Thursday, 26 November 2015

Slow TV News Round Up - USA, Czech, UK and Norway Features

There’s a lot quietly brewing away in the universe of Slow TV, so here’s a round up of some developments to get calmly but deeply excited about, including:
  • A Thanksgiving Slow TV
  • Whatever happened to the American production of Slow Road Live? 
  • NRK on course for a Maelstrom next May
  • A web based Slow TV channel to Czech out in Prague
  • Jingle Bells at the BBC for Christmas
  • A nice little stocking filler to plough its way into your present pile
  • A year on from Salmeboka Sakte TV

A Thanksgiving Slow TV

Not a live broadcast of a turkey being prepared, cooked and consumed, but a train trip in Alaska. Prerecorded, five hours long and airing on Destination America . "Railroad Alaska: Real Time Train Ride” is being produced by Argonon - owned UK production company Windfall Films and will air on the Discovery-owned channel on Thursday November 26 from 09.00 to 14.00 Eastern Time.” (2pm to 7pm GMT in the UK). Credit to C21 Media.

Whatever happened to the American production of Slow Road Live?

The LMNO Productions broadcast of Slow Road Live on The Travel Channel looks uncertain. Having been monitoring web activity on the planned 12 hour Black Friday transmission, all has gone very quiet. 

The exact location (or even general area!) of the show hadn’t yet been announced. It is something I have mused over previously. Allowing for time differences over a continent and demands of daylight and weather on the practical aspects of production, with the need to be somewhere beautiful and recognisably American, I reckon it would be somewhere in the Grand Canyon area westwards. Maybe California? A drive westward bound into the setting sun over the ocean would give a memorable natural crescendo. 

With format rights purchased from Norwegian state and public service broadcaster NRK via DRG (meaning LMNO will be actively informed by the award winning, record breaking and audience wowing formula - not attempting their own imitation), Slow Road Live ought to be a stand out feature among the countries outside of Norway who have dabbled in Slow TV.

Assuming it would be a desert location (think reliable weather, ample light, gorgeous scenery and God-bless-America hand on heart features), perhaps this year’s unusually active El Niño meteorological manifestation is to blame? It’s clear looking at forecasts based on this years’ already atypical data that the weather across most of California, Nevada and Arizona is going to be wetter than usual. 

Imagine twelve hours of soggy terrain with a grey skied desert. Add in outside broadcast gear needing covering up, wet production crew - all with reduced daylight length by cloud at a time of year where adequate length of day is already challenged in the Northern Hemisphere. Not the best conditions for what is anticipated to be a groundbreaking production. Best move it than risk it? Maybe. I hope it's not cancelled full stop. Period.

This was a production to be very excited by as it would be something quite remarkable in the US broadcast landscape and hopefully reinforce NRK’s formula as the original and best way of making Slow TV - making other imitators of the recipe re-think “are we doing this right?”.

Hopefully come the spring we’ll have good news that Slow Road Live will be going out and the USA may feel the power and surprise this transformative format. Slow TV Evangelism you could say!

NRK on course for a Maelstrom next May

Another Norwegian project for next year will be a 12 hour live broadcast of a dramatic tidal phenomenon at Saltstraumen, between Knaplundsøya and Straumøya in Bodø in Nordland.

Home to the world’s strongest tidal maelstrom, the effect is generated by the differing water level between the sea and a fjord during the ebbing and flowing of the tide at Saltstraumen. Over six hours 372 million cubic metres of sea water rush through a 150 metres wide and 31 metres deep passage.This will be another Norwegian spectacle to marvel at, another reliably high quality production with cameras on land, drones and from submersibles, it will give another unique TV experience. The view is framed by natural beauty of mountains and the Saltstraum bridge, where will likely be a good viewing point.

The name Saltstraumen refers to a ‘strong stream’ - not a salt stream as one might think, or even ‘Salt Dreams’ (thinking of German words ‘Saltz’ and ‘Traumen’). I’ve witnessed similar churning of the water beneath the Menai Bridge in North Wales as the tide changed on the Menai Strait - or the most famous UK example of a tidal phenomenon would be the River Severn Bore

Combined with next year’s likely live Slow TV climb of the Troll Wall around midsummer and the preproduction research for a week of Slow TV reindeer migration in 2017, NRK continues to reinforce that Slow TV needs to be made to the highest production values, meeting technical challenges head on, and that there really are almost no limits as to what Slow TV can cover. Saltstraumen will air next May 7th or 8th.

A web based Slow TV channel to Czech out in Prague

A delightful discovery and the first dedicated and branded online Slow TV channel is hosted at . The channel consists of webcams but is not diminished for it. Besides archive transmissions, there are live feeds from many types of subject. 

At the time of writing there are five feeds : an airport runway, complete with radio between pilots and air traffic control (sometimes in English); a Zoo enclosure (though I’ve not yet seen any action in that one; a bird feeder (reminiscent of NRK’s ‘Piip Show’); a waste incinerating plant where monstrous grabbers lift refuse into chutes - watching pigeons peck over the rubbish, dodge machinery and bits of bag waft around a bit like the carrier bag in ‘American Beauty’. My favourite one has been the ‘lubricating tram’ live feed around Prague centre. 

I was at first bemused thinking it was a translation error from Google Chrome’s translate feature (yes, Slow TV’s exciting - but THAT exciting!) - but in fact it is a tram which is dedicated to oiling the tram tracks on Prague’s street tram network. Tuning in at night when it had been raining, the streets were dark but reflective. Watching the tram icon on the map mark where the vehicle was going and the interactions of lights, vehicles and people - it worked for me. Turning the volume down to just audible and then having my own music (Classic FM) playing worked wonderfully and gave a nice cosy feel before bed (check out the Danish word ‘hygge’ for the best sense).

Late Night Lubricating Tram Slow TV -
It may not be as high a production broadcast via TV signal as NRK but remains engaging and interesting - a wallpaper TV which may or may not do very much while you have it. But there’s the hook - something could happen. I’ll certainly be getting to know Prague a little better. If you’re wondering about translating, using Chrome, right click on a blank piece of page and click “translate to....” whichever language your default language is on.

Jingle Bells at the BBC for Christmas

Just to remind regular readers and point out to new readers, the BBC is doing a 2 hour recording of a reindeer pulled sledge in Finland to air at Christmas. I expect this will become a seasonal classic shown each year for many years to come. Snow, reindeer, spruce trees. It’ll be interesting to see if it appeals to younger children eager to immerse themselves in the spirit of the season and calms them down.

A family Christmas is never a quiet and calm affair and this will be an antidote to the frenetic mayhem of Yuletide activity as well as something to come back to outside of busy-ness. So, cue your Mozart’s ‘Schlittenfahrt’ (don’t try saying that if you’ve had a little too much to drink at Christmas) and engage with ‘The Sleigh Ride’ on BBC4. I think that will go down a treat. Transmission time to be confirmed, but I hope to relax with a glass of port, classical music and a view of antlers bobbing up and down while being transported through a winter wonderland.

A nice little stocking filler to plough its way into your present pile

On the subject of Christmas, this is a nice little Slow TV stocking filler to plough its way into your present pile. A production company has filmed an hour of ploughing. An hour of ploughing? Yes, an hour of ploughing - seeing the ground open up, birds swoop down looking for food, the progression of clouds as a tractor pulls the machinery to perform a millennia old task. The technology may have changed but it’s something humans have been doing for a long time. 

Described as "Sublime and Seriously Slow Suffolk Stocking Filler”, it is produced and sold by Summer Isle Films and depicts an activity done with pride in an agricultural county such as Suffolk. So, once you’ve watched BBC’s ‘Sleigh Ride’ and need a top of Slow TV over the Christmas period, get yourself this hour of ploughing DVD.

A year on from Salmeboka Sakte TV

It’s exactly a year since I had my second production trip to Norway for “That Damned Cow - Just what is Norwegian Slow TV?” This time last year around 3,000 participants in 200 choirs around Norway (and even a few in the USA) were gearing up to sing 899 hymns over a sixty hour live transmission. The entire 2013 Norwegian Hymnbook (Salmeboka) was to be sung and lucky me, I was there for much of it. Typical of any documentary making (though interestingly, not Slow TV itself) a lot of material does not get used. As a memento, a scrapbook, I’ve put together a film of material not used in my main film with some of the singing of the choirs. If you’d like an idea of the human interaction Slow TV can evoke and to get an inkling of that Advent feeling, take a look at this.

More Slow TV news coming for 2016 and updates in the meantime!

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