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Down Under

So some big personal news: after six years at Endemol Digital Media I’m leaving and moving on.. quite a long way as it goes, to Melbourne, Australia!

It’s a move prompted by my Aussie partner’s wish to be closer to her family and to give our little girl the kind of outdoor life she would struggle to get in our particular patch of South East London. It’s an exciting time, and from a work perspective a sad one too as I’ll be leaving a great job and team here at Endemol.

But I’ll be leaving at a time when EDM is somewhat on a high (a testament to my boss Nick Hall and his work turning around the department over the last couple of years!). In a few weeks we’ll back in the OB truck pulling the levers on our Bafta nominated play-along game for series 4 Million Pound Drop Live, we’ll be launching an energetic new Facebook game based on our hit show Total Wipeout – (more on this soon!) and of course there’s the move of Big Brother to its new home on Channel 5 – expect a whole slew of new digital projects around this in the next few months.

As for me I’m currently putting my feelers out to the Australian television and digital media industries and looking for my next role. I plan to have a little holiday once I arrive Down Under, but will be ready for action towards the end of May – to that end if you want to find out more about me then check out my online CV here: cv.luc.me.uk and please keep checking back to this site for updates.

and that was This Just In…

al_qaeda_xmas.512x512So the 12 week run of This Just In.. is over, it went pretty quickly, don’t you think? I’ve loved it, especially as most of my work on it was in the build up to the launch, which meant I’ve been able to enjoy the fruits of Phil Gilbert (@Sundaydefensive) and the Zeppotron team’s daily comedy pretty much as a regular punter.. I think they did a great job and overall the site has been well received, in particular the impressive range of videos created for it. Read More

Connected

youviewAn interesting seminar this afternoon hosted by Channel 4 on the subject of connected TV’s. David Abrahams, C4’s CEO headlined the discussion by outlining where the company stands in respect to the ongoing rise of connected and smart TV’s.

Naturally the event was heavily geared toward YouView, the technology platform joint venture between C4, BBC, ITV, Channel 5, BT amongst others. This platform, we were told, will be reaching consumers towards the end of next year and clearly C4 are banking on it to deliver them the next generation of interactive entertainment experiences. But not content with just backing the technology C4 are proving how serious they are by restructuring their commissioning team to bring cross-platform into the very heart of what they do, they have also ring-fenced £2m to spend on YouView related formats in 2011.

Happily for us Abrahams mentioned The Million Pound Drop Live as a great example of the kind of connected TV experience C4 want to be doing more of, but what was more interesting was the realisation that these new TV experiences will be created not from the old, linear ways of making television, but from the new interactive starting points; TV should be taking its cues from video games not film.

Of course digital folk like me have bleating on about this kind of thing for years, but it’s still great to hear it echoed back from the people that can really influence things. What was less clear from the presentations this evening is just what YouView ‘is’ and what kind of interactivity toolbox we can start using to create these next-gen formats. It’s ‘open’ credentials as a platform are being billed as its killer feature, but we’re already seeing with platforms such as Google’s Android that it can be an Achilles heel also – fractured experiences across devices and often poor quality apps can sour the experience for users. If YouView can crack this and (crucially) make it simple for users to pay for TV apps then they could be onto something big; it will certainly be an interesting space over the next couple of years. There are a bunch of technical docs on the YouView website.. guess it’s time to take a look!

I Can Cook

BBC--CBeebies--I-Can-Cook-GOne of my favourite projects from the last couple of years is the game we made for the BBC Cbeebies show I Can Cook (produced by Endemol Initial ..by Chris Pilkington; who if you don’t know produced Take Hart back when I was a boy; what a hero!) . It’s one of the few recent projects that we have developed entirely in-house at EDM, and this fact on its own is enough to make me a happy chap (the truth is I much prefer hands on production to managing 3rd party agencies, which is increasingly what I get up to these days).

The game is designed to complement the I Can Cook show by providing a range of interactive recipes for our young (3-6 yr old) audience to engage with. Players are encouraged to mimic various actions and activities necessary to create the recipes on screen, for example we have stirring, chopping, breaking eggs.. etc.  All the recipes are taken from real ones used in the show and in this way kids are able, in some small way, to take part in learning about cooking and engage with the show, even if they can’t always get their hands messy in the kitchen.

We’ve just finished a set of 5 new recipes to complement the 5 from the first version launched last year – these have just gone live on the BBC website. We were lucky enough to get one of my favourite designers, Matt McFaul (@Jambamatt), back in to put together the visuals/animation and @TrevorBoyle returning to fiddle about with the code. I think they’ve done a great job on what is fast becoming one the Cbeebies best loved games.

Play-along returns for series two of The Million Pound Drop Live

ingame_01The Million Pound Drop was a huge success for us earlier this year, not only did the format work well on television but it was also a hit online with thousands of viewers playing along at home with virtual millions. We recently announced that the Million Pound Drop has been re-commissioned for a second series and with it a new improved version of the play-along game.I recently shared a panel with Channel 4’s head of Entertainment Justin Gorman where we discussed the Million Pound Drop and the different interactive elements that supported it. Justin explained that a strong interactive component was crucial for Channel 4 by ensuring the proposition as a whole was innovative enough for them and C4 viewers. We also discussed how Twitter and Facebook were important too, not only to build up hype around the show and recruit contestants, but also generating discussion and participation during the show – we regularly reached the top trending topic in the UK !

We’ve got some great new social features in development for the next version of the game (unfortunately I can’t talk about them just yet) and an upgraded contestant applications website that makes the process of the applying to be on the show quicker and easier than before. The auditions process has already begun with applications using the same ‘Drop Code’ system as before – if you want to be on the show then follow @millionpounddrop on twitter for the latest details.

The Million Pound Drop Live is coming back in October with 9 new episodes and Davina McCall back at the helm. Check out the official press release here.

more ROAR for series 6

roar_2The new series of CBBC’s ever popular ROAR got started this week and, accordingly, a new update for our online game has been rolled out too. We’ve added a load of new content and features including a new habitat (British Countryside), new animals, treats and cheat codes, new ‘Furry Facts’ video content for each of the 30 or so animals in the game (including some great footage taken from the BBC Natural History archive). Also in this release we’ve added a brand new feature ‘Feeding Time’ – where presenters Rani and Johnny take a closer look at how animals are fed in the wild and captivity, and we also see the return of the ROAR ‘Best Kept Parks’ leaderboard. All in all a great new update, developed again with our partners Fish In A Bottle, should keep our junior park keepers busy until next year.

Play ROAR on CBBC (you’ll need a BBC identity account to play)

This Just In…

Justin..And  some breaking news coming from the ‘Internet’ ..I’m finally able to start talking about a cool new site I’ve been producing with Endemol comedy supremos Zeppotron and Channel 4. This Just In… is a website that aims to mix new comedy talent alongside existing big names that will be making up to the minute gags on the day’s breaking news and trending memes.

From September 6th we’ll have a team of comedians, sketch writers and video artists assembled each day turning out headlines, stories, infographics and whatever else they can think of to poke fun at what’s happening in the world.

Channel 4 are living up to their reputation for cutting edge commissioning – this is an online only project with the focus firmly on making the funniest, edgy comedy. They are committed to reaching as wide an audience as possible, that’s why we’ve developed the site to automatically syndicate jokes out through the social network channels of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. We want to encourage This Just In’s audience to consume the site’s content in whatever way they find convenient and of course to share it as much as possible.

And making his debut appearance on the site is ‘Justin’ ..a degenerate newsreader character designed by Oggy Hawkins, of the truly terrifying twobob.tv fame (here’s a clue, he’s Bear Grylls). Justin will be dishing out the daily news direct from Endemol towers, or occasionally on location – so watch out for him; he’s always bad news..

The site will be turning out the funnies for three months starting 6th September, so catch it while you can – and don’t miss a gag by following us on:

Websitehttp://thisjustin.channel4.com

Twitter @C4ThisJustIn

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/pages/C4ThisJustIn

YouTube http://www.youtube.com/C4thisjustin

mapping ITV’s Australian Balloon Adventure

ABAWe recently put out some show support content for ITV’s Stephen Tompkinson’s Australian Balloon Adventure. As the name suggests the show follow’s TV’s Stephen as he undertakes several balloon trips across Oz culminating with his team taking part in a ballooning competition. We worked with ITV, the show’s producers Tiger Aspect (a fairly recent addition to Endemol UK’s group of production companies) and the Australian Tourist Board to develop an interactive map that follows the balloonists’ journey. It complements each show with additional content, video diaries and journals written on the road.

I put together the IA and some creative direction (of the map, unfortunately not the website!), but while we’re dishing out credits the real one’s should go to Neil (PM), Alex (art director) and @TrevorBoyle for Flash, who all did a great job. Check out the site – the map’s fun and complements the show nicely ..and the show’s not bad either, one for the ‘older viewer’ perhaps, but with some stunning photography in places –  especially if you catch in HD!

twemote: fixed and back on the app store

twemoteA very quick post to say our TV themed twitter iphone app ‘Twemote‘ is back up on the app store. It hasn’t been working for a while now, following some changes to the Twitter API, but the clever engineers at our technology partner Isotoma have it all working again and lovely. We’re now having a think about where this product goes next.. more on this soon, in the meantime download it now from iTunes and get tweeting about your favourite shows.

William Hill Betlive

Score_Boards_Football_TenniOver the last couple of weeks we’ve been working on some updates to an old project that I designed and produced last year for bookmaker William Hill. Looking at it again, against the backdrop of the ongoing World Cup, made me think it was worth putting down some thoughts on the project, where it came from and how its doing now.

‘Betlive’ is a Flash application we developed as part of the complete website rebuild that William Hill undertook over 2008/9. This was a massive project for them; not only redesigning their brand and website but also moving their entire back-end infrastructure from an existing in-house solution to OpenBet, which is pretty much the industry standard platform for serious players in the online gambling industry.
William Hill took this opportunity to overhaul their live betting offering and put this at the heart of their website experience – which is where we came in.
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