Monday, November 24, 2008

Two minutes back

Laurence Timms and I have been blathering about Sports Night in the chain of comments to my last entry, Special powers and this is not uncommon. I'm a blatherer. And this was about Sports Night. I occasionally pause to wonder at how deeply I can adore that series when I simultaneously have zero interest in sports. Any sports. All sports.

Does that tell you how good the show must be? I hope so. But one thing it tells me, and one thing Laurence and I have been discussing, is how remarkably well it conjures up the feeling of making a live broadcast. (It's a comedy by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin about the people who make a late night sports TV show.)

It'd be easy to say the show conjures up the excitement, and I think actually I have said that, but it's much richer than excitement. Pilots have told me they see the world very differently since they first started flying, that it's the same world but more 3D somehow. And I used to live in a Birmingham village where there were many roads leading to a central island and I knew every one of them intensely, except one. I don't know why I didn't know that one, but if I ever did come down it, I would be caught by how the familiar island looked so different.

Sports Night captures that with how the characters react to time. It's like every studio I've ever been in, the way that time becomes a commodity and also loses and gains its duration.

I was in a radio studio on Friday, just visiting a lecturer and her students with a very nice radio facility. Ninety seconds before the 10am news bulletin, nobody was in the studio. And that was right, that felt right. Ninety seconds is an age and every one of those ninety was used in rewriting the news, updating it.

But then after the five-minute bulletin, it was hard to give up the time for a post-mortem because you were focused on the 11am one instead. Ninety seconds is an age, 55 minutes is nowhere near long enough.

The last time I worked in local radio I did it remotely; just recording items from my own office studio where I make the UK DVD Review podcast. And I'd email the audio over to BBC Hereford & Worcester. I enjoyed that, I love the success of my little podcast - especially now, at this time of year when listeners are voting for their favourite release of 2008 - but Friday was fantastic. Being in a studio, just being there, not even doing anything, but standing in the middle of the rush. Wonderful.

Funny thing. I've described this as if it were solely a radio studio but the students' newsroom fed both radio and television. The TV stuff was fine, looked very good, but it was the atomic clocks and the clean feed audio in the radio studios that won me over.

There's a smell to radio studios; all very clean and neat, but there's a smell you can feel. I was back in there for two minutes, a depressing number of years since I used to work in BBC local radio, and I had that sense, that feel, that smell. You're expecting me to say it was as if I'd never been gone and you're right in a way, I do certainly feel that. But if I hadn't loved, if I didn't love everything I went away from radio to do, I'd be saying now that I'd made the wrong decision.

There's nothing like a radio studio, nothing in the world. Not when it's live or preparing to be live. Not when everything's done for the day, either.

If you've never worked in a radio studio, I hope you get to. And if you have or you do, what's your address and how can I come over?


1 comment:

laurence timms said...

I'd love to be able to compare radio and TV studios. I've been in several radio studios - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire (smashing, modern), BBC Radio Northamptonshire (cramped but professional) and Chiltern Radio's old gaff in Bedford (looked and felt pre-war).

But I've never been in a TV studio. So my plea would be: if anyone can hobtain me a visit to a working TV studio, I'd be terribly chuffed.