Tuesday, May 08, 2012

3D TV? France 24 trialled 360 degree TV during its election coverage

I’ve discovered the English language France 24 about six months too late to enjoy its coverage of the French presidential election. (There are also French and Arabic language versions of France 24.)

Compared with UK-based 24 hour news, it has none of the stuffiness and oozes quirkiness and endearing informality. It’s regular Tech 24 and Webnews slots are perhaps closer to BBC World Service Click (the radio show formerly known as Digital Planet and presented by Gareth Mitchell and Bill Thompson) than the TV equivalent.

For its French Presidential election result coverage, the French-language version of France 24 needed a larger set! And as a gimmick trial, they streamed video from a 360 degree camera mounted in the middle of a circular table around which the presenters and commentators sat. (The technology was provided by Digital Immersion.)

You can replay some of the coverage and swivel around, up and down and zoom in and out. On the night of the election results, France 24 offered an iPhone/iPad app that allowed viewers to use their fingers to scroll around rather than the stabbing with a mouse on their PC.

Try the second clip under VOD2 on the Direct 360 webpage for a good example.

It’s a fascinating insight into a live production. While one person talks, those opposite are shuffling their scripts, whispering in each other’s ears and texting. During speeches from the candidates and segments from reports outside the studio, there’s much hand waving to the gallery, conducting as the crowds rhythmically cheer for their candidate, and members of the crew race around to refill glasses and bottles of water.

The always-on nature of France 24’s panoramic view means that the slick production values of the director and vision mixer up in the gallery are completely eliminated. Instead the visual cues, the normally unseen negotiation between presenters and guests are exposed, not to mention the lighting rig which for this temporary studio was not mounted overhead.

The innovation is discussed briefly on the English language Tech 24 show where presenter Eric Olander describes it as “the next step in interactive television”.

Other than the benefit of improving media literacy and allowing more people to understand what goes on behind the scenes, I’m not sure that the 360 degree actually improved the coverage of the election results.

But given the relatively low cost of setting it up, I’m sure a local broadcaster will try it at some stage!

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