won’t be there (room 406AB, LA Convention Center, 10 – 11am tomorrow) what ideas would you like to see thrown into the discussion, and what questions would you like me to ask the panel?

Going Live

Today marks the end of my first full week in my new job at the BBC. As you may know, my role is Portfolio Executive, Social Media – BBC Vision. I’m not going to explain it fully yet (I’ll talk more about what that means and what I’m doing soon, for now I just wanted to let you know I’ve started) but I will say that I report to the lovely Dan Taylor, with the even more impressive job title of Senior Portfolio Executive, Internet – BBC Vision and his recently explanation of his title should get you most of the way there.

Television Centre

Although my first day at Television Centre was predictably filled with first-day at school feelings, walking around the building fills me with something close to awe. Television gets made here, and in addition to things I watch now on iPlayer, triggers for childhood memories abound. If I strain my ear I can almost hear the echoes of Philip Schofield, Sarah Green, Trevor and Simon and Gordon the Gopher. There are Daleks in the Foyer cafe, and a near constant stream of tours of the building.

I was very pleased to arrive at my new desk in Television Centre on day 1 and discover that I already had

  • A badge (temporary pass. I get my RFID badge next week)
  • A telephone, configured with my office number
  • A desktop computer
  • A BBC username with which to access the intranet
  • A laptop (with which I am particularly happy)
  • 3G USB dongle for being productive (or at least as productive as possible) on the train
  • An RSA dongle (for internal webmail access via the internet. Handy)

I must say I’m impressed. Of course, I was slightly less impressed to open my brand new inbox and find 115 emails waiting for me, but that’s what mail filtering rules are for.

Television Centre

The commute to Wood Lane isn’t as bad as it probably sounds. In the morning, I take the first direct train from Southampton Airport Parkway to Clapham (8:08am), the overground to Kensington Olympia and from there the BBC shuttle bus to White City. (I have many people who left comments on this blog and messages on Twitter to thank for that excellent tip.) It’s just over 2 hours door-to-door, and I’m learning about timing my departure time for the return journey correctly in order to avoid making it an unnecessary and painful 3 hours. I am looking forward to the overground line to Shepherd’s Bush opening up later this year too.

For my first week I got a one-week season ticket, which turns out to be impressively good value. It costs less to travel for a whole week (£109) than it would for even two individual daily tickets (at £55 a pop). I also picked up a form for an annual season ticket too, which is an even bigger saving.

Going home

I quite like commuting. The 3G card gets me online so I can clear my inbox and get my brain in gear before I arrive at the office, and even offline the uninterrupted time gives me a chance to read, think and write while listening to podcasts.

In fact, I think I’m going to need to subscribe to a lot more podcasts. A lot more.

My current list is pretty short:

Various people have recently suggested This Week in Tech, This Week in Media, This American Life and Audible for books.

What else should I be listening to?

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