Simon Woolcott

Blog post 1:

After eliminating some of the idea suggested during last weeks session we narrowed the choice to four radio station themes: Women’s Sport, Women’s Suffrage (expanded to include general civil rights); Disco; Gaming.

We split into four teams to put together pitches to convince the rest of the group that our idea would be the one to go with.

In the end, the Disco team, including myself, garnered about 5 or 6 members and we came up with some great ideas. There was a lot of enthusiasm for the music and great suggestions as to which speech packages would make a great addition to the format, but we were less coherent about ideas for outside broadcasts.

After an hour and a half, the pitching began.

First up: Gaming

For a start, they had put tougher a very impressive powerpoint presentation which included the potential station structure with roles for everyone. They had thought of practically everything, it was a very impressive pitch.

Second up: Disco

Our enthusiasm for the genre came across well, but we were less coherent when it came to structure, specific programme ideas and OB opportunities.

Third Up: Women’s Sports

Much like the Disco group, there was enthusiasm but the idea was quite vague and would have benefitted from being more structured and coherent.

Forth up: Women’s Equality (and general civil rights)

Once again it has to be said that the Gaming pitch left this one for dust. The pitch was presented with enthusiasm but it was by no means fully formed.

A fairly convoluted voting system was decided upon in which there were to be three rounds. Each round would see the least popular ousted from the competition. Each of us had two votes each for the first two rounds.

The first to fall by the wayside was the Women’s Sports station. Disco did extremely well (much to my surprise) and proved the most popular in the first round.

The second round was between Women’s / Civil Rights and Games. It was very tight indeed and Games just made it into the final.

There was a suggestion that Disco should be declared the outright winner with no further voting because it received a significantly higher number of votes than any other individual idea but we decided to follow the agreed process through.

Just before the final round, there was one more chance for the Disco team and the Games team to reinforce their pitch.

 

Much as I was against Gaming in the first instance, I came to realise that it had the potential to produce a very good pop-up station. More so than my own team’s Disco idea.

It was at this point I decided, simply because of the quality of the pitch and original idea, to swap allegiances. I made a fairly impassioned speech asking everyone to think of the benefits of the Gaming idea, and back it despite their indifference to the subject.

I abstained in the final vote because I didn’t want to actively vote against Disco. Gaming JUST scrapped past the finishing line. I believe it was the best outcome.

Everyone accepted the result with good grace, so much so that we decided to proceed with the allocation of roles so that we could begin to build the station in earnest.

By the close of play, everyone had a role with which they were generally satisfied. A great achievement.

I must comment that as the senior member of the year group I have witnessed a palpable growing of maturity among its members. It’s great to see so many people who would have been too reserved to speak up, or stand up for themselves in the first year, mature and gain in confidence.

There is a great deal of respect amongst the cohort, and maturity. This should prove to provide good teamwork which I believe will produce a great product.

Oh, I’m co-presenter / producer for the OBs

 

Blog post 1: part 2

Another good day today. Quite a lot of progress made.

I did say that by the close of play last week everyone had their roles sorted and were satisfied. This turned out to be not strictly true, however, the small changes that have been made are for the better, I believe.

We split into our various programme groups and made further inroads into the details of what each programme group would be producing.
As the OB team, Beth and I will be part of the production/presentation team for the speech programme which will open the broadcast each week so that is the main programme group we are affiliated with.

I have been asked if I would lend a hand to the music team if required and will be glad to. We have shared with them our clocks and spreadsheets for last year’s The Groove station from the Music Radio module to give them something from which to build.

We have come up with a myriad of ideas for the theme of each week’s programme and have agreed that the OBs will be associated with said themes. I have reiterated a few times that the OBs must come from a place which will give them a unique atmosphere, one that couldn’t be created in a studio setting. We have to have a good reason to be where we are going each week, be that access to people, equipment or some other reason.

I maintain that the Games station is the idea that best lends itself to OBs and all other content for a pop-up station. I fear if we had chosen any of the other ideas we would already be struggling.

 

Blog post 1: part 3

Most of my concentration is now going to be on the OBs.

Myself and Beth (The OB team) are spending most of our time with the speech radio programme (State of Play) team.

Each week the programme is going to have a theme and the OBs are going to reflect that theme.

So far four great themes have emerged, so it is up to us, alongside the programme producer to come up with an appropriate OB for each week.
I fear it is going to be harder than I originally thought to make the OBs worthy of an outside broadcast. There has to be something about the location and/or people in that location which means that a trip outside the studio environment is warranted.

 

Blog post 2: part 1

Tom was snowed in so couldn’t make it for this weeks session but Elisa started the ball rolling at 10am sharp. The first part of the day was taken up by a general ‘state of play’ so far meeting during which Matthew arrived.

Imagine for the station was one subject that can up I the general meeting. There had been no progress so far so I suggested that I contact my music production and remix partner JD to see if he would be interested in helping us out. He loves projects such as these. I text him during the meeting and he replied in the positive.

I passed his details to Matt and suggested he send JD details of what was required as quickly as possible beach it takes time to compose and produce music and the more time he had, the better the results would be.

After the general meeting, each program team were dispatched to work on ideas. Unfortunately, Beth was away for this week’s session working on OBs so myself, Adam and the ‘State of Play’ team mucked in to try and get some balls rolling.

I bit the bullet and called the guy from Omescape who host a VR escape room game called ‘Mind Horror’. It appeared that the man in charge was the guy who answered the phone. I told him about Unlocked and really sold the idea to him.

He nearly stumped me by asking what our audience numbers were, but I told him we had no idea as it was a pop-up station but that three was already a buzz about it in the gaming world. Thankfully that seemed to satisfy him.

He seemed up for the idea of having us over to play the game live on air. I told him we would have three players and one tech crew as the OB team and he didn’t seem phased by that at all.

He asked me to send him a follow-up email with more details so I told him our programme editor would be the one to contact him.

Phoebe and I then set about composing this following email:

FAO Jack,

Hi Jack,



My name is Phoebe and I’m emailing from the Gaming pop-up radio station – Unlocked.



My colleague Simon Woolcott spoke to you earlier today about the possibility of including an Outside Broadcast from Omescape on Monday 26th March at midday.

 Our suggestion is that two of our presenters will play your VR game – Mind Horror – during our live talk programme ‘State of Play’.

Throughout the programme, the studio presenters will check in on the players who would then describe on air how much fun / how terrifying  / how exhilarating the gameplay is.



We will require at best a LAN connection or access to a reliable and fast WiFi network.

 We are happy to offer your company a complimentary commercial for Omescape which will run throughout our four weeks on air.

Unlocked will also have a significant social media presence on which we will include references to Omescape and additional promotion for your company.

Please confirm that these details suit you and let us know if you require any further information.



Kind regards,



Phoebe Emerson.

Dan gave us an email address to send it from so it appeared to come from Unlocked Online. All very efficient indeed.

Adam also sent out several emails to game bars and arcades and the rest of the team reached out to a few women gamers and various others people associated with our programme theme ideas / OB topics. Fingers crossed.

Blog post 2: part 2

Adam and I were very pleased to receive a positive response from Jimmy who represents a company called Loading Bar, who have two branches in London. They seem very keen to host our pilot and week 1 OB, so Adam emailed them with further details.

Unfortunately, we’ve just been informed that they don’t open until 2pm so that’s that idea down there drain.

At Adam’s suggestion, I emailed to thank them for their consideration and to tell them that we wouldn’t be able to use them as our OB hosts, but that another team from Unlocked may well contact them to arrange interviews etc for packages if they would be up for that.

JD texted me this evening to say he had heard nothing thus far about the imaging requirements and to reiterate that if he was to take it on, he’d need to know the brief asap. I texted Matt to give him a nudge.

Matt emailed JD this afternoon (15th). JD texted me to ask for clarification which I gave him. He then replied to Matt suggesting he can’t do ‘remixes of famous gaming soundtracks’ because remixes are also subject to the same copyright as original versions.

Blog post 2: Part 3

Beth is back from New York and we’ve had a very busy day!

I caught her up with all that we’d done last week and we got stuck into trying to nail down some more potential OB places as well as doing some chasing up from some of last weeks contacts.

Adam started a spreadsheet of who has been contacted and what the state of play is. It’s a little rudimental but it serves its purpose.

One of our great hopes for well 1 and the pilot was to do something from the Game store on Wardour Street in London’s Soho but to be honest, we seem to be going round in circles with them.

Our initial contact was an online chat. They chat host suggested we telephoned the store. After two weeks of getting no answer (it is not possible to leave a message), I decided to use their chat again to make sure the number we had was the correct one. They assured us it was and that the store manager would be able to make a decision even after I suggested that it would surely be best to try and arrange the OB though their head office, so Beth attempted to call them again today and she got through.

Unfortunately, as I suspected the person we talked to in-store told us to call head office, so we did. Head office asked us to put the details in an email which Beth immediately did. After a short time they replied suggesting we call head office. It was at this point we decided we had wasted enough time on Game and we would be better directing our efforts towards other businesses.

We contacted various other venues and organisations too numerous to mention in this blog and have received some positive replies. I also telephoned our VR guy – who had agreed to host us for week 4 – to make sure he’d received our email as we had yet to receive a reply. He seemed a bit vague but after some prompting remembered our conversation and found the email we sent. He intimated that it was all still on but to reaffirm things I told him that my producer would email him with the details once again and asked him to rely in the affirmative.

I also asked if it would be ok for Beth and I to come along sometime next week to touch base and do a recce. He agreed so we have arranged to go and visit next Monday after the pilot show. I’m not holding my breath that he’ll remember to be honest, but if he does I’ll be more confident that he’ll be ready for us for week 4. Always good to look someone in the eye to finalise an arrangement.

Suffice to say we have heard some positive noised from various people and places this afternoon so hopefully, we have some more concrete arrangement made in the next few days.

 

Bath and I also took the opportunity today to get a demo of the new Tieline form Tim. It seems much more strange forward than the old Tieline and I’m very confident we will be able to use it without any problems. Tim told us he was going to make sure the Three Mobile sim was toppled as well as obtaining a sim card for an alternative supplier as the Tieline has a ‘twin diversity’ option. This means it will choose the strongest signal available (depending on the service provider at that particular location) but also use the weaker signal as a back up in case of a dropout.
He said he would source us a handheld radio mic but advised that it was always best to use a cable mic.

Today, as well as sending most of the day chasing OB opportunities I also spent a brief moment with the music team to give them the benefit of my experience gains during the Music Radio module and also helped Natalie made some ad demos.

I’m in tomorrow morning for a photoshoot for the website. Better trim the old beard this evening….

JD has just sent a work in progress link to me for the imaging to make sure he’s on the right track. Suffice to say he’s on the right track!

Blog post 2: part 4

Was in for the photoshoot and filming for presenters today. All went well and ran smoothly, even with a full evacuation fire drill in the middle of proceedings.

Dan asked us a series of questions and our answers were filmed for a promo video. He also gave us a going general knowledge quiz which was a great idea. I didn’t do too badly considering I’m not really a gamer. Hope I didn’t make too cut of a fool of myself.

The chemistry between Tony and Fay is really great, they are very natural together in front of the camera if they can be as natural and warm on the radio the show should sound brilliant!

While we were filing JD sent me a link to the imaging he made, I played some it and it got everyone’s approval, they loved it. He’s done a fantastic job I have to say. The whole station should sound great thanks to his efforts.

 

Blog post 3: part 1

Its the morning of the pilot, the whole team have put so much effort into trying to find a location and a guest to talk at/about said location for this week’s OB. We have been promised and let down so many times.

The OB venue and interviewee we secured for week one – Heart of Gaming in Croydon -have pulled out of hosting us for the pilot due to ill health. This doesn’t bode well for next week…

So this morning I’m on my way to the university campus on Regent Street where we are hopefully going to interview James Brumpton, a gay gamer and members of the LDN Gaymers. I only knew the LDN Gaymers existed because my flatmate happened to go along to one of their gatherings last week.

We’re interviewing him in the foyer of the Regent Street campus building because he works at the BBC and it’s the nearest place where we can hopefully set up and be ready for his arrival… I do hope he comes…

Blog post 3: part 2

The good news is that our OB guest turned up, right on cue. The better news is that he was a really good contributor. There was no particular reason why our section of the show couldn’t have been either a studio interview or a phone (which we’ll get marked down on), but at least the OB operation per se was a success. We love the new TieLine although for some strange reason my mic sounded less than punchy through the headphones. I’ll put brand new batteries in both mics before we start next week And make sure the phantom power is on #BootsAndBraces.

Beyond the OB, unfortunately, the beginning of ‘State of Play’ wasn’t particularly successful. Myriad crashed as soon as we went on air and because Tony was self-oping he found it difficult to try and sort out the problems and talk at the same time. It is a very hard task to master.

After the OB section Callum had apparently come in to desk-op so Tony and Fay could concentrate on the substance of the programme and it picked up accordingly.

Beth and I had planned to go to Kings Cross as soon as we’d packed up to visit our week four OB person/venue. Although it was agreed that we would be coming to him to play a VR ‘escape room’ game on week’s four’s programme I feared he was a little vague during our initial conversation so I thought it best to meet him in person to touch base and do a recce at the same time.

Unfortunately, my fear that he’s little flakey turned out to be prophetic as he’d forgotten we were meeting up. After I called him, he promised to call back ‘in 5 or 10 mins’ but when he hadn’t 25 mins alter I called him back. He was struggling to find someone to meet us at the venue, so I decided to exercise the greater part of valour and say we’d arrange to meet him the following week. He put it this diary as we spoke.. finger crossed he remembers this time!

It became apparent, when Beth and I arrived back at Harrow, that the whole broadcast needs improvement. But hey, that’s what pilot shows are for, to learn from.

There were plenty of ‘learnings’ (as we media types say apparently) to take forward to next week, not least of all for Beth and I, to make sure that the OB is an OB because it’s venue specific rather than just ‘an interview with a contributor from somewhere else’. Also to have written cues, both from the studio at the beginning of our segment, and at the end to let Tony and Fay know we’d finished.

Next week we’re coming live from an amusement arcade in Croydon called Heart of Play. I’m going to describe the place and then interview the owner. We’ll talk about the past, current state and future or gaming arcades as well as their role in allowing gaming to be a sociable activity rather than the stereotypical, lone nerd in his (or her) bedroom. Then I’m going to try and play a game in an attempt to convey the fun and atmosphere of an arcade.

Sadly ‘Heart of Play’ won’t be open to the public while we are there because a) it’s a Monday; and ) it’s too early in the day anyway.

 

Blog post 4: part 1

Today is the day, our first on-air week.

Myself and Beth are heading to Croydon this morning to meet up with Mark Starkey who is the man behind Heart of Gaming. His arcade is in the Whitgift Centre which looks like it’s part of the bigger Centrale Shopping Centre.

We are meeting at East Croydon railway station at 11am, so we should arrive at the arcade in good time to set up. Beth has arranged for us to meet Mark at 11.30. We will probably be very early but much better to be early than rushing the setup.
I’ve spent the greater part of this morning setting up and testing the TieLine at home after I noticed that one of the mic sounded a bit distant last week. I’ve discovered why… it’s one of a pair that came of the ark. I’m going to use my own Audio-Technica AT8010 mic this week as it pairs up perfectly with the best mic in the kit.

My mic has a pop shield too, and after taking all the cables out of the TieLie cable bag to tidy them up, I’ve discovered another pop shield for the AT8020 that comes with the kit. I also discovered an SM58 which I had a play with but it doesn’t produce the same level of gain that comes from the AT8010s.

The advantage of having a mic which produces a higher output is that you don’t have to hold it quite so close to the person you’re interviewing. If your interviewee is unused to having a mic shoved in their face, they tend to back away if you have to hold it too close.
Fingers crossed Mark is a good speaker and interesting enough for the listener. I’ll report back later and let you know!

 

Blog post 5: On Air week 1

All went pretty well today. Mark was indeed a good speaker, a little too good perhaps!

The arcade was fascinating, a great big room with various areas with different types of games. Some of Mark’s regular customers popped along which added a real dimension to the OB. It would have been little one dimensional without their input, particularly the lady gamer who came up with some real insights.

I’ve not heard the audio back yet but the consensus of opinion is that the outro where I was playing Pac-Man was the high point and couldn’t have sounded better if it was done in post-production. It’s never quite easy to hear exactly what it sounds like when you’re in the moment, but that what snoop sessions are for!

As soon as we left Croydon we travelled to King’s Cross for our second attempt at doing a recce for week four’s OB at Omescape. It nearly fell through again because our host though we were coming at 1.30 instead of 2. Thankfully his assistant manager was still there so agreed to hang on for a little while longer to meet us.

It was very important to me to meet a representative from Omescape as it’s out big week 4 Virtual Reality finale and I felt that we hadn’t quite made a connection with them.

Thankfully the guy we met there today was really engaging so we asked if he’d be kind enough to run the game for us on the 26th. He asked us to email his boss asking for him to be present but he said was very happy to do so. We made the connection today that we had hitherto not quite done, so I’m happy.

The feedback session had already started by the time we arrived back at base. Tom and our guest editor, Luke Franks, were very positive but gave us really good points about how we could make improvements.

The main suggestion for the OB was that it happened more often during State of Play, rather than just the one slot, and that we should pick up more of the thread of the main program and speak to our contributors about what was being discussed in the studio.

Matthew further suggested that I should not have allowed our main interviewee to make such a big plug for his arcade and moved on to the other guests, or some gameplay or something else more quickly. It’s a fair point, but he did open the arcade in his spare time especially for us so I felt it important that he got a good plug in.

We have at last found a female gamer for next week’s programme. She has agreed in principle to let us come to her house, where she has quite a set up, and do the OB from there. She is going invite some of her mates round and they will play as we talk to them. If we can pull it off it should sound brilliant.

I’m less relaxed about the following week’s OB. We have been granted access to a rehab centre to talk to a psychologist about gaming addiction. Matthew suggested it would be a much better OB if we got to talk to some patients as well as the psychologist.

We will of course not use their real names etc, but I can’t honestly see them allowing it, but if we don’t ask we will never know. It will send a bit dry just talking to one person and I can hear the debriefers saying “why could that not have been a studio interview?” which is a valid point but its been hard enough to get an expert for the OB as it is!

Blog post 6: On Air week 2

Aasiya has given some advice to the State of Play production team suggesting we expand the team as three presenters (two studio based and one OB), and three producers (two studio base and one OB), is simply not enough for a weekly hour-long talk show.

The main concern is week 3 – gaming addiction. After last week’s criticism that there were not enough live (either on the phones or in the studio) contributors to the show Ellen has asked that we all put feelers out to try and find contributors for the programme.

I put out an appeal out on Facebook and Twitter (which some of my mates have been kind enough to share). Sadly it has yet to provide any volunteers. I have also had another go at reconnecting with a hypnotherapist acquaintance. I didn’t hear back from him at all last time so I was wary of pestering but hey, if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Blog post 6: On Air week 2 (part 2)

I heard back for my hypnotherapist! He said he’s intrigued as the field of addition is interesting to him and therefore gaming addition. He’s said if he could contribute it would most likely be over the phone but he has asked where the studio is and when the programme goes out. I’ve provided him with all the details but have yet to hear back, fingers crossed he’ll reply in the positive.

I’m pleased to say Elle and Phoebe have taken our pilot week contributor’s kind offer on his willingness to contribute to other shows. He was a good talker and very knowledgeable about gaming (He’s a member of the LDN Gaymers). I believe he’s done a phone piece for the programme.

Blog post 6: On Air week 2 (part 3)

Beth and I spend a few hours this boring working on the OB script for tomorrow’s programme and liaising with Ellen about the cues and possible extra chats with Fay and Tony rather than just quick handovers.

It was suggested at the debrief last week that the OB is split into two parts and that there is more of a too and fro between Fay and Tony and myself during each part. We are going to try that in tomorrow’s show, see how it feels.

I’ve suggested we ask Ashley (who is hosting us tomorrow) whether she’d be comfortable putting on headphones and talking to Fay and Tony live. If she’s ok with the idea we’ll try that tomorrow as well.

Off to bed now, fingers crossed tomorrow goes well and we get good feedback on the fact that we are dong as our mentors suggest to bring the OB to life a bit more.

Blog post 6: On air: week 2 (part 4)

Today’s OB went pretty well. The only fly in the ointment was a no-show from our host’s friends. She had invited a couple of mates over to her flat to play games while we were on air and maybe join in with our chat about being a female gamer. Nevertheless, I’m reasonably happy with the outcome.

We took on board the suggestion made last week that the OB should be more integral to the rest of the programme, so we arrived in good time to set up, get settled and make our host feel comfortable. Then as Beth continues to prep her I listened to the show from the top.

Last week I didn’t put my headphones on until about 20 seconds before we weren’t live. This meant that, although I had read the script, I’d not heard any improv speech that Tony and Fay had broadcast. This week because I heard it all, I was able to reference it in my conversation with our guest and consequently, it all felt a little more connected. I also chatted with Tony and Fay on air, as did out guest.

The man criticism made to me this week was that I didn’t describe our setting as fully as I had done last week. In all fairness, our setting last week was an expansive gaming arcade, and this week it was the sitting room of a council flat in the east end…

In other news, I believe my old hypnotherapist has agreed to be a live studio guest on next week’s show, which everyone is quite excited about. Beth and I are going to be in Guildford at an addiction rehab clinic with a therapist who specialises in gaming addiction (the theme of the show). We have been encouraged to try and speak to patients but I’m not sure they will think it’s appropriate. Nevertheless, we must ask them to approach their patients an ask for volunteers.

I do fear the OB may seem a little sterile, it potentially being merely an interview with a therapist. However, it was suggested that our therapist talks live to a potential studio guest who believes they may be suffering from gaming addiction. Our therapist would have to both agree to doing this and be comfortable with putting on headphones and therefore being able to hear their own voice back as they speak. Fingers crossed everything we want all comes together, or at least one or the other.

One technical thing we did learn today is that there is no feed from the phone line fader to the TieLine. During a phoner we could only hear the presenter’s side of the conversation.

Tim thought it strange as he believes the desk output gets sent to the TieLine, but having thought about it, it can’t be the desk output that gets sent back because there would be a loop as the TieLine input was sent back to its output. It must be a clean feed. Perhaps it’s the same clean feed bus that the phone line channel uses. Tim is going to investigate tomorrow.

 

Blog post 7: On air: week 3 (part 1)

Went over to Harrow today (Friday 16th March) for a meeting with my dissertation supervisor, and to pick up the TieLine. The meeting went well, the picking up of the TieLine did not.

On entering the radio department I heard rumours of a TieLine problem, by the time I got to speak to Naiara it became clear that a quick collection of the TieLine, and then off home to get ready for my birthday dinner, was not on the cards.

There was a problem which came to light a day or so earlier apparently. The problem was that the portable part of the TieLine, the bit we take to the OB, was not communicating with its partner in the racks back at the studio.

Unfortunately, Tim was not in the day before or indeed on the Friday, so we went about trying to discover what the problem was between us. To cut a very long story short, having talked to Matthew, and trying several approaches, including assistance from James Larvin we found ourselves down a technical cul-de-sac.

Matthew telephoned Tim who suggested we got one of the technicians who works with Hassan in the stores to look into the problem. After some toing and froing it becomes apparent that the BT Hub – with which the TieLine in the racks talks to the internet – had a problem.

We tried, on a couple of occasions, to reset the BT Hub but it proved stubborn in its lack of enthusiasm to communicate with the great big world of the world wide web. In the end, we had to give up. However, we had established that there was no fault with the portable TieLine equipment so with everyone’s agreement, I took it home with me, hoping that the problem at Harrow could be sorted out on Monday morning.

I was an hour late for my birthday dinner.

Blog post 7: On air: week 3 (part 2) – The day of the broadcast

The very first thing I did this morning was try to see if I could connect the TieLine to the studio. It didn’t work.

In the hope that the problem at the studio end could be resolved by the time we were due on air, I left the house with the TieLine OB kit at 9 o’clock to head for Waterloo Station. I also took with me the iRig mic preamp that James Larvin had leant to me the week before, as a backup. I replaced the batteries in all of the Audiotechnica mics – both the ones supplied with the OB kit and my own. – and the one in the iRig.

The iRig is a piece of equipment which has an XLR socket which enables a decent mic to be plugged into an iPhone. It is battery powered and has the ability to send phantom power to mics of they required it. It also has a headphone socket for monitoring/ talkback purposes. This is required because the headphone socket in the iPhone is being used to connect the mic preamp to it.

During my journey, I was communicating with both Naiara and Callum at Harrow as Callum was going to be driving the desk for the programme and Naiara was waiting for Tim to arrive t Harrow to ask his advice.

I asked Callum if we could try out connecting my iPhone to the studio via Skype – just in case. In the end, because the admin computer in the studio only had ‘Skype for business’ installed, we had to use Callum’s laptop with its headphone output connected to the mixing desk.
This arrangement meant unfortunately that I couldn’t hear studio output back down the line. All I could hear was what his laptop’s internal microphone could pick up. Not ideal but it was all we had to work with.

During my train ride we tried various different setups, including further attempts at connecting the TieLine, but all we were able to make work was the Callum laptop/iPhone/iRig Skype solution.

When Tim arrived he spoke to BT who were able to set the BT Hub almost instantly. By this time I had arrived at Guildford Station so I found a spot in the corner of a coffee shop on the station forecourt to try and get the TieLine talking to the studio.

It was at this point we discovered that the 3 Mobile sim card wasn’t working. In the end, after talking to Tim we tried adjusting its position in its little pod and got it to work. Unfortunately, this didn’t improve matters as we still couldn’t get each end of the TieLine equipment to communicate. We decided to head off to out OB venue at this point and have one more go once we arrived.

With ten minutes to air, and having not made any progress, I decide that we had no choice but to use the iRig and Skype. By this time Tim had installed the regular Skype software on the studio admin PC, but when Callum called my phone using it I could not hear him. In the end, we had to revert back to the Callum laptop configuration.

This meant that I could only hear Tony and Fay via the laptop’s internal mic, I could not hear myself and consequently could not hear how my guest sounded on the mic, nor the balance of levels between us. Basically, I had to wing it. It was only by the grace of god – and a little experience – that apparently it sounded ok, although one-legged.

I can honestly say it was a miracle that we had any OB today, a very stressful situation which I am really not keen on repeating… ever.
Our guest was very good, it was worth the hassle for his input into the programme.

Next week is the last programme and the last OB – if the TieLine is not working by then it will be incredibly difficult to do as it is quite ambitious.

Blog post 7: On air: week 3 (part 3)

The stresses of Monday inevitably brought on a migraine in the end. I always get a migraine after stress. I should count myself lucky that it doesn’t happen at the time.

Ellen and Lucy made a great suggestion that I should make a trail for the edition of AFK for the final programme. Because of the different format – they’ll be coming to us a number of times throughout the show for shorter bursts – they reckoned it’d be wise to have a trail right at the top of the show explaining what was going to happen rather than having to interrupt our gameplay as soon as we started.

The format is that myself and Sam will be playing a VR Escape room game for the whole of the programme. However, to give us time to complete it (or die) before the end of the show we are going to start it just before midday.

The idea is that the trail is played straight out of the news, then Fay and Tony introduce the show, do the menu etc, set up the subject, then they come to us for the first of 4 or 5 reports.

The mechanic by which I will know that there are coming to us it a little weird because I’m obviously going to be immersed in the VR game, with headphones and a VR mask on.

The guy we met at Omescape the other week, when we did our recce, told us that I would be able to hear audio from the game (and from Sam) even if I had the VR headphones resting on my neck/shoulders rather than over my ears. This means I can have one earpiece in, connected to the TieLine giving me at least some audio connection with the real world.

Beth is going to tap me on the shoulder and then turn up the feed to my earpiece just before Tony and Fay come to us, then the game will be suspended while I talk to them (the guy form Omescape assures me that nothing bad will happen if we’re not interacting with the game).

At this point, I will fill Fay and Tony (and our listener) in on how we’re getting on. I will also describe as much as I can of both the real and virtual scene in which we are playing, to paint a picture.

It’s quite an ambitious undertaking, but if it works it’ll sound great, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I don’t even care about the possibility of making a fool of myself, it wouldn’t be the first time and it sure as hell won’t be the last.

Blog post 7: On air: week 3 (part 4)

The trail is made and uploaded on to the Drive. It seems to have gone down well. It took me ages but I’m glad I put a lot of work into it coz I think it’s pretty good. The consensus of opinion is that it’ll set up the show nicely.

Beth did a lot of research, which gave me all the information I needed, which was great. I used some purple-planet scary music for the first part, then Psycho Killer by Talking Heads for the second part. The game we are playing involves getting inside the mind of a psychopath and solving a kidnapping, by the way, the song choices weren’t just random.

I ordered a headphone extension cable from Amazon because it suddenly occurred to me that Apple headphones leads are nowhere near long enough to reach from the where the TieLine will be positioned, to where I’ll be playing.

Two good pieces of news today (Thursday) The headphone extension cable arrived, #NextDayDelivery, AND most importantly the TieLine is now working. Tony and Callum used it to commentate on the varsity match yesterday. I do believe we are all set for Monday!

 

Blog post 8: On air: Week 4 (part 1)

It’s the evening before the final OB. There’s been much toing on froing on messenger today re tomorrow’s show, both practical and etherial.
There was a bit of a scare that Sam didn’t have both parts of the OB kit at home to bring to Kings Cross tomorrow, but thankfully it’s been sorted.I’ve been at work all day but I managed to keep in touch with the production crew, aside for one hour while I was doing live sound for a show.

Since I’ve got home I’ve been doing some final research about the game we’re playing tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make a fool of myself live on air coz it looks as though there are some quite scary bits in the game.

I’ve made notes, so even if I find myself fully immersed in the game when Tony & Fay come to me I’ll have something in the real world to refer to.
I’ve packed my two mic stands in their carry case and I’ve out my audiotechnica mic in my bag along with spare batteries for both mics and James’ IRig mic preamp. I’ve also double checked I’ve got my Apple earphones and the headphone lead extension cable. I’ve also packed another pair of small headphones just in case.

I have no idea if this idea of coming in and out of the game to talk to Fay & Tony is going to work, but we can but try. It’s quite daring so if it comes off it’ll sound great, if it doesn’t, at least we tried.

Blog post 8: On air: Week 4 (part 2 – The actual OB)

I’m pleased to report that our plan worked perfectly. However, rather than having the VR headphones resting on my shoulders I wore them properly but with one Apple earphone bud inside my left ear, surrounded by the VR headphone cup. It made my ear little sore but it was extremely effective.

I took my two mic stands as planned and we set them up so the two audiotechnica mics were pointed towards myself and Sam (my co-player), but far enough away from us so we wouldn’t touch them while playing. The game was called Mind Horror, and the VR room was set up so we were playing from a seated position. This meant we knew the exact distance from us the mics had to be, just outside our reach.

The room wasn’t as dead as I’d remembered it from our recce two weeks before, so the sound was really quite echoey. However, most of the game was played from within a complex of caves and underground chambers, so it added to the atmosphere as I described our progress to the listener.

Beth (my producer) sat next to me so she could tap me on the shoulder when Fay and Tony were just about to come to us. I also asked her to turn the send to my Apple bud down until just before our live reports. The combination of the shoulder tap and the audio from the studio filtering through was enough to bring me out of the game without startling me too much.

Beth was a brilliant producer for this OB. She stuck perfectly to the plan and I felt completely safe in her hands. I’m not good at not being in control, but after working together for the previous four weeks we had such a good working relationship that I had no doubt it would all run smoothly.

Due to a problem with the playout computer in the studio, the whole show started late so the schedule was all but ditched. However, because the plan was to come to us sporadically throughout the programme it was easy for us to adapt to the changes.

We started the game before the main show was due to start to make sure we would have time to complete the game (or die) before the end of the show. Unfortunately due to the late start of the main programme this meant we had to sometimes pause the game, or go back a level, to ensure we wouldn’t finish (or die) too soon.

Our host at Omescape was incredibly helpful and accommodating. There were two reasons for this. One, he was a really very nice guy who couldn’t have been more convivial. And Two, because we had met him two weeks previously at the recce, we had built a relationship with him. I recommend, if you can, to always do a recce and make a connection with the person or organisation who’s the subject or your OB.

Beth really grew into her producer role over the weeks. Because I was more familiar with the OB kit (and sound mixers etc generally) we invariably set up the TieLine etc together. But this week she was familiar enough and confident enough to do most of the setup and make some very practical decisions.

She was also more confident and outspoken about my reporting. After our first slot talking to Fay and Tony, she suggested I be more descriptive of specifics within the game as she thought my initial report was a little vague. I took her direction on board and consequently, the OB slots got better and better as the show went on.

It was quite discombobulating having to emerge from a very immersive and intense VR game and talk to the real world – and try to make sense – but hopefully with Beth’s excellent direction and encouragement we did a good job which added an extra element to this week’s Stare of Play. Despite becoming increasingly incorporated into the main show over the previous few weeks (as instructed by Tom and Matthew) we couldn’t do so this week as we were playing this game. hopefully, it was obvious why.

I must just say that Sam was a great co-player. Although she couldn’t hear Fay and Tony, she could hear me so we did have her mic-ed up. Hopefully, some of her reactions were picked up. I must also say that if it wasn’t for Sam I’d still be trying to get past level two of the game!

 

Blog post 8: On air: Week 4 (part 3 – What I did)

I decided to put myself forward to be OB presenter and was pleased that Beth put her name forward to be OB producer. I was pleased we were made the OB team for a few reasons. We hadn’t worked that closely together on anything else much over the three years and neither of us had been involved in OBs and wanted to add further skills to our portfolio.

Because the OB slots were part of the State of Play programs I was, to all intents and purposes, part of the production and presenter team for the programme.

I was in four groups on Messenger:
The OB team: Beth/Simon (so we could liaise about specific details without clogging up other group’s chat)
State of Play producers group: Phoebe/Ellen/Beth/Simon (so I could be part of planing with them how the OB would fit into the rest of the programme)
Speech Show group: Phoebe/Ellen/Beth/Simon/Bernice/Clare/Eliza/Lucy/Adam/Fay/Tony (so I was able to have an input into other aspects of the speech programme and the whole of the rest of the station)
Long Live PJL: Everyone.

Although being part of four chat groups became a little confusing at first, I soon settled into a pattern by which I talked to the right people about the right things.

Although initially leader of the Disco pop-Up station pitch, I jumped ship to the Gamers station when I realised to had a great deal more potential, both for audio content and digital media innovation.

Once we settled on the gaming station I made suggestions and contributions towards programme ideas. I came up with the name State of Play (which admittedly I did nick from somewhere). Although not much of a gamer, I tried to contribute as much as possible to ideas for the other programmes.

I gave a small amount of assistance to the music team as I’d been head of music on the Music Radio module.

I also sourced the producer of the station’s audio branding. He’s someone who loves an audio challenge. He is my co-producer in Mars & Vans and writes music for films and stage plays in his spare time. He also enters a lot of remix competitions. I thought he would be up for the challenge of making some 8-Bit games style beds and jungles. It turned out my instinct was right, he was enthusiastic. I put together some links to YouTube videos which featured the gist musically of what we wanted and gave him the outline of the brief. I then handed his details over to Matt (head of branding) so they could liaise.

Once the State of Play team was assembled we gathered to bounce idea for the four programmes together. Between us, we came up with the four specific themes and then set about working out how we would structure the shows.

Initially, I was very positive that we would have absolutely no problems coming up with four OB locations which would fit into the emerging weekly themes. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

During the first two weeks of productions meeting the only hit we scored was a preliminary booking to play the VR escape room game in week 4’s VR special programme.

The whole State of Play team, along with Eliza, Lucy, and particularly Adam were extremely helpful in coming up with suggestions for OBs. At the same time, Beth and I contributed towards ideas for the rest of the programmes. It was an extremely collaborative process. Adam, particularly, gave Beth and me so many leads, I must give him huge credit.

I was particularly aware that the OB must be, as much as possible, about the location as much as they were about the people in that location.

After sending a lot of emails and only getting muted responses, Beth and I decided to hit the phones. Both to follow up on emails but also to make first contact. Eventually, after a lot of effort, we both came up with some useful contributors and one of two reasonably good locations. I also happened upon some people who were happy to contribute towards the main body of the shows, even if they weren’t right for the OB section.

Unfortunately, ultimately only two of the four OBs were completely location relevant. Week one at the arcade and week four at the VR escape room, Omescape. The other two, the female gamers house and the rehab clinic, could technically have been studio guests or even phoners. However, our expert at the rehab clinic was a great contributor and it’s unlikely he would have found time to travel to the studio and I hope I gave the listener some sense of the place and atmosphere of the residential clinic in which he worked.

Our female gamer was also a great contributor, and I’m sure she felt more relaxed about talking about some difficult subjects so candidly at her home, surrounded by her consoles and her friends.

As well as finding contributors and locations, I spent a great deal of time researching each venue/contributor as did Beth. We shared our research and shared draft scripts backwards and forwards to make sure the OBs would sound as well put together as possible. I’m pleased to say we made a great team.

After advice and critique from Tom and Matthew each week Beth and I liaised further with the State of Play producers to make sure the whole programme improved week on week. Our closer collaboration with Phoebe and Ellen further incorporated the OB into the main body of the programme as the weeks went by.

After a great idea from Lucy and Ellen with regard to week four, I researched, wrote, voiced and produced a trail for the OB on the VR programme.

I found and booked a studio guest (Peter Mabbutt) for the gaming addiction special.

I presented the OB each week.

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