Monday, March 31, 2008

Live TV – Blueprint, (Anderson) On The Air, Ten O’Clock News, animated Weather, Newsnight

Another one of those rare occasions tonight when we made an appointment with the box in the corner to watch some TV as it happened ... well, as a hard drive on Ormeau Avenue played out a pre-recorded show.

Tonight was the long anticipated broadcast of the first of three Blueprint programmes, looking at the physical history of Ireland. William Crawley and his red-coated experts exploring the land we live on, peeling back its layers, and telling the story of its development over millions of years.

(Given that the filming took place over more than a year, it did leave me wondering just how many pairs of the same pale trousers and dark jacket that William has hanging up in his wardrobe, all slightly differently torn and grubby!)

Fossils from northern and southern hemispheres found near each other, the sound of tectonic plates crashing together (though I was never sure where to look when the plates were being animated), a wonderful world map carved in the sand*, amazing revelation that there are active saltmines in under Carrickfergus**, pictures of otherwise sensible scientists like Emily Murray walking too close to the crashing waves, and a blue CGI grid that kept appearing to keep the visual narrative as the programme hopped from location to location. (The grid did cleverly mirror some of the shots of fields in the Glens of Antrim.)

(c) 2008 BBC - Blueprint - Carrickfergus Castle and harbour in a dessert?

After a slowish start, the production (and the land) warmed up. As one with a scientific bent but an aversion to natural history programmes, it held my attention throughout. Until, suddenly ten minutes from ten o’clock it abruptly ended. With the threat of an ice age, the titles calmly rolled up the screen (jittering a bit while someone cut to the wrong feed) and then rolled to their conclusion. A fizzle rather a climb up to a glorious conclusion.

But a great start to the new regular local programming slot at 9pm on Monday nights ... we'll be back next week (and it’s repeated on BBC Two on Wednesday at 7pm if you missed it) and perhaps we'll drop in on the companion show Off the Beaten Track on BBC Two on Thursday at 7pm to wander a mile or two with Darryl Grimason over some of the spots that were mentioned tonight. (For the really keen, Radio Ulster are doing what radio does best, and drilling into Ireland’s landscape history in more detail with Blueprint: Geology on Saturday morning at 11.30am. Plug ends.)

* second favourite bit; ** most favourite bit - if it had been broadcast tomorrow, I'd have said salt mines under Carrick counted as an April Fool!

Then from the sub-lime to the ridiculous. On The Air, the clay animation that brings visual life to real conversations from Gerry Anderson’s morning radio show. Hard to remember and believe sometimes that these aren’t made up. Gerry putting a couple of she goats in touch with a buck.

And then onto another potential seismic shift (as Blueprint might have phrased it). Zimbabwe. With the intrepid John Simpson telling the story for The Ten O'Clock News from within the country (along with other BBC colleagues like Ian Pannell getting less name checks on air - ITN have teams inside Zimbabwe too) though not yet on camera.

And George Alagiah standing at the South Africa/Zimbabwe border, poised to rush across to anchor news reports from the capital, if and when the opposition is declared to have won the election.

And after one of the most animated weather reports I’ve ever seen – Daniel Corbett practically conducted the weather as it flowed across the animated map (maybe it's the result of his US influence) – it was over to Newsnight where the talk was of the potential for peaceful protests, that would almost certainly invite military response and provoke violence.

An unnatural delay in declaring the results, leading to suspicion and uncertainty. Result rigging? Difficulty finding someone to tell President Robert Mugabe that he’s lost by a significant margin? Votes genuinely close leading to secret recounts? No one yet knows.

But the result, and the next few days, will be long-remembered in southern Africa’s history … alongside the initial hope that Mugabe brought Zimbabwe, latterly replaced by military might, corruption and despotic tendencies. The kind political epitaphs will tell of Zimbabwe’s literacy rate of 90% - the highest in Africa. But the broader analysis will point to 100,000% inflation, mass unemployment, and a life expectancy that only reaches half way to three score years and ten.


Stephen Barnes said...

Never heard of the saltmines in Carrick? I guess as someone who hails from the town I'm more than used to them. Growing up in the 70's and 80's (in an era without obsession with Health and Safety) we often played around (and in) the open mine shafts and lift machinery in the fields where houses now stand.

The mines go much further than you'd ever think - 5 miles below Belfast Lough, and the same distance inland. A few years ago the New Line Road (over 6 miles from the main entrance) collapsed into a mine, leaving a 50ft crater. The road had to be diverted half a mile from its original junction with the Marshalstown Road.....

As for the programme - interesting history, simplified of course, but those 'state-of-the-art' graphics remind me of Tron meets Manic Miner....

Stephen Barnes said...

Ooops - spot the anomaly - the New Line is only 4 miles from the mines.

Sharon said...

I'd seen something about the Carrick salt mines on the BBC Coast programme. It is an amazing thing to imagine.

I'm also imagining William's wardrobe stuffed with pale trousers and dark coats now! He did well though even braving the prow of a lifeboat. I like his presenting style.

I didn't mind the graphics as some seem to. I have watched some of it again with my children, and I suppose I'm biased in enjoying its child (and uninformed adult) friendly structure.

gallybalder said...

that blueprint link doesn't work
have emailed William

Alan in Belfast said... working ok from here.

gallybalder said...

blueprint just gives me a white screen but
blueprint/about gets me there ok
alan w aka freethinker

Coke_Shy_Hero said...

"An unnatural delay in declaring the results, leading to suspicion and uncertainty. Result rigging? Votes genuinely close leading to secret recounts?"

Is this the Micro$oft OOXML ISO acceptance vote? :-)