Producing A Stab in the Dark

UKTV has a rich pedigree in producing podcasts, but these have mostly come in the guise of comedies for channel Dave: The Magic Sponge, Alex Horne Breaks The News and Mr Gameshow. But there’s something new on the horizon… a podcast for fans of everything crime.

A Stab in the Dark is hosted by best-selling crime author and comic Mark Billingham, whose Tom Thorne crime novels have been turned into a TV series for Sky 1 starring David Morrissey as the titular Thorne. If you hadn’t already recognise the name you may remember him for his performance as Gary from Maid Marian and her Merry Men alongside Tony Robinson.

Now THAT was a great series.


Anyhow, each episode of A Stab in the Dark sees (or should it be hears?) two guests join Mark in the studio from the worlds of crime television drama and literary fiction to discuss themes from Scandi noir, the damaged detective and the representation of women in crime. Guests will include queen of crime Val McDermid (pictured with Mark and Kate Harwood right), the aforementioned David Morrissey, Shetland’s Ann Cleeves and Michael Connolly to name but a few.

Before we embarked on the series, however, we produced a pilot episode in which regular feature contributor and fellow producer Paul Hirons took the helm alongside UKTV colleague Emily Want and Guardian Journalist Rob Hull. You can listen to the pilot episode here:

To listen and subscribe to A Stab in the Dark on iTunesAcast or a number of other podcast streaming platforms.

Facebook Panoramic 360 photo

Facebook Panoramic Photo For Brands

You may have seen that Facebook have started converting your panoramic photos into interactive 360 experiences. As you move your phone your view changes accordingly, it’s a pretty neat little feature – a slimmed down version of Facebook’s 360 video which I can only assume costs a tonne of money to produce.

Rosewood Facebook panoramic photo

A look at the panoramic Rosewood image as a flat photo.

After a moment of inspiration I wondered whether these panoramic photos could be used to show other content? Perhaps even content for branded Facebook Pages?

As I was working on new US crime drama Rosewood, it proved the perfect opportunity to have a play around with the feature and create a new way of finding out about the different characters in the series.

It’s best viewed on mobile, although you can use your mouse to navigate if you’re on desktop. If the below embedded image doesn’t work, try clicking through to view it on Facebook.

It’s a bit of novelty so it may lose its charm after a while, especially if brands start using it all the time. I hope I haven’t created a monster.

To help you create your panoramic you can get your hands on a bunch of assets from Facebook from their Dropbox.

Ball snake can't move on a fleece blanket

Snakes Can’t Move On Fleece

If like me you have a Indiana Jones-style ‘healthy respect’ for snakes I’ve got some very important news for you… Just surround yourself with fleece blankets and they won’t be able to get anywhere near you.

Granted, it may not be the most practical solution, but it’ll work.

Here’s a YouTube video featuring a pet ball python on a synthetic fleece throw which despite its best efforts can’t get anywhere.

The style of movement used by the snake in the video is the serpentine method, also known as lateral undulation – a winding motion most commonly associated with snakes. Here, the snake relies on friction between the surface and its underside in order to propel it forwards – suggesting that our legless friend above is perhaps unable to get any traction against the slick fibres of the blanket.

©2004 How Stuff Works


But what if it tried a different method?

Other forms of snake movement, like concertina or sidewinding, may not have much luck but perhaps there is one method that might enable it to overcome my new anti-serpent fleece cloak (patent pending).

Some heavy-bodied snakes use rectilinear locomotion, a slow movement in a straight line where wide scales on the snake’s underside grips the surface and literally pushes it forward in a similar fashion to that of a caterpillar. This might get our python out of its predicament.

As long as we keep this information to ourselves we should all be OK in our new cloaks.

UKTV/Jonathan Ford

Sir David Attenborough: There Could Be A Yeti

Speaking at showcase event UKTV Live while promoting his series David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, Sir David Attenborough revealed that he believed there could be something in the abominable snowman mystery.

Fans of cryptozoology will love that the legendary broadcaster has come out in support of the existence of the yeti, but it remains to be seen whether any of the evidence actually points to concrete evidence.

I filmed the clip below of Sir David during a question and answer session hosted by Jarvis Cocker – give it a watch and make up your own mind!

UKTV Marketing Showreel

The UKTV Live Showcase Event

Each year television broadcaster UKTV hosts UKTV Live, an event showcasing all the incredible talent and new programming coming to the network, with the 2015 showcase seeing UKTV CEO Darren Childs announce:

Today we are unveiling our biggest slate of original commissions in the network’s history.

Previous years have seen Q&A’s with David Attenborough, where he revealed his belief that there may be a Yeti, and the announcement of the popular wildlife film competition Eden Shorts.

Tasked with recording the hectic event, it proved quite the headache to secure the plethora of presenters, actors and show runners at the event. You can watch the showreel below…

Mr Gameshow hosted by Mike Wozniak and Diane Morgan.

Mr Gameshow: The Comedy Podcast with Mike Wozniak and Diane Morgan

Hosted by Man Down‘s Mike Wozniak alongside his glamorous assistant Diane Morgan, better known as Philomena Cunk from Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe and Cunk on ShakespeareMr Gameshow is the hilarious comedy podcast from Dave.

With ridiculous games, ludicrous quizzes, and stupid tasks each episode’s two guests play off against each other in a points system which seems to follow no rhyme or reason.

In a special round of Know Your Enemy, Mike plays Lou Sanders and John Kearns against each other – watch the clip filmed at the Soho Theatre below.


You can download Mr Gameshow on iTunes or Acast or search for it on your other podcast provider.

Dave Talks from UKTV

Dave TALKS: Ideas No One Needs

UKTV’s comedy television channel Dave has produced a series of TED Talks-inspired lectures on subjects that you don’t really need to know anything about. If you’ve seen any of Dave’s posts on Facebook or Twitter recently, it goes without saying that you’re not going to learn anything worthwhile here. But it will be fun.

Dave TALKS executive producer (and all round lovely guy) Dave Barnsby said of the new online lecture series…

Dave TALKS marks the next step in our YouTube evolution, providing more original and exclusive shortform content for our viewers to enjoy and complementing our longform programmes available for free on our video on demand service, UKTV Play.

My personal favourite comes from South African severed-head Rex Monolith (AKA Adam Riches), who introduces us to the painful art of shark whispering.

On the night I couldn’t stop laughing at Will Phang (AKA Phil Wang) delivering his rhetoric on unlocking the power of Emojis. Who knew they were invented by the Egyptians?

Last of the stand-outs (they’re all great, really) is James Acaster‘s insistence that people are not a fruit. A convincing argument.

‘Technology, entertainment, design’. That’s what TED in TED Talks stands for, if like me, you were wondering…

You can watch all eight Dave TALKS short films on UKTV’s YouTube channel.

Watching video on mobile phone without sound.

People Aren’t Listening Anymore

Just look on a train or a tube nowadays and everyone is sat there with their phones out.

Some people lament this, thinking that it’ll be the breakdown of society: how can we all get along if we’re communicating through technology and not talking to each other?

I’m a little bit more apathetic. Mainly because I’m definitely one of those people staring at my phone.

One trend that we have seen, mainly due to the ever increasing strength of mobile internet, is the rise of video. Most social media platforms are now able to auto-stream video as you scroll down, making the newsfeed experience a lot less static. Mark Zuckerberg himself has suggested that Facebook may become a predominantly video-based medium within the next few years.

But what about the sound?

Although there are some that seem to relish in it, most refrain from turning their volume up full blast while sat on a bus, and as we don’t all carry headphones around with us this means that videos that work well without audio are becoming increasingly more popular.

This is ok, if like me, you tend to find yourself watching videos of dogs – but what about those videos where there is something being communicated audibly? Clips of programmes or interviews?

In the TV world, Channel 4 have been an exponent of creating videos that don’t need sound – and have done it very well. Here’s one example from SAS: Who Dares Wins where they’ve gone beyond simple subtitles and created something much more visually appealing and eye-catching.

What they have created is a very easy way to hold the viewer’s attention with the added extra of increasing the accessibility of more digital content for the deaf and hard of hearing.

There’s also this retro 18 to 30 holiday-style promo created for The Island with Bear Grylls, which rather than being a repurposed piece of content will have been created to not only be visually disruptive while scrolling a newsfeed with no sound but also communicate a message to those that love watching people starve and squabble on a desert island. I love it.

At UKTV we have also made attempts to begin ensuring that social media users don’t need sound to get the messages expressed in our videos, by repurposing our on-air promos for digital consumption. One such example is this repack of Yesterday’s Shakespeare The Legacy with John Nettles on-air promo with simple subtitles for contributors and programme narration, and large centred text for the script.

Although this does require investment in time, the results do show excellent value for effort expended and I’d expect to see this kind of behaviour becoming standard practice across the majority of social platforms.

UKTV Marketing Showreel

UKTV Marketing 2015 Showreel

We’re a proud bunch in the marketing department at UKTV, with plenty to shout about. That’s why I was tasked with putting together the following for when we got together last year.

Exploring The Great Escape tunnels

Explore The Great Escape Tunnels

The Great Escape is one of the most iconic military stories, but most people’s association is with an American Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorbike.

Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp

Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp, location of the Great Escape.

However, in the real story no Americans even attempted the escape from Stalag Luft III, although several did help dig the iconic tunnels that almost brought hundreds of prisoners of war back homes.

But what is true is the incredible feats the prisoners went to in engineering their escape attempt.

We put together an interactive and animated web microsite that showcases their ingenuity and displays some of the key statistics, such as that the 4000 bed boards used in supporting the earth around the tunnels limited its size; around two feet high and wide. Incredibly cramped working conditions.

The two foot bed boards determined the dimensions of the tunnels: one board high and one board wide.

Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp, location of the Great Escape.

These cramped conditions along with the sheer length the tunnels would need to be also led to more issues, such as how to get fresh air to the head of the tunnel? This led to an engineering marvel; an air pump made of beds and hundreds of powdered milk tins.

Unfortunately, we hear that of the 76 POWs that managed to exit the tunnel, all but three were caught with 50 ultimately executed for their attempted escape.

Make sure you check out Yesterday television channel’s guide for much more on the story. You can also watch the fascinating documentary Revealed: The Great Escape on Yesterday or on UKTV Play.