Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Bridging the gap to TV: Part Deux

Television Pilots can normally take up to a year to complete, but we have been very quick and managed to edit, add music, add very cool graphics, edit some more, and then finally finish our bridge pilot in just five months. In this blog, I am going to write a bit about what happened next. See part 1 here.

The concept of the television pilot is to get bridge on TV. This wasn’t a simple thing to do. Bridge is not an easy game to pick up, and to do this in a 30 minute show is no easy task However, Matthew Baylis – the deviser and host – came to us with an excellent idea of how we could manage it. As Matthew says, “…I wanted something that shows bridge in a really positive light and had happy, smiling people enjoying themselves. My own view is that previous attempts at television programmes have tended to be a bit stuffy and formal. The other thing I wanted was to draw in as big an audience as possible. It needed to be clear enough so that new players would be able to follow it and yet interesting enough for more experienced players to enjoy.”

To make sure we managed this, we have a commentary by Andrew Robson, professional graphics and a tone that is light, friendly and welcoming. However, there is still an air of tension in the play – just like you get in a club. Mostly it was important to see the players’ faces, which means the viewer gets to share in that smug moment when things go well and the anxious looks when things are going horribly wrong….

Our editor and director of photography, John-Martin White was in-charge of the post production. As he says, “Exercising both brain and will power whilst exploring silent communication with other people through the random element of the cards. How exciting! And, as a film maker, how difficult! You see, film thrives on dynamic actions and loud noises. But, with this pilot we have proved that it’s not always the case – the immense focus and clarity of activity was revealed time and time again as our four players battled. All for the pleasure of making their bids come to life. I was amazed.”

“We kept the feel of the bridge club. The silence of the pilot is only broken by the sound of crisp cards moving across and being flicked onto the table, with the occasional instructions to dummy from the players”. Added to these sounds was the excellent commentary from Andrew Robson and Matthew Baylis.

The post production was in two parts: firstly, we needed to get the commentary to be in line with the three games. We also needed to make sure that the pilot was crisp and well edited. John-Martin worked on this with a small team over a few weeks of summer and completed his work in September. Secondly, we needed good graphics, so that viewers (experts and beginners) could understand what was going on. We brought in graphics designer, Dylan Byrne from Bog Standard, who John-Martin had worked with before to create the various graphics required for the bridge games and the show. Over the four weeks of October with the guidance of Matthew Baylis and me, Dylan has painstakingly created the various graphics required for our show.

Happily we are now complete and we will be having a premier for our players and staff at EBU HQ on Thursday. So far, we have had good feedback from various people we have shown it to, so we’re quietly confident.

Our next step is much more complicated and I have already started to put out feelers to UK television channels about our pilot. We have to be very careful and it must be a drip drip process of which media sees the finished product. However, we have high hopes and I will update you with our progress as soon as we can.

Matthew concludes: “Now the pilot is done. Huge amounts of work from all involved – particularly the highly practical Matt Betts who made it happen – whilst letting all us arty sorts be well, ……. arty. We have learned lots more about how to make it work, which will help make the process of production very smooth. When producing it commercially the editing and vision mixing can be done on the day so the costs will be low. The graphics and the personnel are all in place and we now have the chance to make some inexpensive television that looks good and is all about…bridge! Now there are just two questions.

1) Does the pilot really appeal to the majority of new players (well, my 10 year old likes it!) as well as more experienced players (so does my mum!).
2) Can we sell it to a broadcaster during the credit crunch?

I think it could be two resounding yes’s”

Thank you to Matthew Baylis, John-Martin White, Dylan Byrne, Andrew Robson and Caz Stewart.

At the moment it won't be possible to view our TV pilot, because we need to send it to various media outlets first. However, at some point we will add a little teaser, so you can all have a look.


  1. Best of luck Matt and the team! Abe



    THANK YOU..........

  3. Amazing project, which must be very exciting. I look forward to seeing the fruition of this exciting project. Well done, EBU.

  4. Brilliant! Keep on heading this way EBU - it's just what we need.

  5. My father was involved in the start of snooker on television and in the days of black and white television that didn't seem very promising but what a successes that’s proved to be. Best of Luck

  6. I agree with everyone. I am so excited about this - I'll be able to tell friends about my favouritist game being on the telly! Good LUCK!!
    DP x

  7. Hello dudes, this sounds great. Best of British and world to you all. I love bridge and would love to let others see why…..

    The dragon

  8. Very exciting project to be involved in - all fingers and toes are crossed.

  9. Sounds like a great idea. Keep up the good work, EBU.


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