How is it all being done

A typical production day – a schedule we are attempting to adhere to!

5:30 – 11am Meeting One

The day starts at sunrise, before 6am. The team led by Gary meets and discusses the focus of the ‘internet’ day, reviews the previous day, responds to mail sent in the previous evening, talks about who we are meeting, checks timings of events and any special happenings. If arranged the day before, the morning session is a meeting in a special location with musicians, it is planned though that this session is also reconnaissance and establishing production (digital photographs, digital video, ‘wild track’ audio etc). The first session also allows some flexibility into the days events ahead and chance meetings with strangers.

11-3pm Out of the Heat!

The middle and hottest parts of the day, 11am to 3pm approx. are as far as possible avoided. Most ‘setup’ meetings are therefore between 3 & 6pm This ‘siesta’ period gives the team a chance to answer mail, review audio and video, visit places of culture (which are usually cool) and most importantly gain energy reserves for the punishing hours ahead.

3-6.30pm Meeting Two

The musical & cultural meetings follow a relatively structured route in this and the morning session. Kathrin to act as initial contact introducing Jan and the team. A small performance by them to us is followed by a short discussion about their life and music led by Jan & Kathrin. After this point Jan (and the team) may play some music with the local performers and Paul and Gary record digital audio and video. Time and situation permitting a special location is chosen for the meeting and a structured video documentary, directed by Paul, is be made for future use. Contracts and release forms, although alien to many musicians of this area are signed. This period also allows Gary to get revealing digital photographs and Kathrin intimate ‘chemical’ images.

6.30-8pm Writing

Although there are many ‘set-ups’ planned for our trip there has been some time for other activity which all play a part in the days focus. The final session from 6pm to 9pm local time involves all the team back at quiet location selecting audio & photographic images, discussing the days themes and storylines, Jan’s story. The ‘kit’ used for this is specified on the technology pages. The first step is creating a structure for the textual content integrating some of our responses to mail sent in and contextualising the audio and images. Using the two Newton 2000 message pads with QWERTY keyboards and the Apple 5300, Paul, Gary, Jan & Kathrin then write the various elements of the days story. The final text is carefully reviewed and sub-edited by the team with the overall direction steered by Jan before inclusion into the html page. At this point we go into several production phases.

7.30-9pm Web Building

Gary plays the key role here in getting the ‘production’ onto the world wide web. He processes, using the Apple 3400, digital images, cropping, reducing their size and colour depth for speedy delivery over the web.
Selected sound clips are indexed by Paul from the DATs and Gary captures and processes the sound into RealAudio format for the web site and IMA (high quality) compressed files for use by World Service.
The three elements are then built into semi-existing template HTML daily page structures and links to existing pages already sitting on the server are also be placed in at this point. The RealAudio files are linked via the BBCs RealMedia server and have special ‘address pages’ built for them.
Direct Email response pages are then constructed and integrated into the site with replies from the team.
The final pages are double checked in the local version of the site.

9-9.30pm Transmission/reception

The critical transmission which then brings into play the teams back at base. The Inmarsat B system needs to be constructed each day at this time. This takes around 10-15 minutes and mainly involves fitting together four satellite dish plates and plugging lots of cables in away from people and buildings. The actual orientation and connection from this unit to the stationery satellite is deceptively easy. (For those interest in tech talk see the pages dealing with the routers we are using to connect the laptops to a remote network). The pages and files are then sent ‘live’ onto the BBC server in UK at around 2 PM UK time. The uplink is around 64 kbits/sec (very fast) and we are connected between 5-6 minutes each day via the Indian Ocean satellite then by landline from a Land Earth Station (LES) to the BBC in London.
Marc Walker, our technical coordinator who works too hard keeping all this afloat, makes sure all files arrive OK & respond by immediate ‘mail/talkback’ to Gary in Central Asia. Files are then resent AND the mail from the previous days are downloaded to Central Asia for response next day.

9.30 – Team in London (3-4pm local time)

The production teams at World Service and the executive producers Danielle & Martin study the story lines, mail & images and suggest any changes in direction via an Email to be sent during the next days transmission. Both teams then check to see if there are any political or musical changes required to the text (it is difficult to remain objective in the heat of the moment!). These changes are relayed to Marc Walker who, in conjunction with Neil Wardrop a designer, make appropriate ‘minor ‘textual changes or image changes to the live site. Danielle and World Service are also continually monitoring mail received and selecting and replying to appropriate people. Specialists are brought in on occasion to answer difficult questions or requests.

10pm – and there’s more

The location team either relax/sleep or get caught up in a late night musical celebration as part of a ‘Toy’ (Wedding Party)! Both options still mean the next day is just around the corner.

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