When I heard I was going to be working on the Help the Heroes Concert at Twickenham Stadium yesterday, I fondly imagined I’d be dashing about with a clipboard and headphones on, grabbing Robbie Williams for a backstage interview with Cat Deeley, or at the very least, sat in an enormous links truck in the car park.
But television today isn’t just about what goes out on BBC1 or BBC2 or ITV. It now comes in all shapes and sizes, with multiple content on websites, HD and interactive.
So I was actually sitting in an edit suite at TV Centre, as part of the team putting together the Red Button programme which went out after the main programme came off air. The idea was that viewers would be able to see exclusive content that hadn’t been in the two hour main programme – since the concert had lasted five hours it was impossible to include every song and every act.
Our edit suites were by an area called the Multiplex – not a cinema, but where producers are able to ‘keep across’ multiple feeds at once on a whole bank of screens. So last night we were able to watch a feed of the main concert, what was being broadcast on BBC (much of it pre-edited and with a time delay to enable producers to remove swearing!), plus anything being recorded backstage – such at interviews with the likes of Tom Jones, Peter Kay, and, of course, Robbie Williams.
The multiplex was very familiar – it’s the place where much of the coverage of Children in Need is edited and broadcast – and for much of the time we shared it with sport.
So as well as Cat Deeley, and Pixie Lott and Tom Jones coming through the feeds, we also had the canoeing world finals, and later on, the Match of the Day 2 pundits, Lee Dixon and Stuart Pierce, were hanging around around taking a sneaky look at the concert while waiting to go on air.
Our job was to do a ‘fast turn-around’. That is, reduce a five hour concert to a two hour programme, make sure it was the right length, timed to the second, and have it ready to go on air the moment the actual event finished.
Of course you make a lot of the editorial decisions about what stays in the final programme and what goes well in advance. But with live TV, you never quite know what’s going to happen, so you have to be flexible and able to react to fast moving and unexpected events.
Last night we had to make only minor changes: Debra Stephenson’s impression of Davina McCall wasn’t due to be in our programme, but just too funny to miss out. Peter Kay made jokes which can’t be repeated here and certainly couldn’t go out on air.
And while some acts over-ran – meaning we had to shorten some sections such as the interview with Pixie Lott – others – especially Robbie Williams, under-ran, which meant that the programme actually came in a minute shorter than it was meant to.
In truth, last night’s edit went very smoothly. The main BBC1 broadcast was a good one, the team at Twickenham produced a programme which was extremely easy to edit to the right length, and the team in TV Centre worked together really well.
It was great to do such a good job for such a great cause.