|Monday, 22 February 2010 15:27|
COP15 – nice videos, shame about the result
By Martin Atkin, WWF International's Director of Media and Executive Producer, Inside COP15
The long, dark days of the Copenhagen climate change summit already seem a distant memory. Those of us who were there never want to hear the words “Bella Centre” or “COP15” ever again. A fortnight of all-night edits, frantic deadlines and nail-biting live transmissions – all fuelled by adrenaline, coffee, pizza and beer.
The outcome of last December's climate change summit was – to put it mildly – disappointing. No legally binding agreement, no concrete targets and no clear idea of where we go from here. I wasn't the only one to leave the Danish capital a few days before Christmas feeling let down.
But it was encouraging from at least one point of view. As Exec Producer for WWF's Inside COP15, I am proud of what we achieved. Inside COP15 – an ambitious cross-media video blog and news service aimed at “bringing the people to the COP, and the COP to the people” raised the standard for NGOs wanting to move beyond traditional documentaries, VNRs and B-rolls which has characterised the sector's approach for too long.
Predictably, it started with a conversation over a few beers at EsoDoc, the European Social Documentary forum, between myself and Jörg Grossmann, of Berlin-based Greenfilm. We came up with a joint proposal for an online TV channel for Copenhagen. We brought in Large Blue – the production arm of Green TV – to add technical and production expertise. Unicorn Media came on board to help with live streaming. A year of searching for funding finally resulted in agreement from WWF just seven weeks before the opening day of COP15. Be careful what you wish for.
In less than two months we pulled together a team of 14 from all over Europe and beyond – a production manager and editors from Germany, camera crews from France, producers, video journalists, a technical director and a presenter from the UK – plus bloggers, editors, runners, a stills photographer and driver from Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, the US and Sudan. Some of them I'd worked with before, others were recommendations. We had back-up teams in Geneva and London handling traffic, the website and social media. All of them were outstanding.
Then there were the logistics. Every hotel and office in Copenhagen had been booked up months in advance, so we begged, borrowed and stole accommodation, and found studio and production space in the Huset - an old punk-rock venue turned cultural centre in downtown Copenhagen. Equipment arrived from Berlin, Paris, Geneva and London. It was hugely ambitious – especially for an NGO which until recently didn't even have a full-time video producer. Not only were we aiming to produce upwards of six on-demand video features every day, I rashly promised we would go live every evening with a 20 minute presenter-led talk-show, interviewing three guests ranging from showbiz personalities to heavyweight politicians. We commandeered a large room, built a set at one end and edit suites, technical facilities and a small control room at the other. Oh, and we had to build a website which would host all the content and stream the live shows.
The result was http://cop15.panda.org – the site is still live and you can see all the videos there. Over two weeks we produced more than 140 on-demand news reports, blogs, video diaries and features totalling more than 420 minutes. We streamed more than 220 minutes of live webcasts including ten live talk-shows, media briefings and news updates. We covered more than 100 events ranging from press conferences to concerts, protest marches and everything in between. In addition we provided more than fifty exclusively-branded daily video diaries for a range of WWF's corporate partners and for Metro newspapers worldwide. We made it as easy as possible for media and other sites to “grab our content” - it was – and still is – all freely available. In the two weeks of COP15, and the four weeks afterwards, there were more than a quarter of a million video views – and those are only the ones we know of.
Ten years ago – when I was still working in “conventional” broadcast television – such a massive undertaking would have needed outside broadcast trucks, satellite links and many more people – all prohibitively expensive for even a large non-profit such as WWF. The massively reduced cost of equipment and the advent of online TV platforms now makes it possible – but we should not confuse low-budget with low-quality. Right from the start of the project I insisted “just because it's on the web, doesn't mean it's crap.” All the content was produced to “broadcast standard” - both editorially and technically.
Yes, the climate change summit was a huge disappointment. But Inside COP15 was a ray of light in those dark Copenhagen days.
Photos © WWF – Canon/Richard Stonehouse