The Scholarly Studio: Developing a new aesthetic of the multi-camera television studio as an academic research tool
Authors: Hearing, T.
Start date: 5 July 2016
This paper examines the potential to develop live multi-camera screen production methods as a scholarly tool. Drawing on experimental work in broadcasting in the 1970s and early 1980s, exemplified by The Journal of Bridget Hitler (BBC1981 – dir Philip Saville), and recent developments in multi-camera live-streaming online and to cinemas (http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk), the paper asks if we might develop a novel screen production method as a tool to research, review and disseminate knowledge across a range of academic disciplines. Whilst single-camera production methods have long been used for experimentation by filmmakers and scholars, there has not been an equivalent exploration in form using multi-camera or ‘live’ television studio facilities, which have tended to be regarded as the site of more populist fare. Whilst this may be due to the limitations of access and gate-keeping by broadcasters, in the past two decades, television studios have been built as teaching facilities in a number of universities in response to staff and student interest in industry-focused media production. However, we have not seen the significant use of such facilities for research and experimentation. We need to return to the experimentation of directors such as Philip Saville in the public service protected environment of the 1970s to find an openness to non-naturalistic studio production and a hybrid form which might lend itself to academic inquiry. This paper surveys the history of experimentation in multi-camera and live television studio techniques and forms, and questions why there has been so little attention paid to exploring the creative possibilities of the medium in recent years. It asks whether the shift to online and mobile platforms, combined with the technology of live-streaming and the trend towards “live” and “event” experiences, offers the opportunity for new audiences and new understandings in the academy beyond the constraints of mainstream broadcast media, and posits an agenda for the construction and debate of a new aesthetic of the television studio, led within Higher Education, which might inform the way we apply screen production in research-led learning environments.