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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Contemplative TV cruise

Norwegian Coastal Express - minute by minute
Norwegian Public Service broadcaster NRK will be transmitting the 134 hour boat trip from Bergen to Kirkenes live and non stop, starting Thursday June 16th at 19:45 CET. And you can catch it in the comfort of your own home, either live or via BitTorrent-fueled download. Because we’ll be making everything available with a Creative Commons license. [..]
Watching paint dry – live on TV
Does this trip makes for brilliant live transmitted television? Five and a half days of rolling sea, with a ship crawling slo-o-owly northwards through the changing seascape, just briefly interrupted by a little less than six daily stops for loading and unloading…?
Well, we wouldn’t have thought as much until one and a half year ago. That’s when we did a TV show covering the train trip from Oslo to Bergen – 7 hours 16 minutes, across mountains and through forests and long tunnels – in real time. It turned out to be NRK2′s most watched show ever – with a healthy margin: 30% of Norway’s entire TV population dropped in during the transmission. Several of them even wrote to tell us they loved it.
During the show, people were watching the show together, while chatting in the Twitter Carriage – as they put it. A while later, Danish TV channel DR gathered a horde of Danes (probably steeped in mountain envy) in front of their screens when they aired the show in 2010, 170.000 were watching – at a time of day the channel was off air normally. Which might indicate it wasn’t just Norwegian patriotism driving people towards their screens, but maybe also some kind of need for a soothing anti-overload experience.[..]
Why are we doing this? Primarily because we’re a publicly funded Public Service Broadcaster with a responsibility towards Norwegian culture; a responsibility for covering things important to the inhabitants of a small country, a country that in spite of, or perhaps because of, our significant oil wealth has a vulnerable culture. And programmes like this aren’t economically feasible for a commercial channel; to a large amount of the public it probably seems completely useless, but to some of our viewers it can have a very high value, be something they wouldn’t get in any other way, and in twenty or two hundred years, it will be a strange document of life at the edge of civilisation from a different time.
CCC aficionados have most likely heard about Peter Hutton's At Sea (2007) and James Benning's RR (2007), pure documentaries without commentary or music, relegated to museum screenings as if real-life footage was too "EXPERIMENTAL" for cinema or TV...
This project here ran continuously for 5 and half days on live TV in Norway, on the national channel ! The whole show is accessible to the world via a website, where you could follow the cruise, day by day, minute by minute, and navigate through the 134h of footage with a mouse click. And now the journey is over, the entirety of the raw footage from the bow camera (front of the ship) is downloadable in HD, free of charge, and available for remix under the Creative Commons license! 
That is a wonderful use of trans-media interactivity, in the true spirit of a free internet dedicated to culture, education and cross-pollinating images. 
The show is interlaced with some interviews, commentaries (in Norwegian), cutaways, sometimes playing folk music... but it is mostly seascape and natural direct ambient sounds, with climate conditions and daylight developing in real time. A really tasteful integration of the contemplative mode within a "commercial TV" framework.

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