Friday, July 29, 2005

Business as usual?

Some days things seems to happen and are significant, other days its just 'business as usual'. The last two days have been like that. So what is 'business as usual'?

Yesterday I went to Nicosia with a colleague from another organization - they use our facilities to make DVD masters of films, and one of the films they are making a DVD of has just been dubbed into Farsi, the language spoken in Iran. The video tape format that the tape was sent in was one we couldn't handle [DVCAM - more harware we need sometime! Anyone want to donate, this is what we need!] so the other organization got a company in Nicosia to make a copy onto a format we could handle. Unfortuneately in the process the sound got muddled and in places we had Greek audio not Farsi audio. There was also some audio missing from the video tape. So one of the reasons for going was to check that the audio would be done right this time.

When it is copied correctly, some time in the next month, we will then take it into our dubbing suite [for those of you interested it's a Digidesign Digi002 system] to mix the Farsi dialogue with the music and sound effects. At the same time we will correct the levels and make the audio quality correct for the pictures. Then we can create the DVD master that will be used to allow Iranians to see the film.

The second reason for the trip to Nicosia was to buy a new lighting stand and to buy a couple of padded camera bags for equipment... well... that was the plan... but things changed when I got to the company that sells the equipment. Firstly they had some old camera bags that they were prepared to sell at approx 20% the cost I was expecting to pay and secondly they had a new lightweight complete lighting system cheaper than I could buy in the UK, as they had directly imported from Italy. So I ended up buying a complete lightweight lighting system. This now completes our portable filming equipment - about 3-4 weeks ago we were given a new very good sound mixer which is also a 'hard disk recorder' [in other words it records audio onto a computer type hard disk - its an Edirol R4 for those interested] from a donor in another European country.

In a week's time I shall be travelling to yet another European country to record about 32 interviews and a seminar or two, plus set up some training, and we need all this for that event and for other projects we have in the next year.

Today I spent most of the day video editing a training programme [we make a few training programmes for other organizations]. Editing training programmes, which are often just one person speaking to camera with captions and other graphics is not very exciting as a production, but the value to the people all over the world is great, so the motivation is not from the artistic but from the content. We have a few more to finish by the end of next week so that I can take the masters to the conference I mentioned earlier.

I also spent some time talking through with a colleague about a training website for people doing media in our region. This will take the form of a wiki and a forum. What's a wiki I hear you ask?

Wikipedia defines a wiki as "a web application that allows users to add content and their own version of History, as on anInternet forum, but also allows anyone to edit the content." In other words its kind of like a book that anyone can add pages or edit. Sounds wierd doesn't it. I mean, what if the Bible were a wiki, so anyone could add, delete or edit? I was really skeptical about them when I first heard. But if you think of it more in terms of a co-authored book then you can begin to see how it will work. So we are setting up a wiki and discussion forum with a group of other consultants to bring together training materials for people in the region that we work. It won't be open to everyone, like Wikipedia [which is an encyclopedia as a wiki] but only to people who are part of one of the organizations we work with.

So that's it... the end of another week. Next week one of my colleagues is away on vacation so I shall be doing all the support work too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

It had to happen...

Well, being the last in the family to have a blog, and being told that people want to know what I do with myself... I decided to start a blog.

This evening the guys from the office were taking an Egyptian colleague out go-carting as a 'goodbye' thank you for helping us over the last month. Just before we left I got an email from one of the ministries that we broadcast their radio station on the Internet for saying they were having problems and people were not able to 'tune in' reliably. The problem is their end as all the other ones we handle are working fine... but could we help. So off to go-carting while thinking about how to help.

Cyprus, like many places in the Middle East, does 'deals' or barters so when we got there although the prices were displayed we are all asking what sort of deal they could do for us. 4 people, so instead of 9 pounds for 15 minutes what price would it be. They said they could do a deal and it would be 36 pounds for all four! Anyway we had a great time, the Egyptian colleague started off driving as if he was driving a car and soon learned that go-carting makes driving in Cairo seem possitively calm and relaxing.

Back to the office after the carting [11pm] and we pulled out one of our satellite receivers and re-configured things so that we were sending the radio station feed to London rather than the partner ministry. This cleared up the problem and so in the next few days we will work with them in trying to find out what their problem is... or passing it on to the relevant person in their organization.

Much of what we do now is 'mission critical'- in other words if we stop or have a fault then people notice quickly and it affects how people hear [or don't hear] the Gospel on a daily, hour by hour basis. It had never been our intention of being a 'service provider' but more of a pioneer and developer. What this means is that either we have to find another ministry to take over the day-to-day stuff or we need more people here to work alongside us. That's where the Egyptian colleague comes in... we really hope that he will be coming back and doing a year internship with us. It would be a win-win situation and on the physical level all of us are for it, but we really want to know what God wants.