Tuesday 17 May 2011, 18:30
I'm on a train on the way home from Carlisle playing reserved seat roulette, hoping like crazy that the elderly couple heading toward me with a steely look in their eyes aren't booked into my seat. I do so hate tears on a train.
I'm the senior producer for Radio 1's visualisation team and this year I get to do a number of things.
This included directing the red button coverage of Chris Moyles and Greg James' capers in the country house leading up to Radio 1's Big Weekend in Carlisle, setting up our web coverage of the Big Weekend on site, and directing coverage of the BBC Introducing stage there.
It's my debut working for the BBC's music entertainment department who, as well as covering most of the major music festivals for the BBC, also make the timeless Later... With Jools Holland, among many other productions.
All last week, Chris Moyles and Greg James did their shows from a country house near Carlisle, where we rigged a handful of robot cameras in the broadcast area to cover both shows on the red button.
We also got a posh graphics generator and an equally posh graphics operator (hello Charlie!) to make flashy clocks, captions and show photos, tweets and text messages on screen.
Biggest surprise of the week? Rolling up to the house at 5.30am to find Chris Moyles already hard at work doing the washing up.
From the outset we were told the country house was haunted and, as cynical radio and visual producers, were rather hoping the old spirit might show up at some point.
It/him/her resolutely failed to rattle a chain, bang a door or cause so much as a tepid draft. However some keen-eyed viewers spotted an anomaly on this video:
After a week at the country house it was time to hotfoot it to the Big Weekend site in Carlisle - an airfield.
Here I worked with our teams to set up streaming the event on the Radio 1 website.
We provided four windows onscreen so viewers could watch the Main Stage, the In New Music We Trust Stage, total visual coverage of Radio 1's live output, and the choice picks of the other stages.
This is an incredibly complicated piece of work demanding collaboration between a number of departments across the BBC and an awful lot of wire.
I'll admit I don't have the first idea how it's really done, but the teams from the BBC and SIS Live (the company who provide all the technical facilities for the TV outside broadcast) pulled the proverbial rabbit from the hat and made it all work.
Finally, on Friday afternoon, I was ceremonially handed over to the music entertainment department, who were doing BBC Three's coverage for the Big Weekend, and sent on my way to the BBC Introducing tent.
If you've never heard of BBC Introducing, in their own words they support unsigned, undiscovered, and under the radar musicians.
The BBC Introducing stage is a modest affair, but attracts a lot of attention and is a huge deal for a select number of bands who get to play at an actual bona-fide festival and effectively appear on the same bill as the Foo Fighters and Lady Gaga.
The TV coverage on this stage is also modest, four cameras and four very hard working camera operators.
On the Sunday, however, the small gods of directing smiled down and the engineering manager (hello Donald!) showed up with a pole-cam.
The team was testing it out for use on a shoot later in the year, so I got to be guinea pig.
The pole-cam device is much akin to an extra large fishing rod mounted on a regular tripod, with a tiny HD camera at one end.
It gives the director all those nice high, wide sweeping shots without having to have a dirty great big jib camera (one of those ones on the end of a crane), which wouldn't have fitted in our tent anyway.
At the other end is a very skilled operator (hello Chris) who physically moves the pole and manipulates the camera head with a joystick arrangement whilst simultaneously avoiding taking out members of the crowd and bands.
After a hasty discussion with the health and safety bloke, we had to insulate some of the metal parts of pole in case it came into contact with the overhead lights.
Apparently it's no longer the done thing to frazzle your camera operators. They'll stop us sending kids up chimneys next.
At the other end of the cameras was me in a TV truck. I had monitors showing all of my cameras and a mixer allowing me to broadcast any of the cameras to complete the show that our viewers see.
The camera boys and girls could hear me in their headphones, using an unusual shorthand language that allows me to get the shots I want quickly.
Generally, this is largely made up but can sound impressive to visiting executives. "Four, dev off the drums and find the lead in an MCU. Three KEYS!! KEYS!! One, you're soft!"
On the bigger stages it's unusual for the director to have contact with the artists. After all we kind of expect that the Foo Fighters know what they're doing.
Sometimes they'll get requests from the artists via their management to avoid particular camera angles or shoot in a particular way.
It's up to the director as to how much this can be accommodated as sometimes this can conflict with what you want to show the viewers. (To be honest mate, you've always had a big nose and there's nothing I can do about that.)
Over on the Introducing stage, no such concerns. I try to introduce myself to the bands, many of which will never have been filmed before. I'll let them know where the cameras are and maybe offer a few words of advice.
For instance, talking to a couple of hip hop artists I think it looks really good if they perform their rhymes directly down the camera lens. On the other hand it can look bad if a vocalist in a band performs down the camera.
As usual, the standard of the various Introducing artists was exceptionally high and there's no doubt we'll be seeing some of them on the bigger stages next year.
For me it'll be nice to say I shot the first ever festival performance of a new band who goes on to make it big.
Hey, maybe in years to come I'll be directing one of the main stages they're performing on. I'll be sure to remind them.
Well I've already written too much, the elderly gentleman on the train has painstakingly got out his glasses and is studying his ticket. I fear it won't be too long before I'm ejected and sat on my suitcase outside the toilets whilst the pesky highly-organised pensioners enjoy their booked seating.
And in a few short weeks we'll be doing it all again as we pack our barely-dry washing and head to Glastonbury.
Highlights of Radio 1's Big Weekend are on BBC Three at 7pm on Tuesday, 17 May and on the red button between 6am and 4am until Friday, 20 May. Other highlights from the weekend are available to watch and listen to in BBC iPlayer.
For future programme times, please see the upcoming episodes page.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
Friday 13 May 2011, 09:03
Thursday 19 May 2011, 14:16