This month, Digital Studio was Out and About with Dubai One’s leading English-language ‘what’s on’ guide.
There was a kids’ show back in the UK when I was young called ‘Why Don’t You?’ The theme tune from the show uttered the immortal line: “Why don’t you just turn off your TV and go out and do something less boring instead?’
Being something of a precocious child, every rainy summer day in the school holidays I would proudly and not a little facetiously point out to the television, my mother, and anyone else unfortunate enough to be in the room at the time that this was surely the kind of advice that could only lead to self-destruction.
If all the viewers took the show’s advice, there would be no viewers, and the show would
cease to exist. It was an existential crisis that my tender years perhaps ill-prepared me for, and perhaps in my brattish little mind, I thought that when I grew up, I would bring about an eventual end to TV shows that essentially implored readers to do something better than watching TV. If so – I didn’t succeed.
Dubai One’s listings and magazine show ‘Out and About’ has now been keeping viewers informed as to what’s going on in and around Dubai for some five series. Original presenter remains in the hot seat, and in 2008 was joined by co-host Layne Redman.
We joined the duo, along with the crew, on a recent shoot at The One and Only Palm Jumeira’s Eau Zone, where they were filming a piece about that not most obvious of topics – water. In this case, of the bottled variety.
As one of the most popular shows on Dubai’s biggest English language channel, and with the full might of Dubai Media Incorporated behind it, I’d perhaps expected to walk into something resembling a Hollywood film set, with ranks of lights, catering trailers and hordes of crew and support staff rushing around making sure everything was just so.
Of course, this would hardly be in keeping with the nature of a weekly hour-long what’s on show, and in fact I was greeted by the show’s co-presenters, a director and a single camera operated by a cameraman and his assistant.
The venue, meanwhile, was seemingly unprepared for the descent of Dubai’s broadcast media on it, with the noise of coffee machines and busy maintenance staff making life decidedly tricky for the unfortunate assistant cameraman who at this point was struggling to get some sort of comprehensible signal to the audio equipment over the general hubbub around.
Luckily the maelstrom was short-lived, a few words from the manager and the coffee machines and repairs fell silent and the scene was finally set for shooting to begin.
This, as it turns out, isn’t a situation the crew are unfamiliar with, as director Maher Al Khaja explains: “This is the hard thing with doing short shoots, which are the staple of our show,” he says.
“You have to be in and out so quickly, you still have to do all your unpacking, your testing and setting up, then your packing up at the end, and of course, even though they may know you’re coming the location isn’t always totally ready for you when you get there – most places aren’t really used to the requirements of a TV shoot!”
That much is certainly true, and it strikes me in the slightly dim café that most places may not really be lit for a TV shoot either – it seems strange that there’s no rig, even a small one?
“No – the lighting’s fine,” says Al Khaja. “The cameras can handle the lighting here fine. It’s only for night shoots that we really need lights.”
Cleaarly the crew are used to working ‘off the cuff’, and this must be even more of an issue on the shows occasional live segments and editions, I suggest: “Well I can’t talk for Out and About as I’ve quite recently joined the show,” explains Al Khaja. “But yes, live shows do present their own very specific challenges. One tiny mistake damages the whole show, so you have to be really on it.
“Personally, I think live shows are worthwhile if you’re going to have calls or some form of interaction with the viewers, but if there’s none of that I don’t really see the point. You need so many extra people, autocues, the audio’s always very tricky in a live environment. It’s an awful lot of trouble to go to if there’s really no specific benefit to going live.”
I suggest that another reason for a live show may be to get important news out there before anyone else, and host Verma concurs: “Yes – we did DIFF live for that. But we’ve also done live editions for Ramadan and UAE National Day, covering events in the city as they happen.
“You do need a lot of people behind you to make it run smoothly, and for the film festival we only got half an hour testing and we were like ‘what?’ It’s very exciting though – really scary beforehand but then the adrenaline gets pumping and when you finish you’re on a real buzz.”
Co-host Redman adds: “I think the other thing about live shows, from a presenter’s perspective, is that you have to have a really good background knowledge of what you’re talking about. Then if there is a technical problem, or any other sort of problem, you can keep talking and keep the show going.”
Luckily, there are no such worries today, and the occasional clanks of cutlery don’t cause any real harm as a retake is always an option, so we settle back and watch as the crew go about their business.
It’s a smooth, professional shoot. Cameraman Kamal Namrouti obviously knows his Sony Betacam like an old friend, and even with the time taken for retakes, due to problems or just to try a different approach, plus an additional slot for an arty shot of water bottles the shoot is over and the Eau Zone is back to being a café bar in not much more than an hour. The crew meanwhile, head back to Dubai One’s Studios for the post work.
“We have a full Avid suite and also Final Cut Pro for putting the final product together – which we get depends what’s available as you have to book your slots,” explains Al Khaja. “We also have a voice over room where we can add the links and make sure all the pieces flow together before the show finally goes out on TV.”
You may already have seen the piece by the time we go to press – at the time of the shoot, the crew wasn’t sure in which edition the piece would be appearing. As Verma explains: “It’s not time sensitive, so we’ll bank it – It could go out this week, it could be in a month.”
If it hasn’t aired yet – keep an eye out for it. We learned more about water than we ever knew there was to learn, and the prices that some of the most sought after and rarest bottles can fetch are nothing short of eye-watering, for want of a better pun.
If you do happen to catch the show before Digital Studio does, keep a close eye out. There’s an editor sitting here desperately hoping he succeeded in his efforts to keep out of shot and not sully the whole affair for the viewers at home. Out and About This Week airs on Dubai One on Wednesdays at 6.30 pm
- Sony DigiBetacam
- Beyer Dynamic DT231 headphones
- Sachtler DV12 heads
- Sony Monitoring
- Anton/Bauer Ultralight 2 battery
- Sachtler camera supports
- Sony WRT-822 mics