Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Showdown in Elktown

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Winner: Best Short Programme in Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival 2007
Tx February 11th 2007
2.8M viewers, 8.3% Audience Share

A very light hearted look at what happens when elk take over the small town of Mammoth in the heart of Yellowstone during the annual rut. Narrated by comic Steve Punt with as many western one-liners as we could fit in there!

Photo: Neil Nightingale, head of the BBC Natural History Unit, at Jackson Hole Film Festival 2007.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Nature of Britain: Freshwater Britain

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BBC One Wednesday 31 October 2007, 9.00-10.00pm

Join Alan Titchmarsh as he travels from our island's rivers to the sea, to reveal the beauty and spectacle of freshwater Britain.

Discover the real Loch Ness Monsters, the venomous mammal stalking the Hampshire countryside, and the unexpectedly romantic side of the predatory pike.

Watch kingfishers diving, salmon leaping and a songbird that swims underwater. And find out why a drop of rain is the key to keeping all this wonder and beauty alive.

Producer: Simon Bell
Series Producer: Stephen Moss

When Hell Freezes

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Monday 29th October, 20.00, C4
0.8M viewers, 3.5% Audience Share

Digiguide: Antarctic roleIn 1912 Australian explorer and geologist Douglas Mawson pulled off an extraordinary feat. After an horrific journey across hundreds of kilometres of frozen wasteland during which his two companions perished, Mawson was the sole survivor of a doomed Antarctic expedition. Some questioned how it was possible, and there were suggestions that he'd eaten his dogs and even considered eating the bodies of his dead comrades. Mawson was knighted and became a hero, but the question of how he lived when others died has tantalised scientists, historians and explorers ever since.

This part-documentary/part re-enactment attempts to find an answer. Having been almost killed during his own solo trek to the South Pole in 1999, Australian adventurer Tim Jarvis confronts the ice, as Mawson did, with the same meagre rations and primitive clothing and equipment.

There's been mixed critical reaction to the programme. On the one hand, there's praise for Jarvis, who recreates Dawson's terrible trek as fully as he can. On the other, there's suggestions that since he can't totally reproduce Mawson's dilemma - Jarvis is morally obliged not to eat his dogs, for example - the exercise is a tad pointless. That niggle aside, it's a worthy piece of documentary-making that's well worth catching.

Monday, 29 October 2007

A Passion For Plants

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Friday 26th October, 20.00, BBC2
2.4M viewers, 11.1% Audience Share
BBC Natural History Unit

Radio Times: 2/8
The second in documentary series going behind the scenes at The Royal Horticultural Society. This time we see eco-friendly gardening in practice at Harlow Carr, the society's most northerly garden. The garden is prone to flooding and this summer, curator Matthew Wilson finds an elegant yet high-tech solution using dry stone walls. Also, the students at Wisley design and dig their allotments and children in Wakefield benefit from an RHS scheme encouraging children to grow their own vegetables.

Producer: Mark Flowers

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Nature of Britain: Urban Britain

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Wednesday 24th October, 20.30 C4
5M viewers, 21.5% Audience Share

Radio Times: 3/8 - Urban
No pretty pictures of pastoral scenes this week. Instead, Alan Titchmarsh is looking at the different species of wildlife that have adapted to urban living. It means, other than the occasional shot of adorable fluffy ducklings (surviving a dive of 60 feet from a tower-block balcony to the pond below, no less) we're basically talking about creepy-crawlies, pigeons, foxes and the like. There are some surprises, though. Not least that the River Tyne is now clean enough to provide a habitat for otters. But what's really amazing is finding out exactly how creatures have adapted: seagulls, for instance, are nesting on top of a city building in Bristol because they think they're safe from predators there. They didn't reckon on TV presenters and crews stomping about the place, of course.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The Nature of Britain: Farmland

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Wednesday 17th October, 21:00 BBC1
5.6M viewers, 24.8% Audience Share

Radio Times: 2/8
Cowpats: not something I'd ever thought of as beautiful but, on the evidence of this week's programme, I can see that they - or at least the fungi that grow on them - have a certain visual charm. Alan Titchmarsh has come over all pastoral to explore the flora and fauna that are an integral part of Britain's farmland - and as farmland makes up a hefty three-quarters of our country, that's a lot. Much of it is cosily familiar to even a rabid urbanite - sheep, ladybirds, fields of poppies, that sort of thing. But the sight of thousands of rooks perched on telegraph wires is astonishing, while the footage of cows gambolling like lambs on the first day of spring is delightful. And if you missed last week's hare-boxing highlight, that's repeated here, too.

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Wednesday, 17 October 2007

The Wild Gourmets

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Tuesday 16 October 8:30pm - 9:00pm C4
1.4M viewers, 6.2% Audience Share

Radio Times:
5/6 - Cumbria
Series following award-winning cook Thomasina Miers and adventurer Guy Grieve as they search for the best wild food in Britain, turning seasonal food into sumptuous feasts. On the menu today are shrimp, flounder and... squirrel.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

BBC: Virtual voyage of discovery down to the Titanic

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A lovely, user-friendly BBC website, video and flash rich and quite similar to the Planet Earth player in functionality.

YouTube and the Great Copyright Challenge

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Where there's a will there's a way! Like with the DRM of the BBC iPlayer (the code which causes iPlayer programmes to self-destruct after 30 days), which was cracked recently - you can pay people loads'a money to write code to protect your content, but there will always be the techies who are much more willing to spend longer trying to hack it, simply for the pleasure of beating the big boys (and besides it's much easier to break code than to write it). What's more the continued rise in the use of Peer-2-Peer means that anything can be shared with anyone, irrespective of the legality, and this seems to be particularly ubiquitous amongst University students. Nether-the-less organisations such as Google and the BBC must be "seen" to be making an effort and today Google announced its latest strategy...

In Broadcast today:
Google has unveiled widely-anticipated technology to stop illicit access to copyrighted material on its YouTube video-sharing service. The technology identifies content owned by media companies and can dictate its usage on YouTube.

However, it cannot pre-empt the posting of content, leaving the work of identifying it up to content owners. Google has been dogged by copyright issues since it acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in October 2006. MTV parent company Viacom launched a lawsuit against Google earlier this year for what it called "massive" copyright infringement.

The technology requires copyright owners to first upload their content to a Google database before it is broken down into data points and analyzed. Any matching versions that get posted will then be automatically flagged. Viacom general counsel Michael Fricklas said the company was "delighted that Google appears to be stepping up to its responsibility".
However, it is unclear whether Viacom will still pursue Google for damages related to past infringements.

Google's $1 billion lawsuit includes actions brought from the English Premier League, Rugby Football League, the Finnish Football League Association, author Daniel Quinn and music publisher Bourne & Co.

BBC joins forces with Adobe

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Iv'e been editing graphics and video for years using Adobe products and I must say that I find them as robust and adaptable as any apple product. Editing with Premiere offers as much functionality as FCP (for my needs at least).

Earlier today Adobe issued a press release that "New Adobe Video Tools Selected for Creative Desktop Initiative" and on the front page of the BBC intranet "Gateway" we read "Adobe and Cloud deals set to enhance iPlayer".

Adobe to enhance iPlayer
BBC iPlayer will be available on Mac and Linux computers for the first time by the end of the year after the BBC announced an agreement with Adobe to use its Flash player software. The BBC is also set to become the first UK broadcaster to have all of its online content made freely available via Wi-Fi, after agreeing a non-exclusive venture with The Cloud, the UK’s largest provider of ‘hotspots’.

The iPlayer enables viewers to download and view around 400 hours of tv content from the last seven days and store them for up to 30 days. Following a ‘soft launch’ in July it generated some half a million downloads from a quarter of a million registered users in its first five weeks. With user numbers rising steadily, FM&T director Ashley Highfield has set up a full consumer marketing launch in December to coincide with the arrival of streaming. Mac and Linux users, however, will not be able to download programmes and Highfield said he did not yet know whether there would be sufficient users to justify investing in the functionality.

The iPlayer’s growth will continue next month when it will be embedded into the Daily Telegraph’s website allowing users to click on any BBC programmes mentioned and be taken to the iPlayer to download them. Highfield said it would be the first of a host of ‘deep embedded relationships’ with listings providers and tv and radio sites. The BBC also hopes to set up an iPlayer trial in a small number of Virgin Media homes before the end of the year with a view to launching a full cable service early next year.

New Adobe Video Tools selected for BBC Creative Desktop
"Adobe Systems Incorporated today announced that the BBC, through its technology partner Siemens, has selected Adobe® Creative Suite® 3 Production Premium as its preferred solution for PC-based non-linear editing and post-production. Production Premium CS3 is Adobes complete integrated post-production solution for video, audio, graphics and Web publishing that will be used to edit and deliver content across the Corporations broadcast channels and Web sites."

The move will support the BBCs Creative Desktop Initiative, in which the BBC aims to standardize on leading tools in an effort to improve workflow efficiency, create a tapeless environment and reduce costs. Beginning in April 2007, it will start rolling out Adobe Premiere® Pro CS2 to PC users within the organization, allowing them to take advantage of the powerful non-linear editing tool...The BBC will implement a phased approach over the coming year, with an expected initial deployment of 150 workstations.

Read the full Adobe press release here

Nigel Marven's Shark Island

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(1/5) Monday October 15th, 19.15, C5
0.7M viewers, 3.1% Audience Share

Radio Times:
Naturalist Nigel Marven travels to Cocos, a remote, spectacular Pacific atoll that inspired Stevenson's classic 'Treasure Island' and is rumoured to be the location of buried pirate gold. It also holds another secret: it is home to more sharks than any other place on Earth, including hammerheads that converge there in huge numbers. Nigel Marven is determined to find out why.

TV Throng:
Returning to Five for a brand new series of natural-history adventures, wildlife expert Nigel Marven heads off to an uninhabited Pacific island where it is said that there are more sharks than anywhere else on earth.

Intrigued by these top predators since he was a child, Nigel travels to Cocos Island –an atoll near the coast of Costa Rica –where he has four weeks to discover why there is such a great concentration of sharks in the area. To do so, he employs a dive boat with a specialist crew and a selection of equipment, including a state-of-the-art miniature submarine which can go 400 metres down for up to four hours – and will open up a whole new world to Nigel on his adventures.

Nigel is particularly interested in the mysterious hammerhead sharks that come to Cocos in great numbers, and is fascinated by the diversity of sharks around the island. In attempting to unravel the mysteries of Shark Island, Nigel has numerous close encounters with other animals above and below the surface, including the unique Cocos goby – a tiny fish that has evolved to live in freshwater and climb the island’s vast waterfalls to reach a utopia free of predators and competition.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

The Nature of Britain: Coastal Britain

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Wednesday, October 10th, 21.00 C4
4.9M viewers (Slot Average 4.5M), 21% Audience Share

BBC Online:
Alan Titchmarsh makes an epic journey across the length and breadth of the country to explore the huge diversity of wildlife in The Nature Of Britain. The eight-part series, which can be seen this October on BBC One, is the first comprehensive portrait of the links between Britain's plants, animals and the places where we live for over 20 years and a first for the channel.
Using the very latest in filming technology, such as ultra-high speed cameras and the heli-gimbal camera mount which gives rock-steady aerial shots, The Nature Of Britain brings many TV exclusives to our screens.

These include killer whales hunting seals off Shetland, the underwater courtship behaviour of the pike, a honey buzzard raiding wasps' nests and otters in the River Tyne right in the centre of Newcastle. The ambitious series, made by the world-renowned BBC Natural History Unit and co-produced by The Open University, also celebrates the uniqueness of British wildlife – from magnificent boxing hares to bizarre dung beetles; and from tiny harvest mice to mighty golden eagles.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

BBC "How we built Britain" and the amazing Microsoft Photosynth

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Microsoft's Photosynth is a very exciting application being developed by Microsoft. I have been eagerly awaiting them to complete their technical trial for months so I can have a play!

How Microsoft describes Photosynth:
"Our software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space.

With Photosynth you can:
* Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle.
* Seamlessly zoom in or out of a photo whether it's megapixels or gigapixels in size.
* See where pictures were taken in relation to one another.
* Find similar photos to the one you're currently viewing.
* Send a collection - or a particular view of one - to a friend.

See a video tour of the photosynth here

How We Built Britain
The BBC managed to jump into bed with Microsoft very early on for the online proposition of “How we built Britain”. The website which accompanies the TV series takes thousands of images from tourists submitted to flickr, to build a three-dimensional panorama that you can pan and zoom into.

You can still upload pictures to Flickr to join in.

Visit the website to view some of the first Photosynthed images here.

The site includes a wide range of modern and classical buildings from around the country, everything from the Royal Crescent in Bath to the Blackpool Ballroom. Photosynth for the first time allows photography to really capture the scale of a location and reflect the true magnificence of some of our greatest buildings.

The next time you visit a National Trust property remember to snap like crazy so you too can make the best of Photosynth.
I might just need to get myself a few more memory cards.

- Paul Williams

A new age Viking Ship adventure

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The timewatch website is following a Viking Ship expedition, with daily video, text and photos sent from the sea:

They used a Thuraya DSL satellite system which, although geographically limited, worked pretty well and has the advantage of unlimited upload for a fixed fee.

Also see their interactive (google maps based) map on the external website. They did hope to incorporate this within the BBC site but the BBC testing procedures prevented this from happening on time.

Meet the Natives

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Thursday, October 4th, 21.00 C4
1.6M viewers, 7.3% Audience Share

Radio Times: 2/3
Second in a three-part series which turns the tradition of anthropological observation on its head as five tribesmen from Vanuatu travel 10,000 miles to encounter the 'three tribes' of Britain - the working, middle and upper class - for the very first time. The five travellers arrive in Manchester and are amazed by the first city they have ever seen. They are saddened by seeing homeless people sleeping rough and cannot understand why such a wealthy city cannot house all its people.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Nick Baker's Weird Creatures: The Human Fish

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Friday, October 5th, 21.00 C5
0.7M viewers, 3.3% Audience Share

Radio Times:
Wildlife documentary series in which naturalist Nick Baker hunts down some of the strangest creatures on the planet. Nick's quest takes him to Slovenia in search of a bizarre, sightless salamander. He descends deep into the mountains to find the proteus or olm, dubbed the 'human fish' because its skin resembles human flesh. Nick camps underground for three days in an attempt to experience this light-deprived world and the effect it has had on the olm's evolution.

Nature of Britain: Programme 1: Island Britain

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Weds 10th October, 9pm BBC 1

The definitive landmark television series on Britain’s wildlife: A contemporary portrait of the most celebrated, watched and best-loved wild creatures in the world.

Join Alan Titchmarsh on a journey of discovery through eight key British landscapes,
as he tells the stories of the surprising relationships between the land and the creatures that live there, and pieces together the puzzle of what lives where – and why!

In the first episode of this landmark series on Britain's wildlife Alan Titchmarsh travels from the top of the British Isles to the bottom, to discover what makes our island home and its wild creatures so special.

From boxing hares to blonde hedgehogs, swirling starlings to swooping seabirds, and fighting seals to leaping dolphins Britain's rich natural heritage is full of wonder, spectacle and surprise.

Producer: Chris Cole
Series Producer: Stephen Moss

Friday, 5 October 2007

A Natural World Special: One Hundred Years of Wildlife Films

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Saturday 6th October, 8.30pm BBC 2 (Previously aired on BBC4)

'100 years of Wildlife Films, was perhaps the most fascinating piece of television I have watched this year...' Euan Ferguson - The Observer 02.09.07

In this two-hour special (which has been previously shown on BBC4), Bill Oddie highlights the passionate, eccentric and pioneering individuals who have often risked life and limb to break new boundaries in wildlife films.He charts the extraordinary changes in technology that have driven the industry forward, and he reveals how the last hundred years of wildlife films has as much to do with our social attitudes as it has to do with the animals themselves.In 1907, a flickering film about birds enthralled a cinema audience in Britain. In the hundred years that followed, wildlife films have taken us to places and revealed images we would otherwise never have seen.With stunning, exciting and sometimes shocking footage, Bill Oddie explores the changing trends throughout the last century, from shooting animals for fun in the 1930's to campaigning to save them from extinction today.

Camera: Mark Macewen
Produced/Directed: Clare Brook

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Multiplatform stuff to consider when planning an expedition

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Depending on the length and remoteness of your expedition I would suggest that the best way for your to proceed would be to have someone at base who you can upload packets of information to, using a sat uplink, as the year progresses. I'm actually looking into doing a similar sort of thing from the Arctic and Antarctic - even more logistically challenging, and using Iridium Modems and Begans to get the data across. Assemble your clips, text etc, in the field and uplink these packages in the evenings to base, who can then do the final posting, youtube uploading, Google File generating etc. They can also monitor comments from visitors to the site.

You might want to check out Long Way Down, a Ewan McGreggor Project: and to see how they did it. Which was similar to how you propose, They used 3G whilst in Europe but from most of Africa they uploaded to base with a Satlink.

I was at a talk about their project and they said the following: Web content/podcasts were "little moments of fun" mostly recorded on Mobile phone but also DV shot. 3G sent direct within Europe – Africa has no coverage, so satphone was used there. They sent in daily reports from the road - 115 clips in the 85 day expedition, 30-60 seconds each. Daily, or regular updates is very important to maintain an audience. They produced what is known as "Mashable content" allowing people to take bits away and embed on their own websites. Cycling websites etc and sites that were doing similar journeys. This allowed the word to spread about their project.

I would also set up an RSS feed so you can have subscribers to your blog and create a video/audio cast for iTunes. Youtube is an easy and free way to create a subscribable channel too. Photoblogs are very popular - using a service like Flickr or Panaramio, and along with Geotagging (see below) you could get the best out of these sites and see your photos on their map interfaces.

You might also want to consider tapping into the social network groups, namely Bebo, Myspace and Facebook - Bebo is about to break into the media market with the launch of a teen drama (Kate Modern)

I have written a quick guide on how to create a podcast here:

If you going to be travelling around much I would strongly urge to get into geotagging. We cannot underestimate how important this will be in the future, and how exciting it is at present. Ashley Highfield, director of BBC Future Media & Tech, said as much at the BBC Vision Multiplatform day.

Read my article about a little gadget that I use - cheap, easy and very effective. From this you can create a Geotrack which can be viewed on Google Earth (or any other global interface) as in the image below (you can also embed video and audio) - puts your media in a geographical context.

Also see why I think Geotagging is the next big thing.
And Geoblogging (put your blogs in a geographical context)

Not only does Geotagging put media and place together but it also allows you the capacity to leave "virtual graffiti" so people can access media about a location when they are at the location - using the power of Wifi or mobile internet. (see the mscapers project by HP).
Hope that helps,
Paul Williams

The Wild Gourmets

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Tuesday 2nd October, 20.30, C4
1.5M viewers, 6.6% Audience Share

Radio Times: 3/6 - Wales
Series following award-winning cook Thomasina Miers and adventurer Guy Grieve as they search for the best wild food in Britain, turning seasonal food into sumptuous feasts. This week the pair head for Wales, catching eels in the mouth of the Severn, preparing traditional Welsh laverbread and sampling the unique salt marsh lamb.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Up Close and Dangerous

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Friday 28th September, 20.00, C5
0.7M viewers, 3% Audience Share

Radio Times: 4/4
Documentary featuring top wildlife filmmakers who share their most hair-raising encounters with the natural world. A cameraman is stranded on an iceflow with a hungry polar bear. A ball of sardines acting as bait prevents a cameraman from seeing a hunting shark until it is almost too late; and a defensive gorilla charges a scientist.

Philips 3-D TV

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At the BBC Vision Multiplatform day last week the chaps at Kingswood Warren (the BBC's technological R&D dept) had a Philips 3D TV on display.

This is one of the coolest things I have ever seen, I was captivated and drooling - when can I have one? Apparently i'll have to wait 10 years before they are widespread in UK homes.

I have been playing around with 3D images and video quite a lot recently but this was something else. No 3D glasses required, no shutter glasses required, it was like I could reach in and touch what I was seeing. Like the TV was a window into another, and very real, world.

It works by splitting the light emitting from the screen so that the image reaching the left eye is slighting different to that reaching the right eye - stereoscopic. You have to be in the right spot (one of 8 viewing positions around the TV) to have the image correctly reach the eyes as stereoscopic, otherwise the image is a little blurry.

See the video below for a more complete explanation about this incredible technology:

Broadcasters should seriously reconsider 3D content – it looks like it is coming back in a much more dynamic way. First with video glasses, and then full 3D TVs, being spearheaded by computer gaming and 3D screens for computers.
- Paul Williams

Kameraflage for Hidden Interactivity

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Hide another layer of content directly in the video layer. Hidden messages that you cannot see with the naked eye bt which people can access by taking still photographs of the TV screen (or as is currently in development, eye wear that allows the wearer to see the messages). This could provide an opportunity for interactivity - allowing viewers to see "secret messages" or collect clues for an alternate reality game connected to the TV programme. The messages hidden behind the video in a particular sequence or part of the programme.