Week 4 of the Ladders Film/TV/Animation strand was an exciting one! The students met bright and early on Wednesday morning and headed to BBC Newcastle for a tour of the building. This was a unique opportunity for everyone to see behind the scenes of a real, high profile studio and newsroom. The tour started with everyone being given tour passes (very official!) and the tour guides, Mark and Tony, explained a little bit about the history of BBC Newcastle. Did you know, for example, that the first location that the BBC broadcast in Newcastle was actually a maternity home and they had to keep sending any pregnant mothers who turned up to the nearest hospital?!

The students were then led around to the archive room where Tony and Mark explained about how footage was stored. The BBC actually keep all of their footage in video format because it is harder to destroy or corrupt the footage than it would be if it were all stored digitally! They have a special computer in the archive where anyone at any BBC newsroom around the world can request footage from the last 90 days (perhaps for queries or complaints). It can be recalled and sent to them without ever having to physically leave the room. Before this was possible, a lot of footage went missing; apparently several missing episodes of Dr. Who were recovered in Nigeria! The archive holds all of BBC Newcastle’s recordings from the last 35 years.

Mark and Tony guided everyone into a small studio where Paul Mooney records some of his weather broadcasts. They were shown how the green screen works for broadcasts to make it seem as though the interviewees are in another (more attractive!) location. The green screen in this studio isn’t always technically a ‘green’ screen, as they can change the colour; this is incase the interviewee comes in wearing green, which would make part of them invisible! The group also had the opportunity to go inside the Look North studio, where they were lucky enough to be able to sit in the chair that the main news presenters sit in! This studio has a huge number of lights, each one with a wattage the equivalent of five(!) electric heaters, so it’s sweaty work!
After visiting the gallery, where the show producers sit and ensure that everything sounds right and is broadcast at exactly the right time, the students were taken into the radio studios where the tour guides explained to the group about the logistics of radio broadcasting, how presenters choose songs and how they record outdoor broadcasts by carrying around the recording equipment on their backs like a backpack!

The final part of the tour was the interactive part! The students had the opportunity to act as news presenters, weather presenters and sports presenters in their own Look North broadcast, and finally to record a Radio 4 style radio play about a spooky mansion. This included one of the students acting as a foley artist, creating background noises such as a person running on gravel and champagne glasses clinking!Once our students had grabbed a spot of lunch, we headed over to Hedgehog Lab at Generator Studios. Hedgehog Lab are focussed on designing and building post-PC software including apps and immersive VR experiences. The staff discussed the company’s focus on building great software which is quite unusual in this field. The group was then able to have a have a go at using a VR headset with Google’s Tilt Brush, a program that allows the user to paint in 3D space using the room as a canvas. The students seemed to have an excellent time testing out the Oculus Rift headset with the Tilt Brush app.

Over the next few weeks we will see the students move onto thinking about their final projects. Tune in then!