As many of you will know, I made something of a dramatic career shift when I took up the job as Director here at RiAus. I’d spent the previous 14 years at the ABC as a science reporter, mostly on TV, on the Catalyst program. But I’m surprised how often people ask me if I miss television, if I miss performing in front of the cameras? This surprises me on several levels. It assumes an attachment (usually via my ego) to the job of being in front of a camera. That was never really of any interest to me. I just wanted to tell good science stories and I was never too fussed about getting my face on the telly.
But another level of surprise in my response to this question is quite simple: I’m still in front of a camera on a regular basis. Only the format has changed.
From day one here at The Science Exchange I’ve been in front of cameras at our events held in our Auditorium. I’ve been encouraging our staff and others interested in our activities to look at that space, not so much as a lecture theatre, but as a television studio. We can make broadcast-quality audio-visual material there, in high definition. We have five cameras at our disposal that can all be operated remotely through their robotic mounts. And we have all the facilities to ‘switch the feed’ – changing from one camera to another while putting out a live feed to the internet. This facility also can record four channels, so we record the feed that we are putting out as well as a continuous feed through three of the cameras. This means that, the next day we can go to our dedicated editing suite and cut down the event, patch up the goofs and generally stitch together a production of the highest quality.
So check out our video archives for a whole slew of great videos of events we’ve held in the past and keep your finger on our pulse so that you can follow our future events live over the net.
In recent months I’ve been back in front of the cameras again in another format with our vodcast: A Week In Science. This is another use of our production facilities and it’s been fun rediscovering my hard-won skills of talking directly to a camera. While that may not sound like a huge skill, you should try it sometime! And this exercise has also reinforced one of the most surprising lessons for me as I learned the trade all those years ago: making quality audio-visual material is a group effort. I have a great team here on the other side of the camera pulling together the stories, the content and the material to make what is becoming a very popular little vodcast. If you haven’t already subscribed to the feed or if you haven’t even seen one of our neat little wraps of the week’s news in science, then I urge you to have a look.
But you may say, that’s not really telly, it’s not like being beamed into everyone’s lounge room every week. Well, even on that front, I’m still on camera being beamed across the country! Earlier this year I was approached by Beyond Productions to revoice a documentary series for SBS. They also required me to produce several pieces to camera in order to extend the length of each program. And now Monster Bug Wars is going to air on SBS Wednesday nights at 7:30pm.
Monster Bug Wars was a lot of fun to work on, lots of tongue-in-cheek, not too self-important performances. I describe it as the Iron Chef of nature documentaries. The high-energy, sometimes over-the-top nature of the presentation delivers some really fantastic footage of strange creatures that most people will never see anywhere else. It’s not meant to be high-brow, it’s meant to be fun and engaging. While some have criticised that technically most of the creatures are not bugs, I point out that the Iron Chefs are not really made of iron but the delivery is a great vehicle for showcasing some incredible cooking (or wildlife photography in our case). There are 12 episodes in all to be shown as two sets of six. Two episodes in the first series have already gone to air but why not catch the next one this week (7:30pm Wednesday)?
So, if you have wondered if I miss being on the television, now you have your answer; I never left!
By Paul Willis, @FossilCrox
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