Video

NFL on Twitter… in the UK

Earlier this year, Twitter signed a deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games. They paid around $10m, and the NFL noted that theirs wasn’t the highest offer on the table.

I’m not going to get into the whys and wherefores of Twitter’s strategy. For the NFL, it’s about reaching harder to get audiences – “millennials.” Twitter was looking to grow its platform, and the NFL, in the US, might seem a sensible option.

Now it’s worth noting that the Thursday night games are perhaps the least desired packages, but that they’re also broadcast on the NFL Network, and shared between broadcast networks NBC and CBS. So these games are widely available over the air.

When the deal was announced, it was noted that Twitter had global rights to these games, and so, because I was up late last Thursday, I thought I’d see what was available. I use Twitter extensively, but I don’t consider it a video streaming platform. How would I go about watching the game?

Well it wasn’t at all obvious. The game was being shown by Sky Sports in the UK, but I wanted to see it on my phone. I went to Moments, the lightning bolt icon that I never normally touch (I’m afraid Moments is only marginally less useful than Facebook’s recently launched sub-sub-eBay Marketplace “feature.”)

There was no sign of the NFL, even under Sports which looked like was regionalised for UK tastes.

Perhaps it wasn’t really available?

Finally I searched “NFL” and that led me to a Tweet which seemed to have embedded video. After briefly being led in circles being redirected to a website, with the site then suggesting I open the Twitter app I’d just come from, I opened the stream and it seemed to work well. I was served with the straight NBC/NFL Network feed, and the coverage was good. But I was curious. What would happen in the ad breaks?

Well I didn’t get to see US ads. Instead, I got some promos for the NFL Shop, and some generic Twitter videos. And then I got them again. And again. It was awful. There were maybe five videos, and they looped and looped, often multiple times in the same break.

If you don’t watch NFL, then you won’t know quite how many breaks there are. But a game that’s played for an hour lasts a good three or more hours on TV. And much of that is commercial time.

One way or another, Twitter wasn’t serving UK specific ads, so we got the same cruddy filler endlessly. It was unbearable. It didn’t help that one of the videos featured Obama, Clinton and Cameron, and urged us to #Vote. For whom, or when was unclear. Post Trump’s win, I think I might have retired that video.

Anyway, the timings of evening games in the US means that worrying about watching live NFL coverage isn’t high on my European agenda. But if Twitter is going to get into video broadcasting seriously, then they need to work out a localisation strategy.

The Salt Marshes of North Norfolk and the Supermoon

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I spent a few hours out in Blakeney and Cley next the Sea, flying my drone today, and shooting both some stills and video of the landscape there. The marshes remain busy in the winter with many birds either passing through or spending the winter months amongst the marshes. The colour of the salt marshes themselves is quite spectacular, and can really be appreciated from the air.

The marshes around Cley are home to tens of thousands of starlings during the winter, and although there are bigger and more spectacular displays elsewhere, it’s always impressive to see. When the starlings finally rest amongst the reeds, the sound is extraordinary. These are not quiet marshes. I also spotted a barn owl out hunting in the twilight.

I was waiting for the “SuperMoon” to appear beyond the windmill at Cley (The Photographer’s Ephemeris is your friend for this), and although I was strictly speaking a day early for the full moon, you can barely tell the difference and the weather was likely to be much better today. (To be completely honest, the effect wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped as I needed to be more distant from the windmill to make the moon look larger. It’s all an optical illusion when you see supposedly massive moons in photos and video.)

Salt Marshes from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

A few more photos here, but the rest are over at Flickr.

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Devil’s Dyke

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There are at least two Devil’s Dykes in the south of England. I decided that I’d be walking the one in Cambridgeshire, following a mention both in an autumn walks supplement in The Guardian, and an appearance in Tony Robinson’s Britain’s Ancient Trackways part of the Icknield Way. Naturally, I took my drone with me.

Devil's Dyke from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

I was going to start in Newmarket, but instead alighted the Cambridge to Ipswich train a stop earlier at Dullingham. The station is a short walk from the village, and my reason for getting off earlier was that I should be able to do more of the Dyke. However, the onlhy real option for the route was a walk along the quite busy B1061 – a road that doesn’t have a suitable grass verge to walk along. Going slightly further out of my way, and joining the path at Stetchwork Park might have been more sensible.

Almost instantly I was on the Dyke, an ancient earthwork built sometime in the 6th or 7th centuries. It actually runs over 7 miles in length stretching between the villages of Woodditton and Reach. I was walking the northern end – a stretch of about 4.5 miles, and skipping a woody section.

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The Dyke comprises of both a bank and a ditch. It must have taken years to complete and involved significant labour to get it done. Even today, with heavy lifting equipment it would take a long time to build.

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Crossing the A1304, you reach Newmarket Racecourse sat on top of the expanse of Newmarket Heath. There are stables all around these parts of the country. The Dyke itself (marked as Devil’s Ditch on Ordnance Survey maps), bisects the course, with the July course being on one side of the Dyke while the main stand is the other. Eventually the Dyke falls away as the Cesarewatch Course runs across your path and circles around to the main grandstand.

The A14 is as busy as a motorway, and a footbridge lets you cross it, before the Dyke continues.

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The Dyke runs between the villages of Swaffham Prior and Burwell, and the path crosses the road that connects them, as well as a dismantled railway before finally ending at the pretty village of Reach.

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I stopped at the very nice Dyke’s End pub where I just about managed to squeeze in for lunch. Reach is where many people start and end their walk along the Dyke. However I was heading onwards, to get to Waterbeach where I could catch another train.

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My initial plan had been to follow Reach Lode as far as the village of Upware and the enticingly named Five Miles From Anywhere pub. But I decided to shorten the route a little (it was long enough as it was), and instead headed west along the Black Droveway past some caravans, and then on towards Slades Farm which sits close to the Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. There’s a nice cycleway in this area, and I saw a couple of families making use of the autumn weather to follow it.

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The banks of the Lode got me as far the pumping station at Swaffham Lock. Here the channel met the River Cam which flows on to Cambridge. I turned southwest and followed the south bank of the Fen Rivers Way, passing a small marina and a number of anglers.

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The last strech was a bit of a march as I realised I could just about make the hourly train at Waterbeach station. I arrived with about five minutes to spare, thus avoiding an hour’s wait.

All told, a really nice, if quite long walk – just short of 15 miles. But aside from climbing up and down the Dyke at intervals, it’s entirely flat, and is very reachable from London.

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Cycling in the City

Cycling in the City from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

Here’s a short film I shot with my Super 8 camera about four years ago that somehow hadn’t previously seen the light of day. The film was basically shot on my commute to work along the cycle paths of Bloomsbury and around Tavistock Square. Unfortunately, I didn’t use the correct filter for my daylight film, so some remedial colour correction has been necessary.

A Timelapse of 25 Great Pulteney Street, London

25 Great Pulteney Street – Timelapse from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

Do you ever embark on a project that somehow you never quite get around to completing?

I certainly do. And here, finally, is a project that I’ve completed some six years after I started it.

This begins back in 2010 when I was still working for Absolute Radio in One Golden Square, Soho, London. I sat at the back of the fourth floor, windows behind me looking across the Soho alleyway that is Bridle Lane and towards a building on Great Pulteney Street beyond. The fairly ugly building from the 1960s at 25 Great Pulteney Street had once been home to the agency Starcom Motive. But they’d long moved out, and the building had been empty for at least two years. When Google Street View’s team passed it in 2008, the building was boarded up, and that was still the case by 2010.

Now finally the developers were moving in, and it looked like something was happening with the building. I brought in an old Canon A470 digital camera, bought cheaply on eBay, and loaded a memory card with CHDK – the alternative firmware that would provide my camera with timelapse facilties. I also bought an external power supply and suction camera mount.

Over the next year and a half, between April 2010 and October 2011, I set the camera taking photos – first of the demolition of the building, and then of the new building rising in its place. I wasn’t consistent in either the location of the camera, the frequency of it taking photos, or what it was pointing at. When I went on holiday, I made sure to keep the number of photos a day low to ensure the memory card didn’t fill.

In retrospect, there are a lot of things I’d have done differently, including changing the aspect ratio, the photo size and so on. I was left limited in what I could do with zooming or panning across scenes. The camera was also limited in its angle of view from my window, and the camera was often mounted on a slight angle. The buildings were too close and the lens not wide enough to capture everything in one shot. The window meant reflections, and it wasn’t perfect either – neither clean nor unscratched.

Over the course of having the camera in my window, I had to ensure that cleaners at Absolute didn’t unplug it. The suction of my suction mount would invariably fail over time, and I’d come into work to find the camera on the floor. On one occasion the fall was “fatal” and I bought an identical replacement on eBay to continue the project.

In total I ended up with something like 250,000 photos. I wrangled them into something useable with Quicktime Pro, getting MP4 files from my JPGs. On underpowered PCs, this was a slow process.

Finally I had a collection of 102 files, taking up about 10GB. And then I sat on the videos. I couldn’t say way exactly. I suspect that I found it a little daunting. I knew that there was too much video and it needed editing down, although it wasn’t really a big job. I had to find some music – two tracks. One for the demolition, and another for the new building. I’ve sped many of the clips up further, removed nights for the most part, when as already mentioned, reflections of my office were a problem.

Finally it should be said that this is by no means every minute or day of the building being demolished and rebuilt. But it’s lots of it.

And so it is, that some years after capturing this footage over many many months, I’ve pieced together this video! I hope you enjoy it.

Notes and Further reading:

The architects were WilkinsonEyre, and they have a nice project page with some lovely photos of the finished building.

The building is reported to have cost £9.5m to complete, and was for the client F&C Property Asset Management (now BMO Real Estate Partners)

The front of the building has some interactive railings in a piece called Finial Response designed by Cinimod Studio.