Every election counts


Charlie Watts TV-Bay Magazine
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by Charlie Watts
Issue 102 - June 2015

"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard." - JF Kennedy

This may seem slightly overblown, but that is how we face things here in the University of Portsmouth. It's possibly because we have to try that little bit harder due to our location, but mainly because we love a challenge, and we want our students to get to a full-on and very real experience!

Let me set the scene. In September 2014 we were contacted by ITV Meridian News and asked if we would be interested in helping film declarations from the Hampshire and Sussex constituencies. It was just before the start of the new academic year, and we figured, sure, that's months away, why not! And so begun the slow build up to what we believe was a U.K first, with Meridian arranging to work with HE institutions in the South of the country to gather a wider and more comprehensive recording of election counts.

So let me be blunt and completely upfront with you, this was going to be no easy task. Of course, delivering election content is an exciting prospect - and whilst the broadcast industry is well versed and can take it in their stride, as an Educational institution, there are many other layers of complexities and concerns! The reality of letting students work overnight on an event where their footage has to be good enough for TV broadcast was going to be a challenge. If you have extensive expertise in producing video content you'll know how daunting and terrifying it is to go to a location you have never visited before, knowing you can't mess up! Framing, rule of thirds, horizon, exposure, focus, etc, etc, are all incredibly important requirements for any video crew, and to throw students into this environment without a plan would have been foolhardy.

Of all of my dealings with the film and TV industry, the Meridian News team rate up there with the very best; with every meeting we had with them left us feeling welcome and valued as collaborators. I think even they felt relieved that the demands of the shoots were within the grasp and capability of the staff and students. The latter statement is a significant one, and an equivalent analogy would be an amateur musician performing comfortably in their bedroom who suddenly gets to appear live on stage in front of an audience. This was the challenge laid out; to select students for the event and then effectively cut the umbilical cord. All we could do was hope that the learning and experience we've endeavoured to provide was good enough to stand up to broadcast standards.

So how did it go really? To be honest like clockwork. Students were picked up by a series of taxi's organised by Meridian to take them to the various counts. From our point of view (and I'm sure theirs) this was an exciting and significant moment - the journey was beginning. Then came the period of waiting for the students to reach their destination and for the counting of votes to begin. The staff team had all decided to come in and support the designated workflow required for sending the gathered media back to Meridian. Just a note, its amazing how much work you can achieve in an empty, almost vacated building overnight, and whilst we waited for the returning students and media we were all able to plan for our 8 hour final year outside broadcast scheduled for May 29th.

So I am pleased that the course team of Television and Broadcasting were able to provide that moment of real learning to 16 students who I'll assume will have changed overnight because of the experience. For us it was the equivalent of sending students to the moon, with the staff in the control centre, able to help over the phone, but aside from that, unable to help if things were going terribly wrong.

Challenge accepted, mission complete, splashdown!


Tags: iss102 | election | university of portsmouth | coverage | news | polictial | local news | Charlie Watts
Contributing Author Charlie Watts

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