Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Slow TV DVD review - ploughing ahead in ambient Slow TV

Summer Isle Films - The Plough
#WatchItWednesday This post, first published 14th January 2016, concerns a well-made single camera Slow TV production. The website still lists the product - and as a lower-end production Slow TV, I feel it's worth recommending.

A film company in Suffolk has produced a very interesting Slow TV DVD, which for a single-camera piece of filming has really quite surprised me.

Just an hour long “The Plough” from Summer Isle Films is just a really good concept in a simple, ambient TV exploration. A problem with single camera views is that they can tend to remain the same for too long and make you lose interest. Slow TV is Slow TV - not static TV. An adage attributed to Confucius says “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.” I reckon that’s a very appropriate thing to bear in mind with Slow TV.

Confucius say...
There needs to be something going on in real time to keep any sense of a hook into a would-be viewer - even if it’s the occasional glance to see what’s changed. If nothing has changed, what’s the point in following the screen? Small stories and subtle yet observable changes are imperative. The Plough does just this.

The chosen subject of the film allows constant, slow movement, which while repetitive, is different on each repeat. There is steady, observable progress. The framing of the activity is the same but because it is happening over real time, there are organic changes within that framing and natural timeline.

Summer Isle Films - The Plough
The information given by text on the image was neither too frequent, nor too rushed nor too obtrusive. Unlike the text-bubbles on the BBC Sleigh Ride, it doesn’t pull you out of the flow of the image for an image-based Slow TV. It isn’t trying to do too much whilst being enough.

Now, I don’t wish to ruin the plot or spoil the drama, but here are things I’ve enjoyed noticing on watching The Plough:
  • The fixed relation of the plough apparatus in relation to the camera whilst ploughing gave a pleasing constant by which to observe all the other changing dynamics. Which means when the plough changes side at each of the field it becomes something of a visual event.
  • The way the new plough line bisects the previous year’s harvest lines of crop stubble, it has a ‘screensaver effect’ for me. I find my eyes are drawn into the lines on each alternate plough of the field.
  • There’s a mass of cloud which gradually covers the sun and then moves out of the way again, allowing the sun to bathe the field in increasingly golden light, especially over the final 20 minutes. My photographer’s eye would like it to be unbroken sunshine throughout for that ‘golden-hour’ look - but alternatively, the sun to cloud to sun gives further parameters of change.
  • The lifting of the plough at either end of the field feels like a paragraph break, you see soil fall off as the orientation is changed, sometimes the sun glints in the blades. This is surprising as you’d think the blades would be dulled by the soil.
  • The lining up of the plough line with the wheels is admirable; I know some tractors use satellite technology to fine tune their alignment, but for anyone who’s ever tried lining up a lawnmower to get that perfect balance for overlap but not so much it’s extra work and not too little that little islands of areas don’t get covered. Admirable stuff.
  • I found myself trying to compare the line of ploughing using the hedges and pylons to the rear of the tractor as gauges. There is progress over the hour. Obviously. But it’s fun to notice it.
  • How many times does the plough change direction? Eventually I’ll work that out. There’s a constant pace, so, assuming a uniform width of the field, timing one length and the turn around, then dividing an hour by that should give the number of strokes required.
  • The gulls following the ploughing were interesting, thinking about the poor worms and bugs freshly exposed for consumption. Anyone who’s dug a garden will have seen a robin following their work in just the same manner. This kind of thing has been going on since the Neolithic at least. Working with the soil is a very physical thing, but it's also profoundly spiritual, very connecting - food, life, dependency, interdependency, cycle of the seasons, movement of the earth, the need for sun and rain in balance, new life, death, rebirth. Ploughing isn't just about ploughing. Go meditate!
  • The tree lines receding were pleasing, gently coaxing the eye into the distance. Like being able to look behind on a car journey or a rear facing seat on a train. 
  • There’s a road at one end of the field - you even see a double decker bus go past at point, in the distance.
Summer Isle Films - The Plough
Only two quibbles. My first would be on image stabilisation. There is a very slight vibration which while not distracting, would be something I would work on. Having done some Slow TV filming with a Go Pro myself, I rejected using a lot of my own footage due to vibration during movement. Don’t let that be a put off, though, for The Plough remains an engaging ambient TV trip.

My other quibble, is why not film the ploughing of a whole field? Slow TV has a sense of completeness when it encompasses an activity or journey all the way through. Like the BBC Sleigh Ride, The Plough picks up midway through a journey and leaves before the job is done. Let’s have the satisfaction of going all the way.

Summer Isle Films - The Plough
The back cover of the DVD informs us that "The Plough is the first in a series of films called 'Suffolk Slow TV'". Should there be a sequel -“The Plough 2 - Back to the Furrow”  or “The Dowdeswell MA 170 Returns” how about making it two or three hours long, with another camera or two? A tracking shot from the rear of the tractor on the unploughed part of the field? A camera mounted on a quad bike in front of the tractor looking back, close to the ground? Or occasional drone shots for establishing the context of the ploughing and the progress of the tractor? Let’s see those zig-zag / sawtooth patterns emerging at the ends of the field as the plough progresses!

I’ve watched The Plough four times now, one actively, two while I got on writing notes and emails, and another while I edged into an afternoon nap in a quieter part of the Christmas ‘holiday’ with Jean Michel Jarre’s near 47 minute ambient masterpiece, “Waiting for Cousteau” playing and the TV on silent. The Plough works very well. It doesn’t try to be too much and what it does do, it does well. A balance of not too much and of just enough.

The Plough was produced by Summer Isle Films (fans of The Wicker Man original?) and filmed at Forest Farms at Stonham Aspal in Suffolk, UK. More details of their DVD here on their website.

More agricultural Slow TV is coming online - Is Slow TV coming to the Mid West?

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Reflecting on Moose Migration Slow TV

Day 9. Screenshot from SVT Play.
This is the second of two guest pieces about the Great Moose Migration Slow TV from SVT in Sweden. 

It's a comparative, analytical piece, setting out its context and place within the family of Slow TV shows.

The first piece can be read here - The Surprises of Slow TV, which takes a more personal exploration. 

Some thoughts and perspectives on SVT’s programme Den stora älgvandringen

By Björn Lindell


Den stora älgvandringen (SVT, 2019) (literal translation: “The great moose migration”) was a live three week 24 hour around the clock long Slow TV project by SVT (the Swedish public service television network). It was shown on SVT Play and was available overseas as well. During the off hours in the mornings, the programme was also shown on broadcast television, on Kunskapskanalen (an off shoot TV channel of SVT for science and nature programmes). It ran from 15th of April to 5th of May 2019.

The programme used 15 cameras mounted around a crossing area in the Ångermanälven river in the north of Sweden, where many moose each year cross over on their way to summer grazing. The cameras can pan and zoom through remote control, and there were also drones that allow for aerial footage as well as a remote controlled boat. Three one-hour outdoor studio-type programmes where produced as well, where a host and guests discussed everything related to the moose migration and the program. These were filmed and broadcast live once a week (on Thursdays) on prime time SVT and was basically the only narrated parts / commented parts of the whole experience. 

The 24 hour live programme consisted of cutting between the various cameras without commentary, sometimes on a programmed loop but on many occasions when stuff was  happening, the cutting between cameras would be directly controlled by operators in the control room who also would pan and zoom with the cameras in order to follow a bird, reindeer or moose or whatever else was deemed interesting to follow. Occasionally there would be text signs overlaying the image to give some short information on things like moose migration or what kind of bird was in the image etc., but these text signs were not (in my experience) very common. Otherwise, there was just a text caption indicating the camera angle and once the moose started swimming, a text box indicating how many had crossed the river.

This text contains some of my personal impressions and reflections, written in the final days of the show (it ended Sunday 5th of May). I use my own experience, as well as impressions I’ve gotten by following along some of the discussions online and with friends and other people around me. As this is an early piece of writing, I haven’t made any thorough research, so a lot of this is will be pure speculation on my part.

The Great Moose Migration - Courtesy SVT
I would like do some tentative analysis of  the program by comparing it to various style elements used in the Norwegian shows. First of all I must mention that in general the Swedish programme is a much more bare, stripped down program and as such I will note many things the Norwegian shows have, that the Swedish one hasn’t. I don’t see this as something detrimental to the Swedish style of making the program. Rather, I believe there are many valid reasons for the show being constructed the way it is. I am convinced there are many active and conscious decisions on the part of the production team that give the Swedish programme a distinct Slow TV approach that creates a local and national appeal. This is not to say a more “Norwegian” style wouldn’t work for other projects of course.

Note: The comparison below may be a bit of apples vs pears. After I had done my writing I came to realize that one should perhaps more directly compare the Swedish program Älgvandringen to the Norwegian Fuglefjellet Hornøya minutt for minutt (NRK, 2016) or Reinflytting minutt for minutt (NRK, 2017). Still the fact remains that it says something that the first real effort to do Swedish Slow TV has this setup, and not a train ride or something along that line (as did the show that started of Slow TV in Norway).

Absence of journey / “narrative arc”

Many of the Norwegian shows are based around some kind of journey (physical or otherwise), here in Älgvandringen we had a geographically static setup with a fixed duration but without any guarantees as to what would take place (would the moose show up at all during this time?). The journey aspect seems to always be there, in its broadest sense, in the Norwegian shows. It can be there directly, as in a train or boat ride, as in Bergensbanen minutt for minutt (NRK, 2009) and Hurtigruten minutt for minutt (NRK, 2011). But it can also be there as a metaphorical or experience-wise journey, such as when turning wool from a sheep to a sweater as experienced in Nasjonal strikkekveld (NRK, 2013) or the journey from 00:00 to 24:00 as seen in Klokken minutt for minutt (NRK, 2018). All these shows provides what could be called a very loose narrative arc, but still something that has a clear beginning, a middle and an end. 

The content-wise closest Norwegian show to the Swedish one may be the previously mentioned Reinflytting, in which the cameras follow along human-guided migrating reindeer. I am not that familiar with that show, but as far as I know it still represent quite directly a journey, that of the reindeers, following a route they take each year (notably I believe they had to end the show before they reached their destination due to a blizzard). The other Norwegian show, Fuglefjellet Hornøya, might be technically even more similar to Älgvandringen with its setup with static cameras monitoring a specific geographical area, but I haven’t seen it so I am just making assumptions.

With the Swedish setup, no real narrative arc was available apart from the fact that some moose would probably show up and move on. There were no guarantees of anything, except to get some long glimpses on nature and wildlife in a specific area. Of course, the anonymous moose were making their journeys, but we couldn’t know if we would be able to see their journeys. Still, many viewers would experience some sort of dramatic high points when they saw moose and then even more so when they saw them crossing the river. 

A small attempt to make the moose a little more personal was made by placing radio trackers on three moose (nicknamned "Ärrade damen", "Trygga mamman" and "Jokern" -  roughly translated to “The scarred old lady”, “The confident mom” and “The joker”). This was presented in the first one hour studio programme. But the tracking of these moose was, as far as I can tell, not something that was monitored on the 24 hour live programme (notably because they all choose off-camera places to cross). They were monitored by SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and you could get map updates on SLUs website in case you were really interested. People could also vote on which of the three moose would cross first and the grand total of moose crossing. I haven’t seen the other two of the studio programmes yet, but I would imagine they provided updates to these mooses progress. My impression is that the gimmick of the three moose added some flavour but didn’t really matter that deeply to people following the programme (but it did provide some talking points of course).

Few distractions 
Many of the Norwegian programs feature things like: added music, inclusion of archival footage, and people. For instance, the Bergensbanen programme would often play Norwegian music that had a connection to places that the train passed through. They would show archival documentary footage when the camera was blacked out by the many tunnels they passed through. The camera would show people on platforms getting on and off, and a mobile camera with reporter would occasionally do short interviews with people on and around the train. A lot of these components were to be present in many of the other Norwegian programs that were to follow.

The soon to be 55th moose having crossed the river, day 17
Screenshot from SVT Play.
None of these elements were present in Älgvandringen. The only sounds you would hear were sounds taken up at the same time and place as the cameras were filming. The sounds would be of whatever happened in nature (as well as the muffled traffic noise from the closest road). The sounds would occasionally be very weak, and on some occasions quite strong (some water, rain, and animal noises) seemingly depending on which camera was in view and possibly other parameters. There would be nothing sound-wise throwing you out of the immersion though, as one could argue happens with the Norwegian way of adding music (and allowing some speech from reporters and /or archival material to blend with the footage).

As for archival footage, in the sense of old documentaries and other material - I never noticed any and I have a strong impression there intentionally isn’t any - it simply isn’t part of the setup. In the Norwegian programs, archival footage (usually shown by sharing the screen with the real-time footage) adds a sense of history and a deeper text /experience, but they also contribute a sort of traditional narrative in something otherwise quite slow, and a narrative that is filmed in more traditional editing style that contradicts the ambitions of the real-time footage.

One thing that appeared on occasion in the Swedish programme, and could be defined as archival I guess, was that they would feature “earlier today”- segments where they would show things that had been filmed earlier that day. This was shown by sharing the screen with the ongoing footage, as far as I could tell. These kind of “flashbacks” seemed to be shown during the late evening /night segments, where little was happening or could be seen. But I am not sure how frequent this was, my impression is that it was quite rare, but I haven’t watched enough to know. (As a side note: the fact that the programme ran through the night, but most cameras didn’t seem to have a night vision mode, together with the fact that much less seems to happen during the night, made the late / early hours in darkness a very subtle slow radio experience).

The Great Moose Migration - Courtesy SVT
As for people - there were none. And very little indication of human technology or presence. One could occasionally glimpse a car on the distant road that was visible sometimes when the camera panned to follow a swimming moose. One would hear the muffled droning of traffic noises sometimes. Reportedly some viewers could see what was probably the TV crew when they rowed out to fix the cables that had been mauled by a huge ice floe. But no people seemed to have passed by or tried to approach the site in order to appear on camera.

I asked a question on a Facebook group (“Vi som följer Den stora älgvandringen”) for followers of the show, to see if anyone had noticed any people. The above mentioned examples were the only one given, and more than one of the commenters expressed their gratitude for the absence of people. It seems that the lack of people and low presence of man made things was an important factor in the enjoyment of this nature show. 

Obviously the cameras themselves would be an indication of the presence of humans, but since they were never visible or appeared in view, our immersion through their “eyes” was quite easy. It was easy to forget they were there (especially at the times the cameras didn’t pan or zoom). There was of course the singular event of a reindeer breaking the fourth wall by looking into the camera. 

As for the Norwegian shows, I get the impression that the presence of people seems an important part of the concept in many cases. Not sure in how great a deal this applies to Reinflytting, and I haven’t watched it but I would assume Fuglefjellet Hornøya is close to the Swedish setup in this and other regards. The latter is notable also because it was shown live in Sweden as well, if I recall correctly…) .

Reindeer leaping at the camera, day 8. 
Screenshot courtesy SVT Play.
Is enjoyment of nature is more of a social thing in Norway, and more of a solitary thing in Sweden? Maybe it doesn’t differ so much in practice (we like to go out in nature together here as well), but maybe the social aspect is something we don’t want / need to be mirrored when we’re watching nature. Here the presence of people is a distraction. Maybe this is different for Norwegians? 

More information and sources

Since the purpose of this text has been to quickly express some personal reflections, I haven’t been thoroughly collecting sources /references, but here are some further information:

Background and related information on the show

These two linked articles give some general technical information as well as information on the SLU’s tagging of the moose.

The show itself

Den stora älgvandringen (SVT, 2019)

The actual programme can be viewed here.

The leaping reindeer is highlighted here.

Norwegian shows mentioned

Bergensbanen minutt for minutt (NRK, 2009) 

Fuglefjellet Hornøya minutt for minutt (NRK, 2016) 

Hurtigruten minutt for minutt (NRK, 2011)

Reinflytting minutt for minutt (NRK, 2017)

Many thanks to Björn for his analysis of this Slow TV. It's pleasing to share from another person similarly motivated to reflect upon this format, why and how it might work.

See also on Facebook: Slow TV Fans, Thinkers and Film Makers.

Slow Television - The Slow TV Blog

Friday, 24 May 2019

Swedish Slow TV - The Surprises of Slow TV

The Great Moose Migration - Courtesy SVT
This is the first of two guest pieces about the Great Moose Migration Slow TV from SVT in Sweden. 

This piece is a personal reflection, which documents very nicely the surprises which Slow TV can bring: unexpected dramas, a cumulative narrative which becomes more compelling the more you stay with it, the fear of missing something special, the engagement with history, heritage and perceived national identity, experiencing the beauty of something otherwise hard to come by.

The second piece is more analytical and comparative, and can be read at this link.

Both show different perspectives and angles in enjoying and experiencing a well curated Slow TV broadcast.

Leelene Karlsson writes:

"As a fan of Slow TV since I first saw Hurtigruten minutt for minutt, I have longed for a Swedish version of Slow TV. I even once contacted SVT and asked them if they had any ideas for such a thing. They replied and denied. So I kept watching the Norwegian versions and thought of different things I wanted to be Swedish Slow TV. Then this winter / spring I stumbled across an article on social media telling me about "The Great Moose Migration". I jumped for joy. The first Swedish Slow TV, finally.

I think I didn't really watch it the first two or three days (I was at work and was tired I suppose). But when I first finally watched it, I was pleased with what I saw. I live just two and a half hour car drive from Kullberg, living in the same region I know the beauty of the nature here and Kullberg is very similar to lots of places where I live. Having the comfy feeling of Västernorrland nature and waiting anxious for the first moose to arrive was indeed exiting. 

The 17th Moose to swim - Courtesy SVT
A few years ago I had a walk in Finnskogen (Swedish / Norwegian forest land close to Torsby) and encountered up to 12 moose on my path. It was dawn and they are very active at that hour. I couldn't help but become a bit afraid of the gigantic creatures, some of which can grow up to 800 kg. That must be an animal taller than any of the actors who have played James Bond and mightier than anything else you've met in a forest. So a little phobia had almost grown inside of me. And frankly I have never really understood why this giant is the national animal and symbol of Sweden. I was in for a crash course in the why and the how of that story.

It turns out that for up to 9000 years the moose has been migrating at this spot in Kullberg. There are hunting spots visible to the archaeologist's eye all around the area. This means that there have probably been moose migrations for all these years. This leaves huge marks in the culture. Half of historical findings of foodstuff left by humans are bones coming from the moose here in Sweden. The history of Swedes and moose are therefore very old, not just the road signs that some Germans have nicked from roads in modern times. 

Courtesy SVT
Seeing the moose finally swim was a delight, my phobia turned into respect and soon love. The anguish of seeing a mother moose and her calf stepping out on thin ice to almost be trapped was a horrific, thrilling moment. I rooted for the mother and calf. 

I was sad when the ice shelf as big as three football fields cut off the fibre cables and prevented half the cameras from working. I could see the beauty in ice melting, birds coming back filling the air with song, laughing at the photo bombing reindeer with a single horn. Soon I got sore from hours of watching the show, feeling real sadness when I had to work and could not keep up with the moose. I went wild with happiness when other animals were caught on camera as well. 

A craving to go to Kullberg soon took place in my heart. One of my spare time activities is to be a bird watcher and I have sworn a silent oath now to do more of that and more mindfulness in nature. This latest Slow TV has really affected me much more that I ever thought was possible.

The general reactions to the show have also been very positive. Children have been watching it in school, elderly people have been more talkative and more social in their care homes. Many are the people who have understood that it is important to try to slow down in their own lives. Only a few reporters who live their lives far away from nature have been cynical. All in all I guess the reaction has been overwhelmingly good. 

It is hard for me to separate my own experiences, the facts of the nature itself and the reactions of others, when it comes to something like "The Great Moose Migration". It has been very nice to talk to others about a single topic and feel the community grow. Seeing the Facebook group that follows the show growing, adding to the experience and being part of something bigger than myself, something profoundly Swedish. Ahh, it has been so great! 

Courtesy SVT
For the first time I felt that we as a nation are proud of something that doesn't leave a foul taste in my mouth. This time the "nationalism" has been all positive and without the usual racism that always seems to pop up here in Sweden. And that in itself must be the best thing springing from this Slow TV show. If everything else fails, we can always go back to the camp fire, and the camp fire in Sweden is now, symbolically speaking, a moose standing on the river bank eating a twig before heading off for a swim across the Ångerman river. That is true beauty for us here in Sweden."

Many thanks to Leelene for sharing her experience of The Great Moose Migration. I'm pleased to share content from other fans gripped by the universe of Slow TV.

There's a Facebook fan group at "Vi som följer den stora älgvandringen!" - it's in Swedish but Facebook does a fair job at translating content. See also on Facebook: Slow TV Fans, Thinkers and Film Makers.

Slow Television - The Slow TV Blog

Friday, 3 May 2019

Moose Migration - Slow TV in Sweden

The Great Moose Migration - Courtesy SVT
"For several thousand years, the moose have walked the same path to get to the rich pastures of the summer. Follow this year's trek from Kullberg which has now begun."

Sweden has been having its first dedicated Slow TV production the past couple weeks; so successful, that it has been extended to sunset on Sunday May 5th. Watch it HERE - no geoblocking from the broadcaster.

I've not been able to catch as much as I'd like to have caught - lots of other things going on at the moment, techie problems with the PC; a couple Swedish friends have kept me updated a bit and I hope to have some guest posts from them in the days ahead. There's also a Facebook fan group at "Vi som följer den stora älgvandringen!".

Much of the time it is a very high quality broadcaster many angle web-camera-style with excellent audio - but when something particularly interesting happens, the shot lingers, allowing the Slow TV drama to unfold and tell its tale in its own time.

Björn wrote in Slow TV Fans, Thinkers and Film Makers just as the broadcast begun in mid April, 

The Great Moose Migration - Courtesy SVT
"Some sort of Slow TV finally comes to Sweden! "Den stora älgvandringen" ("The great moose migration"). A specific place in the river Ångermanälven seems to be the place where moose always cross on their migration. A setup with 15 remote controlled cameras will follow this process during the period 15th of April to 2nd of May. 

The production has been made with support of the other nordic countries. It will be broadcast live as well as in edited segments. It hasn't been made clear to me, but I assume that the live part will be on the Play channel on the web only, maybe with some live segments during off hours at the ordinary TV channels. Nevertheless it is a nice and interesting experiment."
Courtesy SVT

It has been interesting indeed, and up to the point of posting this, 58 mooses have swum the river on their great migration. Maybe this could be something annual?

More from Slow TV fans and thinkers in Sweden on the Slow TV blog very soon.

Slow Television - The Slow TV Blog

Friday, 22 March 2019

An interview for NRK - 10 years of Slow TV

Being filmed during a Slow TV broadcast - courtesy NRK
I am sure we all know someone who can talk for hours and hours about something which enthuses and interests them. I am one of them, guilty as charged.

I was recently contacted by NRK to give some responses about Slow TV owing to the unique position of having made a documentary about Slow TV and, of course, keeping this blog (as a means to continuing my study of the format and developing my own inspired projects). 

Below are the questions I was sent by email and my rather lengthy written responses, a small part of which is put into this article (in Norwegian) which gives a summary of Slow TV so far.

"Could you first tell me how and when you first heard about NRK’s Slow-TV, and what your first thoughts were?"

I first heard about Slow TV during my Masters course in TV Documentary production in late 2013. My first thoughts were there must be something special or very different in this to make such a long broadcast a massive success; approaching from the mindset of reflective academia as well as a media student practitioner, it agreed with my gut feeling that documentary could be done differently  than the usual TV formula.

"Secondly, why do you think these broadcasts have become such a huge success?" 

I think the broadcasts have become successful for two principal reasons. One is down to the audience and the other to the production values.

A sunny day in Oslo filming for my documentary in 2014
I like to think of TV as a party, and the different types of show are like different types of people at a party. Most of it is based on stimulation. Loud, dramatic types. Types that bombard your senses. As engaging as they can be, you have to work hard to keep up with them. To me, Slow TV is the quiet guy in the corner, probably making a fuss of the dog without the need for obvious drama and soap opera stories. At first you might think "oh he must be so boring, not him!", but give Mr Slow TV some time, and he will not only help you calm down, but show you things you've not appreciated before. You'll come away from the party a different person as a result. Perhaps Norwegians are more comfortable about talking with the quiet guy in the corner.

Given that no other broadcaster has had the success with Slow TV that NRK has, there has to be something about the way it is made. To continue with the analogy of thinking about TV shows like people, how you treat people usually determines how the relationship unfolds and grows. If you predetermine someone is cheap, isn't really worth the effort, time, money to be who they are, then they are sidelined and likely don't achieve the potential in a relationship that they could. If you think that they're worth it, that you'll treat them with the same values and respect as others, then it's likely everyone benefits from it. Within the family of  types of TV shows from NRK, Slow TV has been given the same attention as sports, drama, current affairs etc - and Slow TV has been good for NRK and Norway in return. 

With Slow TV producers, Thomas Hellum and Rune Møklebust
 on Hurtigruten in Bergen
Norway and Norwegian culture have come to occupy a lot of my thoughts. I see a lot of reference to the Laws of Jante. I understand that some feel they keep people feeling down about themselves, possibly even contributing to suicide in some cases; I have asked myself if perhaps the flip side is the laws level the playing field, giving room for more people and the ideas they bring a chance to participate in and benefit aspects of society, perhaps Slow TV has been given more of a chance in Norway as part of this mindset.

Does a participation in a collective identity help drive
Slow TV's success? Courtesy NRK
Seeing the flag waving and love for a perceived identity of being Norwegian, Slow TV also makes me wonder if the Norwegian love and success of Slow TV is informed by Norwegian Romantic Nationalism in the collective psyche. A benevolent patriotism becomes displayed by those who spontaneously turn up in front of the cameras during a Slow TV broadcast, or that love of Norwegian-ness motivates more Norwegians to participate in a televisual celebration of an aspect of Norway. Seeing how enthusiastic Norwegians become for the 17th May, maybe even more so than Americans do for the 4th July, there is a huge love for a collective identity. Maybe the Laws of Jante which discourage a sense of individual achievement drive towards pride in collective achievement and identity. The success of Slow TV in Norway has occupied my thoughts since I first began studying it (in the UK some might call me very 'sad' for such a nerdish preoccupation) and these are some of my reflections.

May I ask you if there’s a slow-tv-production that you’d love to see? 

I’m not short on my own ideas and would really like one or more brought into reality. I have approached production companies in the UK but none are prepared to treat it with the same belief that Norway does. It’ll be a very occasional novelty niche show on a non-principal channel - not a national talking point and televisual celebration. It isn’t understood or conceived properly outside of Norway.

Come on, USA - give us a Slow TV celebratory experience!
Perhaps a major production in the USA would give a massive wake up call that TV can be done differently. My Slow TV Blog gets its single biggest amount of hits from the USA.

So, boats, drones and static perimeter shots along the length of the Colorado River through The Grand Canyon’s 445 kilometres would give a suitably epic Slow TV documentary experience of outstanding natural beauty, and like Norwegians do with Norway’s natural Slow TV productions, this would evoke patriotic sentiment of Americans. 

Slow TV journeys should give as close an experience to the real thing as possible. What proportion of Americans get to experience length of The Grand Canyon? Or people around the world? It would satisfy all the criteria for a truly ground breaking TV event like nothing ever done before.

So, if anyone would like me to be part of a creative team for a broadcaster making Slow TV, give me a job!

New to The Slow TV Blog? See social media linksnotable internal links or to get in touch, the media centre page.

Slow Television - The Slow TV Blog

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Hour - Minute by Minute

Courtesy NRK - The Hour - Minute by Minute
Happening tonight from 23:59 local time for 24 hours. Link in the text.

It's all about the time. "Slow TV" for the uninitiated can be something of a misnomer. Slow TV is about TV being in real time. Not about jump cuts, accelerated narratives. Real time.

Time's about to get as real time as it can for Norwegian Slow TV. 24 hours of a life-size digital clock, continuously re-assembled telling the time each minute.

Imagine the cumulative drama as the clock time increments during 21st March and builds through the evening. Compelling temporal narrative. You know how it will go.

For 24 hours, the Norwegian state broadcaster NRK brings this format back to its birthplace - Bergen station - where a team will be kept busy with the clock. You may recall the 7 hour train ride from Bergen to Oslo 

Bergen Station - The Birthplace of Slow TV
You can watch via NRK's linear TV signal inside Norway, or via the livestream and chat at This begins at 23:59 local time on 20th March, concluding 24 hours later on 21st March.

If you thought Slow TV was just a TV show, it can become a portal to a reflection on the very nature of time, an absorbing linear journey or experience, an exercise in being present in the moment.

Thinking about this relatively short Slow TV (a humble 24 hours compared to the record-breaking five day Hurtigruten ferry journey, or the Svalbard Slow TV currently in pre-production) it should provide a very real, experiential and active contemplation of the nature of time and Slow TV.

Slow TV - It's all about real time
It's time to watch the clock. Very literally.

The documentary - "That Damned Cow - Just What is Norwegian Slow TV?" is available to watch in full on Facebook Video now.

New to The Slow TV Blog? See The Slow TV Blog media centre.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Svalbard Minute by Minute Slow TV announced

NRK's Svalbard Slow TV Project
(stock photo - Adobe Spark)
NRK's record-breaking five day Slow TV broadcast aboard Hurtigruten looks set to be well and truly smashed this year as the Norwegian state broadcaster announces a major new project.

Svalbard Minutt for Minutt (Minute by Minute) will be filmed in August 2019 but NOT transmitted live, owing to significant issues with the signal. NRK usually finds a way to work around these issues, such as triangulating signals with staff on nearby mountain tops to get the signal out of fjords and topography which blocks signals from the ground. 

As an idea in gestation since 2011, you can be sure it's been thought around and researched - so instead, it will be broadcast continuously over nine days in February 2020 to mark the centenary of Svalbard's treaty incorporating it into Norway.

With the midnight sun still giving 24 hours of working light each day there should be a glorious glow for a sustained 'golden hour' sunset vibe for several hours each night.

At least 25 staff from NRK will be involved in the production, estimated to run at nine days, six hours and five minutes. Multiple cameras will be installed on MS Spitsbergen, one of the tour ships of the ferry operator, Hurtigruten. Hopefully the modified bough-cam with a rotating point-of-view will make a reappearance (last seen in Hurtigruten Minutt for Minutt). Drone footage will give spectacular views; all making for a multi-camera, dynamic experience but still a Slow TV journey around the entirety of Svalbard.

The Slow TV Blog will be keeping an eye out for news and developments for this and other Slow TV projects over the coming year.

The documentary - "That Damned Cow - Just What is Norwegian Slow TV?" is available to watch in full on Facebook Video now.

New to The Slow TV Blog? See The Slow TV Blog media centre.

Slow Television - The Slow TV Blog