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Our story developer stars

Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 14:27 UK time, Tuesday, 22 June 2010

If you've been following our wild Pensthorpe families, you'll know that we've been getting footage of them from around the clock! This is only possible with the help of our story developers, one of whom, Robert MacDougall-Davis, reveals what life is like aboard the 'Starship Enterprise'.

Stepping into the dark story developer truck is like entering another world...

silver story developer truck with dark doorway"In a galaxy far, far away a team of story developers huddle at their stations in the hope of exploring new worlds and seeking out new life. Okay, well in truth, Pensthorpe is not exactly a new world or that far away, but you could be forgiven for mistaking featherless nestlings for alien life forms. What's more, stepping inside the story developers' truck is a bit like stumbling aboard the Starship Enterprise.

"On first glance the story developers' truck looks like the back of any old lorry, but look inside the smart gun-metal exterior and you might be in for a surprise. Steep steel flight steps lead up to a small rectangular door which clicks open and shuts with a satisfying thud. It takes a moment or two for the eyes to adjust to the darkness, but with pupils wide a myriad of bright screens and illuminated buttons appear in every direction.

"The screens are simply bursting with life as a host of creatures peck, flap, swim and squawk 24/7. This is the Springwatch hub, where all the live video feeds coming in from the cameras around Pensthorpe are monitored.

A myriad of bright lights and buttons!

buttons"Each story developing team consists of three people. Two of us observe and record the wildlife action as it unfolds, while the other writes the live commentary for the webcams and posts on the busy webcams topic on the messageboard.

"Between us we monitor all the live feeds and do our best to record and broadcast key moments and action as it unfolds. The web team and minicam guys work all hours to make sure all the remote cameras and web streams are running smoothly.

"Even with cutting-edge video technology at our fingertips, catching all the action is a tricky business. We need to keep a very sharp eye on all 15 live feeds to make sure we record interesting behaviour and key moments as they happen.

"The technology we use to record and review the footage is the same that's used for recording and replaying slow motion sports footage. It enables us to review recordings from the live feeds three hundredths of a second behind real time. Footage recorded in the story developing truck at 7.45pm might make it on to the live show at 8pm. This keeps us all on our toes.

Story developers James and Kat hard at work.

story developers James and Kat at work"One of the best things about this job is the incredible behaviour that we observe. It's not every day of the week that you get such an intimate view inside nests and all of it live around the clock. After watching the live feeds for many hours you start to pick up on really interesting behaviour.

"For instance, I had no idea that four kestrel nestlings can quite happily knock back ten or so voles a day! It was also news to me that some birds, such as the willow warblers, will feed their young up to 48 times an hour. That said, perhaps the most fascinating behaviour our team has observed over the past few weeks is the way blue tits use mint to disinfect their nest and reduce parasites - amazing!"

"In total, there are 12 story developers working on a four-days-on, four-days-off shift pattern for the duration of Springwatch. There is an early (4am!) and late shift which ensures the live feeds are watched for 20 hours a day.

"Watching all this is an amazing experience, but after four days drifting through space in the Starship Enterprise you get birds on the brain and cabin fever starts to set in. At this point it is time to head back down the silver flight steps, take a deep breath of fresh air, and hand the baton to the next group of Springwatch story developers."


  • Comment number 1.

    the webcam team have been fantastic the last few years and the webcam messageboard is the place to go. I doubt they'll ever beat last year's "little chris cam" under the bridge, but the teams enthusiasm and helpfulness is a real boon to the programme.

    thanks webcam team

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank you for this insight into the story developers' world!

    The Springwatch webcams are an amazing technological innovation and provide the most wonderful opportunity for us to see sights that we could only ever dream of experiencing otherwise. It really is a privilege to be a part of it.

    Therefore it has to be said that the whole webcam team are simply wonderful! Those who have dealt with us on the messageboard, especially Heather, Kat and Amy have been amazing over the last few weeks. They have chatted to us, answered our questions and even made changes to things at our request! And I know there must be lots of unnamed others who work incredibly hard behind the scenes too ... so a huge thank you to everyone involved.

    I don't know what you all do when you finally leave the 'Starship Enterprise' but best wishes for whatever you are doing next and we look forward to 'seeing' you all again next year!!

  • Comment number 3.

    It was great to see how the story developer team works, amazing tech crammed into those trucks. I want one!


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