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What's on at BVE?

When Broadcast Video Expo (25-27 February) left its traditional home at Earl’s Court for pastures new at East London’s ExCel for the first time last year everybody had an opinion about the impact of the move.

The consensus was that the three day event had benefitted from being held in a roomier venue.

That meant more space for the show’s 300 exhibitors and 15,000 plus delegates.

Furthermore executives visiting the three day exhibition reported that they were more inclined to spend the entire day there given the effort they had made to get to the far flung reaches of London E16 – a decision which has no doubt gone down well with exhibitors.

In addition to seeing manufacturers’ latest advances in TV production technology, BVE visitors can once again this year take advantage of a comprehensive seminar programme covering some of the key creative and technical issues which face the industry. 

The seminar programme has been another beneficiary of the move with expert panels grouped into subject areas and held at purpose built seminar theatres distributed across the show floor.

The seminar programme will be divided up into separate theatres dedicated to subjects such as cinematography, production, post production, broadcast IT, connected TV and – of course – 4K.

Cinematography
Creative inspiration is the theme at the Cinematography and Lighting Theatre with sessions on the art of the director of photography hosted by David Katznelson (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones), who will be focusing on high-end drama production, as well as talking about his low budget British horror In Fear.

Documentary cinematographer Leonard Helmrich and Adam Suschitzky (Silent Witness, Vera, Outcasts) will also be hosting sessions and showing clips.

The Broadcast IT Theatre will be looking at the benefits of file-based workflows as the industry hurtles towards its agreed date of October 2014 when broadcasters will want all programmes delivered in a standardised digital format approved by the Digital Production Partnership.

The other major issue on the horizon is Ultra HD, with the BBC’s Andy Quested, Turner Broadcasting’s Rod Fairweather, as well as representatives from Sky Deutschland and the EBU debating the implications.

As Andy Quested points out: “We have been using cameras which are beyond HD for years but the key thing is how far can you take that 4K signal?”

For the BBC, 4K development is likely to be conducted through the BBC’s commercial arm or through special one off events, with 4K broadcasting having to wait until audiences are capable of receiving 4K broadcasts.

The real opportunity for the BBC may be through OTT providers such as Netflix which is very keen to get its app into connected TVs in 4K.

But Quested stresses that the benefits of 4K are about much more than improved resolution. “We are interested in not just more pixels but better pixels, by which I mean there’s potential for extended dynamic range, higher frame rates and better colourimetry. It’s clear that the current standard HD frame rates of 24 or 25 fps will no longer be good enough. We’ll need 120 fps for subjects such as sport,” insists Quested.

4K Theatre
In recognition of the growing importance of 4K, one of the highlights of this year’s seminar programme is a theatre, sponsored by Televisual, dedicated to 4K screening and debates.

Themes to be discussed will include: the 4K roadmap – drivers and obstacles to uptake, delivering end-to-end 4K workflows, utilising the latest 4K camera technology and understanding UHD as a cinematographer.

Staying connected

The Connected Theatre will feature a debrief on the recent CES exhibition in Las Vegas, asking which consumer technologies are heading our way.

The session is hosted by media strategy consultant Nigel Walley from Decipher, who admits to being underwhelmed by this year’s CES, where the focus seemed to be manufacturers promoting technology some way from being ready for market.

Other popular sessions at the Connected Theatre will come from the BFI and BBC, with the BFI showcasing its latest digital developments and the BBC giving a preview of the next wave of innovation at the corporation.

Producer’s Theatre
This Televisual-sponsored venue will feature a debate on crowd-funding featuring Nesta’s Liam Collins, director Ed Kellie and Lizzie Gillet, producer of Age of Stupid – a crowd-funded environmental feature which raised £1m.

According to Gillet there are definite pros and cons to crowd funding: pros are, of course, money and contributors who sometimes provide unexpected practical help. Cons would be her annual admin job of dividing revenues among the film’s financiers.

Other well attended Producer’s Theatre sessions are likely to be Hat Trick’s Jimmy Mulville and Mel Leach from Two Four discussing the ups and downs of running an indie. Plus there will be daily commissioners sessions covering entertainment, factual and drama production.

Post Production Theatre
Another Televisual-sponsored venue, this year’s Post Production Theatre features some seriously useful sounding sessions, including a discussion of the potential of the cloud with Dock10’s Emma Riley and The Farm’s David Klafkowski.

As Klafkowski points out, the cloud is a natural progression to post production services.

“There will always be occasions when we need to operate in split locations, and cloud computing functionality and faster internet speeds make this more and more viable.”

One drawback is often consumer over expectation or supplier over promising, says Klafkowski. “Editing services running on the cloud often demo well but in reality the user experience leaves a little to be desired.”

Other Post Production Theatre highlights will be edit consultant Larry Jordan discussing FCPX as a professional tool, and 4K post. “The main issues with 4K are storage and bandwidth,” says Jordan.

“The speed of virtually every computer today is fast enough to edit 4K video, so now storage is the gating factor. Far too often, we find ourselves obsessing over the CPU while we blithely connected a single USB3 hard drive and expect everything to work.”

Jordan lists some useful dos and don’ts for 4K edits. “Do work with proxy media as much as you can for the rough edit. Do expect to add a high-speed RAID to your system, do add additional RAM to your computer (16GB is a good number), and do keep a minimum of 20% free space on all storage devices.

“Don’t attempt to edit 4K files with a single hard drive, regardless of how it is attached, and don’t change your workflow – organise and edit your files the same as you always have.”

Go to www.bveexpo.com for more information


Televisual at BVE

Televisual Media will be represented throughout the event with an exhibition stand next to the 4K Theatre.

There will also be a chance to meet key editorial staff who will be chairing a range of conference sessions at the venue.

Televisual will also be a headline media sponsor at the event, specifically sponsoring the 4K Theatre, Producer’s Theatre and Post Production Theatre.

On its BVE stand (RO2), Televisual will be showing its growing library of 4K content on a 4K screen, including aerial shots of London, images of extreme weather from lightning to tornados, as well as the northern lights, which are all available to buy.

Televisual is also interested in representing new 4K material.


Posted 25 February 2014 by David Wood

The year ahead: 4K in 2014

All year 4K has been the watercooler topic across the industry. But how far off is the widespread adoption of 4K as a consumer technology? Will 2014 be the year that Ultra HD takes off or cools off?

4k in the home
How fast is the UK and Europe is going to adopt 4K? The answer depends largely on who you listen to. Most camera manufacturers are nothing short of bullish, but the reality is that 4K acquisition technology has raced ahead of the rest of the market – a trend which is set to continue in 2014.
History tells us that the tipping point for broadcast technology comes at a point when consumers can receive it in the home in meaningful numbers, says Michael Inouye, senior analyst at ABI research. In fact, most technology analysts agree that this is still some way off. “By 2018, 6% of households in Western Europe will have 4K sets,” says Inouye.
The rate determining step will be how fast the price of 4K sets falls – rather than how much content is available, which at the moment is not very much, he adds.
ABI predicts that despite high profile events such as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Sochi Winter Olympics their impact on 4K adoption will be minimal. “It’s simply too early,” says Inouye.
Supporting technologies like HEVC and HDMI 2.0 will also need time to establish solid footholds. The lack of domestic penetration is having an impact on broadcasters too, making them cautious.
BSkyB chief engineer Chris Johns has said that Sky will not rush into Ultra HD until it can be sure it can deliver a lot more to consumers than at present.


4k cameras
Barry Bassett, md at hire company VMI, notes that from an acquisition viewpoint 4K adoption has been rapid.
“Those who are choosing to shoot 4K are doing so for the same reasons that people took to HD – that is to be able to pan and scan.”
 Lenses are no longer a stumbling block, adds Bassett, as Canon have a range of 4K cinema zooms and quality lenses such as Arri master primes, Cooke S4 and Angenieux Optimo zooms all deliver 4K.
“I suppose the real problem for the industry is that everyone is offering a 4K solution, but as yet no commissioners are showing any tangible excitement about actually commissioning anything in this new medium.”
Eben Clancy, director of post production for Timeline Television, adds that it’s no surprise that 4K is being driven very much by acquistion technology.  “If you are buying a new camera it’s difficult to buy one that’s not 4K. The great thing about it for post is you can zoom in four times and still have a full res HD picture.”


4k post
But the real issues with 4K in post boil down to data, says Clancy.
“The amount of data creates bandwidth issues which are difficult to handle with an HD infrastructure. Post houses have been editing everything in full res HD because there is no conform, producing a much more streamlined workflow, but with 4K they will have to return to offline/online workflows. The reality is that programme makers won’t be able to edit in full res 4K for a long time. Avid doesn’t work natively in 4K yet, nor is there a decently-priced 4K monitor.”
So we won’t see seamless 4K workflows next year, says Clancy.
“By the time the industry has caught up with 4K the talk will be of 8k and beyond. And while there will be a higher definition format at some point, I don’t know if it will be 4K.”

4k creativity
What a lot of people haven’t taken on board is that 4K is simply a 4096 x 2160 pixel sampling grid, argues digital camera consultant Peter Wilson.
“What you get in terms of an image at the end of the day depends on a whole range of factors from the lens you use to your sensor’s performance to your skill as a director or DP.”
Genres where 4K is expected to impact most rapidly are sport and natural history, as was the case with HD. One of the big creative issues next year will be managing depth of field in 4K, says Wilson.
“There will be a lot of thinking about whether the industry needs a smaller 4K sensor to capture sport with a wider depth of field, or larger lenses, which will be heavy and expensive.
You could see the issues with Sony’s 4K live rugby trial, which was shot wide to capture action on the pitch and people in the stands. For sport you need a wide depth of field, but that’s not easy with large format chip cameras. The backgrounds ended up being softer than you’d expect.”
“Overall, my feeling is that there will be a bit of a 3D thing with 4K … a big buzz which will continue next year which will then die down as little 4K content emerges. But I definitely expect it to return at a later date.”


Posted 20 December 2013 by David Wood

The year ahead: File based in 2014

File-based media will be introduced as the standard form of delivery to broadcasters in 2014. But the debate continues over whether the industry will be ready to meet the October deadline for the introduction of AS-11

1/10/14 deadline
“The Digital Production Partnership’s (DPP) self-imposed deadline where file-based content delivery becomes the preferred exchange format for almost all major UK broadcasters is less than a year away and still most facilities and production companies are a long way from finalising their DPP adoption strategies. So says Bruce Devlin, CTO at AmberFin, a company that has developed an area of specialism in the creation and support of DPP-compliant file-based workflows. One reason is that many leading industry manufacturers have yet to build AS-11 into their deliverables.
Another is that leading post houses predict that the costs of implementing AS-11 delivery will probably be more than the cost of HDCAM SR tape, the current standard delivery format.
The big hurdle for 2014 for the DPP will be getting the manufacturers on board, agrees Nativ’s Jon Folland, who argues that manufacturers have never been keen on supporting standards for the simple reason that in a standardised world they can be more easily switched for a different solution. Says Folland: “To my mind the deadline is a bit unrealistic.
If companies don’t have a budget to buy the right software they will just wait and see what happens before committing. I expect many post houses and software vendors will wait until the last minute before jumping aboard.”

Could it fail?
There is no guarantee that AS-11 will be a rip-roaring success. In the past new standards have failed  for a variety of reasons. If they were not fit for purpose in the first place it’s likely they will be superseded by better solutions. There are also are a whole range of other non-technical factors that can have a huge impact on whether or not a technology standard is widely adopted – which is, of course, the ambition.
Sometimes they fail simply because people are too busy to take them on board. Sometimes the financial cost of switching to the new standard is too great for companies to bear.
The unexpected departure of key personnel responsible for driving forward standards adoption can also have a huge impact. But one of the most powerful reasons that standards don’t take root is that manufacturers don’t like them much. They are much more interested in locking clients into their software and proprietary technology. So for standards to work they have to offer manufacturers clear benefits and few disadvantages.

QC dilemma
Another issue which needs to be sorted out next year is where the responsibility for QC in the new world of file-based deliverables will reside.
Many post houses are concerned that some broadcasters – notably Channel 5 – will pass both the responsibility and cost of QC to post houses and programme makers, a cost which has traditionally been an itemised part of a programme budget.
At a UK Screen event dedicated to workflow and automation last month, DPP technical standards lead Kevin Burrows confirmed that in future producers and post houses would be taking the lead in performing QC checks at the point of delivery, with broadcasters taking a back seat. By next October the aim is that broadcasters will only carry out spot checks.


Case against
Loft London md James Gibson admits to being a leading DPP naysayer. “I think AS-11 is a bit of con which doesn’t do what it’s designed to do. Based on the AVC Intra–adopted standard for HD, it’s not full HD. So a lot of people don’t want to adopt it – not a good start.”
AS-11 has created issues rather than solved them, insists Gibson. “It’s a mezzanine file so people will send in AS-11 and broadcasters will transcode it to something else for playout, which to my mind defeats the purpose. The long and short of it is we’ll all end up using  tape, LTO and hard drives throughout 2014 and beyond,” says Gibson. Loft London has its own delivery platform Cubix delivering files to a global market but AS-11 only addresses the UK. “It’s a step forward but we need to standardise by looking to the EBU or [international standards body] SMPTE.” For Gibson, AS-11 is a standard “created by frame sniffers and guys with pens in their top pockets”. “The question is, is there really a burning need for it?”
What there is a need for, he admits, is standardisation of formats within sectors such as a SMPTE-recommended archive, distribution and playout format. “The singular file format from post to preservation isn’t the way forward, but standards led by industry rather than committee designed to answer the needs of specific sectors should be encouraged.”

Posted 20 December 2013 by David Wood

The year ahead: Cloud based technology in 2014

Cloud-based technology will increasingly move centre stage in 2014, allowing producers and creatives to save time and money. We look at how the cloud is expected to impact production in 2014

Cloud pluses
In 2014, media companies in film, television and advertising will continue to adopt cloud solutions to make their businesses more efficient and productive. 
That’s the view of Sohonet’s director of product management Ben Dair. “People are not just talking about the cloud, they are embracing it – from vfx company Milk, to Clear Cast and Factory to mention a few,” he says.
The principle attraction of the cloud remains its ability to access storage as a service at a low cost. The alternative is the traditional capital expenditure route of spending huge amounts in one go on storage infrastructure which you own and manage yourself.
The growing use of the cloud is part of a general trend away from owning technology to renting it, using networks that are managed by somebody else. So far, whilst the cloud has had a huge impact in data management there has been less penetration in the broadcast media and entertainment market.
Nativ’s ceo Jon Folland says that part of the problem is that public cloud networks were built with data and email in mind rather than video.
“Compared to other industries when you look upstream to production and post you are talking about moving very large files, which public cloud networks were not designed to do.”

Cost
“While lots of cloud services like Zencoda and Amazon look low cost, the problem is that they are islands of functionality,” says Folland. “It’s hard to take parts of a business process and put them in the cloud because of the cost of getting them there and the cost of retrieving them.”
It only works financially if you host everything in the cloud, suggests Folland. But doing this exposes your business to other risks, such as a lack of transparency over costs, which continues to discourage media users. “Media businesses like the fact that the cloud doesn’t involve much cap ex, but the downside is you don’t know your future costs.”
“These can vary because the cloud is a utility – like a power company – and the people who use it and may grow to rely on it are unable to control how much it will cost in the future.”
This is a state of affairs which any self-respecting finance director instinctively doesn’t like, says Folland. “FDs don’t want spiky costs.”

Security

Plus there’s the humungous issue of reliability and security when using cloud-based environments.
These have been thrown into sharp relief by events this year such as the rising tide of public concern over phone hacking and data security.
The big issue for the cloud in 2014 is whether content owners will be happy to host business critical activities there? In 2013 the answer has largely been no.
For Aframe’s David Peto a greater understanding of the cloud on the part of broadcast customers would be a big step forward. All clouds are not equal, he stresses. “The story of the Night Before Christmas provides a cautionary tale for those considering using generalist cloud providers to run their video workflow. When Amazon US went down on Christmas Eve 2012, it took Netflix with it – forcing it off the air for two days. That was expensive.”

Public/Private
Signiant’s European md Greg Hoskin predicts that in 2014 we’ll see more discussion of the nuances of public versus private versus hybrid cloud approaches.
“There will continue to be plenty of examination of ‘cloud washed’ versus ‘cloud formed’ approaches,” says Hoskin, whose company offers Media Shuttle, a cloud-based distribution service for media.
Its USP is it allows companies to keep their content on their own networks. “The cloud’s notable benefit of allowing anywhere, anytime access is often made unreliable when cloud solutions are entirely hosted in the cloud – when the cloud goes down, so does the business,” says Hoskin.
“However the hybrid SaaS (software as a service) model now being adopted more widely allows the broadcaster/production company or post house to keep full control over their data using an on-site resource to store the content in their preferred location. On top of this, a simple cloud delivered control layer gives them full management and visibility over users and permissions.”
In 2014 the best we can hope for is for the confusion about cloud-based technology to give way to a better understanding of different types of cloud services and the ends to which they are best suited.


Posted 20 December 2013 by David Wood

Stopping the robbers

At the end of May Shoot Blue was the latest broadcast rental company to be the victim of a robbery when a gang of six masked robbers forced the door and attempted to steal camera equipment including Shoot Blue’s Red Epic digital camera.
 
The raid was just the latest in a series of robberies at rental houses with Arri Media, AimImage and Post Factory all suffering break-ins. Many in the sector are expressing concern at what they believe is an upswing in the number of increasingly violent robberies.
 
Shift 4 MD Alex Trezies said: “Robberies appear to be regular and on the rise, with the thieves becoming more bold in their tactics.”
 
In attempt to stem the tide the rental companies and their representative body the Association of Studio and Production Equipment Companies (Aspec) are cooperating to produce a White Paper designed to promote security, share best practice and reduce the current spate of robberies and fraud.
 
The White Paper is expected to cover how to make your business physically more secure, iron out weaknesses that can be exploited and recommend working practices which will make staff less vulnerable to violent crime.
 
VMI MD Barry Bassett helped to set up a rental company network where information on theft and fraud is exchanged and is a supporter of the White Paper initiative. “You can’t prevent robberies and burglaries but you can be very well prepared and make it very hard for them,”  said Bassett.
 
“In 2008, after a spate of burglaries and attempts, we had a £350K loss where six guys armed with Kalashnikovs overpowered a technician, beat and tied him up, before making off with one of our vans and a large haul.”

“Happily, our tracking system and CCTV worked and they were caught and put away for 9 years.”

The run of insurance claims heavily impacted on [the business and was a wake up call for co-directors Bassett and Kevin Oaten. “We radically changed our working practices, and got staff trained in security measures by the flying squad and moved to more secure premises.”

“Now we have a very sophisticated security system within the building, which is situated in a secure compound with 24 hour security, contained by an external nine foot steel perimeter fence. 

Shift-4 has foiled two robberies in recent years, with one security guard held up at gunpoint, as the company’s steel shutters were ram-raided.
 
“They got nothing as all our security measures kicked in,” says Alex Trezies, who has made the company more secure with 24-hour security on a gated estate, a smoke cloak, incapacity alarm, personal/panic alarms for staff members, CCTV, police call out and triple locked shutters.
 
“Now we have secure rooms inside the building for expensive gear, which are locked and completely isolated within the building so even if you get in you’ll never get them open.”
 
Since setting up of the rental network, the number of attempted robberies and frauds haven’t fallen, hire companies are becoming increasingly security savvy and better and protecting themselves. Says Bassett: “The rental firms have had a much better time since we set this up our network. All broadcast hire companies now talk to each other and exchange information.”

“We take it very seriously because insurance costs are so high and can skyrocket if you are not pro-active in reducing risk. You can end up with bad claims history and your payments become very high, very quickly.”

Following the Shoot Blue break in industry insurers Allan, Chapman and James issued the following advice: “Continued vigilance is very important. We would urge all facilities companies to review physical security measures and ‘lone working practices’ after working hours.”

Posted 03 July 2013 by David Wood

Can Adobe take on Avid?

One of the talking points at NAB this year was Adobe clearly signalling its intention to square up to Avid – the industry’s major video editing platform.

Adobe has been gradually improving its Adobe Premiere Pro package with smoother workflows with its other key video editing applications Audition, Prelude, Premiere, Speedgrade and After Effects.

The next much-anticipated event will be the launch of its collaborative editing tool Adobe Anywhere, allowing editors to login via the internet to access files as if they were on a local network.

Avid’s response has been the announcement of a substantial price cut and the rolling out of a series of under-the-bonnet improvements to Media Composer, including the incorporation of a lot more background processing in Media Composer 7.

So to what extent will Adobe challenge Avid as the industry’s favourite editing platform?

Avid is anecdotally used on over 90% of major broadcast TV editing, with Adobe Premiere Pro used more by digital design houses and producers looking for a smooth integration of editing, vfx and animation, as seen in shows such as A Liar’s Autobiography (pictured).

The reality is that the most likely converts are not post houses immersed in Avid but former Final Cut Pro users. 

Mytherapy’s Dado Valentic, who has Beta tested the new look Premiere, is a fan of its flexibility. “It supports almost any media in its raw format without any conversion, and it is far more flexible when it comes to exports. This is a characteristic that FCP used to have and is one of the main reasons why ex-FCP users are moving to Premiere Pro.”

Envy Post Production head of workflow Adam Davies explains that the potential appeal of Adobe to companies such as Envy, which are heavily invested in Avid, is that it “integrates well with the other Adobe applications – so for adding or generating graphics, Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects are easily accessible”. Plus it has innovative ‘cloud’ rental pricing options.

Prime Focus Broadcast UK head of operations Kate Robson adds that Premiere has advantages on some vfx workflows.

“We recently worked with Adobe to build a system that would provide a fluid vfx workflow to and from our broadcast vfx department for October Films’ World War II from Space. Premiere has the Dynamic Link function that allows for live vfx updates from After FX.”

She continues: “As an editing system it is great for working with native media because it often omits the need for a conform, plus editors like the way you can choose your playback resolution.”

For Stitch Editing’s Tim Hardy Avid remains the perfect editing tool: well organised and very, very stable. “A lot of the young guys learn stuff at entry level on FCP and Adobe – because they are low cost, user-friendly and intuitive. But once you get your head around Avid it’s much more solid.”

Collaborative workflows

Avid also has the edge with collaborative workflows, as Envy’s Adam Davies explains. “When working on ISIS Avid functions extremely well with multiple editors working on a single project.

Premiere does not yet have the same sophistication here, unless you commit to using Adobe Anywhere. This looks interesting but it is a very new product and will need a certain amount of market testing. There is also the issue of familiarity – most offline editors are able to drive Media Composer.”

Valentic agrees: “Editors know how to use Media Composer and are reluctant to learn a new system.” The other big issue that Adobe faces is the level at which many production companies have invested in Avid and the kit that goes with it such as Unity ISIS.

Rich Orrick at Work Post comments: “That kind of investment is expensive and unlikely to be updated until things become outdated or broken.” 

The reality, concludes Valentic, is that there is little scope for Adobe Premiere to make inroads in the broadcast market at the moment. “But in many other areas – such as commercials, feature, online, it will certainly become a standard.”

Posted 05 June 2013 by David Wood

Depressing from Denmark

Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell, the pen behind Swedish detective Wallander, have a lot to answer for.

Thanks to the critical and popular success of films such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Kenneth Branagh’s misery guts of a detective Inspector Kurt Wallander it seems that TV executives across the country have become obsessed with hunting down the latest TV schedule fashion accessory - a Scandinavian TV drama depressing enough to make you slit your own wrists.

ITV3 has capitalized on the trend with the acquisition of Those Who Kill, a new six part Danish crime series from Entertainment One Television which has sold to over 25 countries. 
 
Billed as a compelling dark crime series Those Who Kill is follows the investigations of a special unit of Copenhagen’s police force specialising in identifying serial killers that do not fit within traditional behavioural patterns. Their aim? To uncover the psychology of violent killers.

Cheery stuff, which TV executives assume will appeal to those who delighted in the forensic dissection of a 20 day murder investigation in The Killing and Borgen, in which Denmark’s first female prime minister attempts to strike a largely unsuccessful balance between her domestic and political life.

If there’s one thing that unites our latest crop of Scandinavian dramas it’s that they all glory in gloom, obsessed with murder and the less upbeat aspects of human nature.

If its got double D appeal – depressing and from Denmark – it must be good.

Although the critics can’t seem to get enough of them I’m left wondering if they really are as good as they are cracked up to be?

I personally have trouble taking Borgen seriously. It's certainly no-where near as credible as The West Wing as a drama about the reality of contemporary politics.

How, for instance, can a woman who struggles to find a nanny become the Danish PM? 

One reason why fans have to seek out their Scandinavian drama in the more unfamiliar schedules of BBC4 and ITV3 is that BBC1 or ITV1 tend to be reserved (with the exception of Branagh’s Wallander) for frothier fare such as Call the Midwife or Wild at Heart - a more traditional dramatic antidote to the hardships of a British winter.

Personally I can get enough of the less upbeat aspects of human nature with a five minute online update from the Leveson Inquiry. If I want misery I can cycle home in the cold on my bike.  Bring on the midwives!






Posted 09 February 2012 by David Wood

Channel 4 focuses on stay at home dads

When not working as a media journalist my other job is as a stay-at-home dad.

It’s only one day a week but it has given me an insight into the lives of the growing number of men who look after their children five if not seven days a week.

There are plenty of pressures which have given rise to this new social phenomenon – a rise in unemployment across the board, the hideous cost of nursery fees and the growing number of career women who are the major breadwinners in their families.

According to research from Aviva there are now 10 times as many stay-at-home dads in the UK than a decade ago, with one in seven fathers (14%) now the main provider of childcare (about 1.4 million men) - a figure that is set to increase.

The result has been the growth in playgroups for dads and their pre-school kids - groups such as Dads & Littl’uns which I attend with Ella and Daniel.

Here's a recent film about how dads are coping with the challenges of childcare:



I’m not the only one who has noticed this growing social phenomenon, judging by the blizzard of media requests that the organisers of the dad's playgroup have to field on a weekly basis. dadsandlittluns.co.uk/media.php

In recent months reporters from The Sun and The Independent have paid a visit for articles and this week it was Channel 4’s turn. Producer Studio Lambert is in development with a series about stay at home dads and is busy scouring the country for likely looking candidates to appear in the show.

The joke was that it would have been better if Studio Lambert could have found gypsy dads - sorry to disappoint Channel 4 - but had to make do with us.

Sam the producer/director shot us with his camcorder showing up, trying to look like we were able to control a room full of two and three year olds and catching up on local gossip. With the local primary school admissions deadline nigh the quality or otherwise of primary schools is a hot topic.





It’s fair to say that not everybody welcomed the camera crew with open arms, with a minority of the 15 or so dads present definitely sceptical about getting involved in media - however well intentioned.

One pointed out that the small print of the release form the Studio Lambert researcher was very keen that we sign basically wavied any control over the global exploitation of the images.

But the camera crews visit proves one thing. Channel 4 is still providing development cash for programme ideas and that one of the programming trends of 2012 and beyond will be the domestic revolution where the men will be spending more looking after the kids.

Posted 18 January 2012 by David Wood
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