(james benedict brown) on the road

Channel 4’s identity: from screen to street

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 3 March, 2008

On the very last day of 2004, Channel 4 Television (the UK’s fourth terrestrial broadcaster, just a few months younger than myself) re-freshed and re-launched its on-screen package of identity trails and stings. Harking back to the innovative computer-generated colliding and dispersing logo that introduced the channel to the nation in 1982, a series of surreal idents was created that showed the Channel 4 logo appearing and disappearing as the camera panned or moved through a super-realistic series of urban or rural environments. Quite often the camera took a very humanistic point of view, from behind the wheel of a moving car, or at eye level moving along the access balcony of a council housing estate. For my convenience and your entertainment, a kind Youtuber has montaged some of them into the video above.

A week or two ago, I pondered what it actually meant for Canadian newscaster Kevin Newman to move his news anchor’s desk and studio all the way from Vancouver to Ottawa, while keeping the production team in Vancouver and the Ottawa studio a virtual environment that edited in the obligatory view of the Canadian parliament onto a green screen behind him. Being in the nation’s capital was obviously a selling point, but what does it really mean if the off-screen environment can be manipulated to suggest a different location electronically?

On a similar strand of exploration between the virtual television built environment and the actual built environment is a new sculpture by Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner. Titchner has been commissioned to design a temporary structure outside Channel 4’s London headquarters on Horseferry Road (an expressionistic and tectonic building designed in the early nineties by Richard Rogers with Ove Arup). The structure contains a booth in which members of the public can record segments for a ‘talkback’ programme, recalling the channel’s earlier show Right to Reply. Stand across the street from Channel 4 HQ at the adjacent bus stop, and you have a perfect view of the logo.

But take a walk down the street towards the River Thames and Tate Britain…

…and the logo fragments, revealing the steps into the recording booth (wheelchair pedestrians can record their own segment from a camera mounted lower down in the structure).

Arrive level with the elevators on the Horseferry Road side of the building, and the entire sculpture has been rendered illegible.

The steel form of the sculpture has flat screen televisions mounted on it at different heights to rebroadcast the material recorded in the booth (just don’t expect to hear anything that anyone is saying). The steel has been painted in the same shade of rust red/brown of the exposed structure of the Channel 4 building. From certain angles it seems as though the structure is emerging from the building itself.

The sculpture is in-situ for a couple of months. No word yet, regrettably, on whether Channel 4 will dare leave the comfortable confines of the capital to bring the talk back box to other cities and regions, but watch this space.


2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Paula Carter said, on 4 March, 2008 at 11:27

    Interesting idea about getting video booths around the country. Do you think that there would be any interest in such video booths, given many people can make their own videos and e-mail them to Channel 4 directly, which was not possible when the video booth was first invented?

    Paula, Viewers’ Editor Channel 4

  2. James said, on 5 March, 2008 at 00:56

    As this, and almost every other blog, podcast, vodcast etc will demonstrate, web users with the webcams, modem and know-how will always find a way to express their opinion online. However the video booth can still catch the eye of a pedestrian who might not have thought of responding to a TV broadcast. Clever design and a willingness to break free of the London bubble will always help reach new participant viewers :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: