Radio With Pictures
There's been a few things that (to our shame) we've missed on the Internet blog recently. One is BBC Radio (or Audio & Music)'s trial of "Visualising Radio".
5 Live's interactive editor Brett Spencer introduced the trials that started with the Simon Mayo show earlier this month.
Guy Strelitz looks at some of the technical detail on the BBC Radio Labs blog.
This week's Ariel, the BBC's staff newspaper, sent their reporter Adam Bambury behind the scenes to have a look. This is what he found.
Nick Reynolds is editor, Social Media, Central Editorial Team, BBC Online.
A man sits hunched over a mixing desk, deftly cutting between camera feeds of people talking - a scene that occurs in many a BBC television studio. The difference here is that this man is deep in the bowels of 5 Live. Welcome to the future of radio.
One of many possible futures, admittedly, but a future that's been receiving a lot of praise from listeners turned viewers of the Simon Mayo show, the first programme on the receiving end of the second phase of FM&T and A&M interactive's latest visual radio trial. Just don't call it tv for radio.
'This is visualisation of radio,' clarifies Brett Spencer, interactive editor for 5 Live. 'We're not making television, but we are adding more visuals to the radio programme, perhaps to attract a younger audience that may want to consume things in a more multimedia environment.'
You can see the results online, via a shiny new 'visualisation console' that listeners can access via the 5 Live site (see box). What is attracting the most attention, however, is the console's 'studio cam', which utilises the four video cameras already built into the 5 Live studio.
Far from a bog standard webcam, this is a high quality streaming video feed that displays radio as it happens. The visuals are mixed live to capture the action, while another member of the interactive team sources images for news stories and studio guests. 5 Live has filmed radio before, as has Radio 4 with its recent 'Today TV' experiments, but this is the first time it has been done in this way through the new console.
On the first day of the trial, which began at the start of this month, a holding card was displayed during any non-Mayo items, such as news, traffic and toilet breaks. A raft of complaints ensued, and now proceedings within the studio are revealed in all their mundane glory.
The addition is not without its challenges, like needing to get visual clearance from all guests (no-one has refused so far), but judging from incoming messages during the show - ranging from 'what a babe' newsreader Justine Greene is to the scruffiness of the crew - listeners evidently relish the opportunity to take a peek behind the scenes.
Presenter Simon Mayo agrees: 'The audience seem to like it - I take no notice of it at all. I've had to start wearing make-up which is a bit strange, but I haven't started playing to the camera yet.' "
The Simon Mayo show will be visualised until June 19, when the trial switches to Chris Moyles (R1, Monday-Friday), Switch (R1, Sunday), Material World (R4, Thursday), and The Hub (6 Music, selected sessions) until the end of June, when the technology goes before the BBC Trust.