Work Experience at BBC Bristol

On the 13th and 14th of June, I had two days work experience at BBC Bristol. The first day I spent with camera man and technician Anthony Wood, where he gave me a tutorial in using the BBC cameras. During this session Anthony taught me how to set the camera up to the BBC standards and how to adjust the settings according to different shooting locations and styles. We connected the camera to a large screen TV so as to get a better look of what the camera was capturing and he took me through the variables of the camera. An example of this is how to alter the amount of light that passes through the lens in order to create a more ‘movie’ type of look or to adjust it so that it is sharper and looks more suitable for a news programme. We also looked at colour correction and altering, where I practised adjusting the colour so the setting looks warmer and cooler. We also looked at zoom and focus, and how to set the camera to focus on close up objects and blur the background, or to focus on the background and make any objects that are close to the camera disappear. Using what I had learnt, I filmed some indoor shots, adjusting the settings and altering the look of the footage.
After this Anthony took me on a tour of the BBC Bristol headquarters. Here I was able to see the natural history department and technical department, as well as the editing rooms. We also looked at the old radio vans, which still had most of the original equipment and switch boards inside. This gave me a great insight to the different areas of the BBC and showed me how much is researched and produced by the BBC in Bristol. Previously I didn’t know much about what was produced here, but after touring the site and speaking to several different staff members I found out that as well as the Bristol news, Flog It, DIY SOS, Springwatch and several other programmes are produced here. The BBC Bristol site also produces most of the BBC’s natural history programmes and I was able to see the archive room where the BBC records and stores its oldest video footage.
Later in the day Anthony gave me some training in sound mixing. Here I was able to adjust volume, select different microphones and adjust the levels of noise that were recorded. This was when I found out that the BBC’s volume levels must always be between 4 and 6 on the sound mixing board, which means the sound doesn’t alter between programmes like some other channels where the volume seems to go up suddenly when the adverts come on.

I was then able to take the camera outside and practise shooting and adjusting the settings in an outdoor environment. This was very different to shooting indoors and I had to spend more time controlling the settings. I also had to use the red zebra setting, which is when the areas are in focus become striped (hence the zebra name) but out in bright sunlight it is difficult to see the zebra pattern, and so we changed it to red.

The second day I spent in the BBC Bristol newsroom with Linda Thomas, Management Assistant of Points West TV & Radio Bristol. The first thing I did was to sit in on the morning production meeting with the producers, reporters and other members of staff. I was given a copy of the plan which suggested ideas for the lunchtime news, who would work on the story and how it would be broadcast. This gave me insight into how the news is organised on a daily basis and how the different members of staff work on different things to later be brought together by the producers and editors.
Next I visited the BBC radio studio, where I was shown how the radio producers answer listener calls and song requests, put calls through to the presenter, organise and select the track lists and how they send auto cue messages through to the presenter. At this time there was also an update on a breaking news story and so I was able to see how the radio station receive breaking news and quickly write up the details to send through to the presenter. At the time I was in the radio production studio, Graham Torrington was presenting the daytime show. I was also shown around a sound booth which wasn’t currently being used and shown how the presenters operate the sound desk, select songs, answer calls and receive messages and auto cue from the producers.

After this I was taken to a computer to have a look at the BBC intranet system and the software they use. One of the software programmes I was able to look at is used for scheduling the news, where the reporters and producers can state which stories will be covered, for how much time and in what format, E.G news report, live report, etc.
I then went with the news studio floor manager, where I was shown by another camera man how the news studio cameras are set up and the different shots they must use for the news. I was also given a headset so I could hear the communication between the floor manger, camera man, producers and presenters. Here I met Alex Lovell, one of the news presenters. Like everyone else I had so far encountered at the BBC she was very polite and friendly, and even complimented me on my blog, saying she had looked at it the day before!

After this I was taken on an official tour of the BBC Bristol headquarters, a tour which is available to the public. I was taken around several of the rooms I had seen the day before, but with the added information provided by the tour guides. I was also taken to a room where we were able to record a radio play and learn how the BBC use both live and pre-recorded sound effects. We were also shown how to use auto cue and how the green screen works, and we filmed a mock news segment where I presented the weather. This was when I discovered that the weather reporters don’t have auto cue like the news presenters do! The weather reporters research and write their own weather forecast and then must memorise it, but what I was surprised to find out is that they only find out how much air time they have got once the news is coming to an end and they are live on air. Then they must use the information they researched earlier in the day and improvise which of it is most important to tell in the time they have, or if they have more time, improvise further information and details.

In the evening I was taken to the control panel to watch the producers, directors, sound engineer and auto cue technician set up the evening news. I was then able to watch as they directed the presenters, camera man and floor manager who were in the studio. I was also able to see how they switch between pre-recorded footage, live footage from the studio and live footage from on location. This was really interesting as I got to witness the other side of news room, whereas at lunchtime I was actually in the studio, for the evening news I was able to see how everything is run and produced behind the scenes.
The two days I was at BBC Bristol I witness and learnt many things about the BBC which I previously didn’t know about. Everyone I met was both friendly and willing to talk to me about their job at the BBC. It was hugely beneficial and gave me a great insight to the BBC as a company, but also into news journalism and production.

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