Archive for the ‘television’ Category

What happened to tripods?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

NYPD Blue with its constant camera shake was nauseating when it first appeared. It seemed like a gimmick that would not be repeated, something very specific to that programme. Yet, now it’s become the norm for “gritty” real-life dramas. (It’s not even that new – consider the steadicam use in films like “Scum” in the 1970s – also aiming at gritty.)

I guess there are two changes that have brought this about:

  • cameras are lighter and don’t need sturdy support
  • image clarity has meant that¬† camera movement doesn’t result in blurry smears

But there’s something else too: a cultural shift. Whereas thirty years ago, it was considered somewhat amateur to have wobbly camerawork, it’s now considered positively, a liberation.

But more than that: it’s now seen as a signifier of authenticity for footage to be handheld. It’s a statement of proof that it hasn’t been faked. Of course this is nonsense: it’s just as easy to add to some fake handheld motion to some filmed animation, 3D model insertion or photoshopped trickery; and 3D model insertion is perfectly capable of following camera movements (see action adventures or even live election night broadcasts)

Watch the video for Hiszekeny by Venetian Snares. Clearly, it’s stop-frame animation but we are asked to accept it’s handheld.

I hate to sound old-fashioned but I miss the stability of fixed cameras.

Television has Changed and I Don’t Like It

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

For a period of around 5 years I had no telly. My ex had left and got that (I kept the washing machine, so no complaints).

I was surprised at how little I missed it!

You know if you see a child growing up each day you don’t see the gradual changes, but if you meet that child at yearly intervals, the changes seem vast (“My, how you’ve grown!”)? Well, this is how it was for me and TV. It seemed a vast shift had happened in the output. It felt like it was no longer aimed at me.

Four main observations from that period late 90s to early 2000s:

  • the target age appeared to have dropped significantly and now, rather than adults, television treated us as children – or immature, pranky, witless students
  • it had moved from being reasonably intelligent, like a broadsheet newspaper, to totally tabloid, including being in awe of celebrities
  • producers were hellbent on making audience interact, usually in quite desperate ways
  • swearing seemed to be completely acceptable in any context

Target Age

Sure, there had been plenty of silly immature stuff in the early 90s: The Word, James Whale… But rather than being late night, back-from-the-pub fare, it had now seeped into pretty much all programme making. Presenters made a virtue of being stupid or irresponsible, which becomes a bit weary-making very quickly.

Tabloid TV

Maybe this is the same point as above. But more than the infantile presentation, there seemed to be a new focus on celebrities, on gossip, on the lewd or violent.

Interactive TV

There’s always been a bit of of interactivity. I wrote to “Think Of A Number” for factsheets when I was a kid, sent pictures to “Vision On” and collected bottle tops for “Blue Peter“.

And now, with the web, getting hold of programme information should be a whole lot easier/smoother. It should barely be worth mentioning.

Yet, they feel the need to constantly badger us to vote, call a number, email, text, press the red button, whatever. This is just an annoying distraction from programmes. And feels so desperate, which I guess it is: the measures of engagement is based on these interactions and producers need to beg us to validate them.


I’m really not particularly offended personally. And it can be quite funny sometimes, when used in eg. quizzes. What feels wrong is not that they have moved the threshold but that there is no threshold any more, no thought going into whether it’s appropriate. Anything goes; we don’t care.

And there’s more…

This new idea of striping seemed to have come along. Instead of a series which would run every Thursday at 9.30, they’d put the series on over the whole week: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday… get it over with quickly. The chances of me being in regularly on one night of the week was far more likely than me being available every single night of one week.

Had the producers concluded that we no longer can retain a plot over a period of weeks? That we’d forget it if we didn’t the next episode just 24 hours later? Or was this just an aspect of the insanely annoying lack of patience that TV now has?

How big a house do you need?

Monday, May 4th, 2009

OK, let’s talk fantasy. Money no object, that sort of thing. You’d love a huge big house, a stately home, banquetting halls and enormous curved staircases, acres of beautiful well-tended gardens to wander in…

apethorpe hall

Apethorpe Hall

English Heritage is currently trying to sell Apethorpe Hall (there was a telly programme about it) – and they’re only asking for ¬£4million. I say “only” because this is an utterly huge house, worth far far more than this.

Tempting, eh? (well, no of course not – who has that sort of money these days?) And of course the low price reflects the amount of renovation work necessary to make it inhabitable.

If you want to put in an offer, or simply look at more pictures, the estate agent is Smiths Gore.

I remember reading about Tony Banks (keyboard player in Genesis) and his 400 room house; can’t find any reference to this now, so maybe it was someone else. Anyway, my point remains. Four hundred rooms: what do you do with a house that size?

Sure you could hold enormous parties, and invite everyone you’d ever known to come and stay but, realistically, how often would you do that? Isn’t it the case that you’d hardly ever see most of the rooms? It would be a waste.

Aaron Spelling is infamous for having a gift wrapping room in his mansion.

The idea is genuinely appealling… the concept of having a music room, say, or a games room. A proper wine cellar. Or a specialised cinema. Or a crafts room where the soldering iron and glue and beads and sewing machine are always ready and available, never stashed in the loft or needing lifted off the top of the wardrobe. And wouldn’t it be convenient to have a room with a big available surface and cutters and ribbons and supplies of paper and tags and sellotape on dispenser rolls? A room to do a really good job of wrapping, instead of a rushed job with scissors on your knee and scraps of sticky tape stuck on the edge of the table.

And yet, there’s something a bit sterile and inhuman about this. Isn’t there something even more appealling about using the kitchen table? Moving the paint pots and kids’ homework aside to have dinner. A room where parent can cook while the drawings are being made. I knew some people who had a piano in the kitchen, a battered piano – but not unloved – with candlewax on it, paint, coffee rings and towel hooks screwed in the sides. And there was a tremendous atmosphere as someone did piano practise while Mum peeled potatoes and another child wrote in a jotter. Homely!

And I like going to the park on those sunny days where every bit of grass is filled with people: people having picnics, reading books, chatting, playing chess, sunbathing, doing Tai Chi… Wandering around your very own land would be an empty – and a bit spooky – experience. (Quite apart from wanting to spread the cost by sharing our park/garden spaces!)

This is why i like living in a city (and am not tempted by country life) : there’s people all around. It’s lively. You feel like part of something.

Why is sharing seen as such a Bad Thing? It seems odd to aspire to loneliness…

Countryside Code Animation

Friday, May 1st, 2009

This is fun: an Aardman animation to promote the country code.

Download it from here.

From the government’s countryside access site.

(Look out for that seagull with the carrier bag!)

Would you kiss a baby’s bottom?

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

There’s an advert on television – for Pampers nappies, I think, but not sure – where a woman changes a baby’s nappy and then afterwards kisses the baby’s bottom! Would you? Straight after removing all the excrement and urine?

OK, I understand the point of this is to try and indicate just how hygienic the product is. And I also admit I’m not the most sentimental as far as babies are concerned; changing nappies is yucky, gag-worthy and worth getting over as quickly as possible as far as I’m concerned. But – seriously – do advertisers really expect us to relate to this kind of behaviour?

Iggy Pop selling insurance?! Rotten selling butter?!

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

rotten sells country life butterIggy Pop selling house insurance??? The wild man of rock… The skin-slashing junkie… selling the safety and security of insurance. What’s happening with the world? Who thought this was a good idea? Is he strapped for cash?

And this following on from Johnny Rotten selling butter. Butter! How homely. How un-punk rock.

But I have a theory about what he’s up to. It’s well known that Lydon made up the nonsense phrase “pretty vacant” and phrased it such that he was actually saying a Very Rude Word. And get it played on the radio. Great – his wicked sense of humour.

Now… Think about what he’s selling now… Country Life Butter. Just another excuse to sneak that word in again?

Sony Bravia Advert

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Filmed at tower blocks nearby.

The astonishing thing is: this is no computer animation, they used real paint. Some of the mess is still there!

Sony advert in Glasgow


Sony advert

Sony advert


And here’s the advert, the follow up to the San Franciso bouncing balls: