Field trip to the world of TV formats
TV studios and production companies are operating in an equal complex environment as we with the Web. Making TV programs is very expensive and labor intensive, the risks are big and the competition tough. In addition to the Web they don’t even have the luxury to fix anything after it’s ready: If the joke was bad, you can’t get it back. But it's gone and forgotten quick, the Web has a longer memory.
Hammerkit’s Helsinki team had the pleasure to visit the rehearsals and the recording of a TV format called “Sing-A-Long”, produced by Zodiak Television in the studios of MTV3 in Pasila. The most experienced format producer Anssi Rimpelä was our guide. Our intention as the producers of Web Formats was to find out the similarities and differences in the format production and format business.
It was very impressive to see the machinery of a TV production in a studio. Everything went smoothly, everyone knew his or her place and role, it’s obvious that a healthy amount of pre-production has been done before entering the studio. And as our host Risto Kuulasmaa said, “When you are in the studio, there is nothing you can do anymore". The camera men (are they always men?) were doing their job silent and professional, not questioning anything and didn't even need any advice. The actors and the studio host were joking and remained good-mooded and full or energy even after hours of working in the dark studio. That is another type of professionalism, seen often in movie making-of's; how to create the same emotions over and over again. That energy was transferred to us, too, even though the show audience work is hard work. I am not used to clap for longer than 3 minutes, except after Wagner operas.
Our main interest was in the business side of the format production, is there anything new we could learn when creating our Web Formats and writing the Web Format Bibles. The TV people seem to divide the world in two: into "ready-mades" and "formats". We call our ready-mades "One-Offs" and the formats we call formats. The benefits of the mass-customatization are the very similar, scale, extra revenue and lower buyer's risk. Our formats aren't game or talent shows but event sites, crisis communication management systems or extranets. Not quite as entertaining but crucial for our clients and still fun to make. From the business point of view I learned one big difference: Through our format production we can reduce the cost in the production of Web sites and solutions, this isn't the case in the TV world. The benefit of the format is in its success: There isn't such thing as not-succesful format and it is the secure success that sells. The Format Bible, where all bits and pieces of the production is documented, is more the documentation of the success ("Put the camera here, it works") than a technical documentation.
The field trip also reminded me how great it is to feel the energy of actor's work and presence on the stage. The theater season is over but thanks God there are the good old Finnish summer theaters with hard open-air benches, mosquitos and bright sun light even after 11 pm.
Have a great Midsummer, no mercy for the mosquitos!