Sunday, October 17, 2010

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Well, I thought I'd seen it all.

After fifteen years literally inventing the delivery of TV over the internet I thought there were no new challenges. And then came Control TV.

As a twenty one year old I found a job with a major UK broadcaster as a cameraman - I wasn't very good at it, but I learnt that being perfect was the norm and that there were no excuses and nowhere to hide in TV.

Since then I've tried to apply this lesson to everything I do. Perfect is the norm. Exceeding expectations is just what you do.. Sometimes successfully, and often not so. The TV industry has some of the most amazing individuals working in it that makes 'perfect as normal' work. I've never found this in any other industry I've encountered, however hard I've tried. If things don't work out, don't blame others. There's nowhere to hide.

I've done thousands of live TV events over the internet over the past two decades and I entered the CTV project thinking that I had seen it all. But this has been different. The fact that it's being run by Hollywood superstars who are used to being demanding - in real time - does not help.

A two hour, or even three day long live event can be manned and monitored. A 24 x 7 x 365 simulcast can be set up and, with backup, left running. But a six week live event where everything changes every hour. Wow, now this has been a new trick for this old dog...

First of all, it's on Californian time, so the day ends around 4am UK time, and then starts again with the dev team in India a couple of hours later.

Then there are CDNs. I cannot believe what I have learnt that I thought I knew about CDNs over the past two weeks.

And working with people who are used to technology just delivering the creative is tough. Moving a camera is easy, reconfiguring a web page is hard, but these guys just see an objective and you have to deliver a solution. My old world has finally collided with my new world and timescales are now all over the place...

And then there's the way all of this fits into websites and mobile phone apps. Why is that still so difficult ? Indeed, thanks to Mr Jobs, it's more difficult than it has been for a decade.. What were standards are now variations.

An industry that I thought was old, established and pretty much cooked is nothing of the kind. After fifteen years we're only just beginning. And it's ironic to think of TV being invented in the early 30s, only to become popular twenty years later... Some things, clearly, never change..

I no longer have the impetuousness of youth, but I remain impatient for the delivery of the TV world I want, but the past month has taught me that this is a moving target and there is a lot for even those of us who have spent an eon on the coalface still to learn...

This old dog has learnt more in a month than he did in the previous decade... And perhaps that's a very good thing.