I'm actually quite late in making this post..
I promise I haven't been sleeping.
In case you missed it - on Friday, 16th August at 12pm, I embarked on the start of a massive adventure that literally was years in the planning - my first ever marathon broadcast, and for a good cause too: a 28-hour marathon broadcast in aid of Radio BGM, Llanelli's hospital radio station that I've been volunteering with for the last two years.
Unless you're also a broadcast enthusiast, the rest of this post could be rather boring - I'm going to try and write every non-sensitive detail of the last 20-ish months of planning here, right up to the challenges we faced.
It was a momentous challenge from start to finish - one hell of a journey which ended in raising over £200 in raffle tickets and donations, and even more than that in sponsorships and gifts.
Even if you missed the challenge, you can still donate online here - every penny or pound given goes towards keeping us on-air and providing a unique service to the patients of the hospital and the wider community of Llanelli.
Thank you for listening, thank you for donating and a special thank you to everyone who took part!
If you're brave enough to continue reading - let's start with...
PART ONE - HOW IT STARTED
Unsurprisingly, this actually was something I've wanted to do for years. I think my original inspiration was thanks to Chris Moyles: watching his 52-hour marathon for Comic Relief sparked a thought of "I'd love to do that" in my brain. A lot of people thought I was a little bit mad for doing it, but luckily for me I'm not the first volunteer at Radio BGM to attempt such an insane task. Our head of programming at the station, Gareth, had actually tackled three marathon shows during his on-air tenure along with his trusty sidekick Mr Gunn.
I'd approached Gareth a few times over the last couple of years - and each time, for one reason or another, the project had been shelved - usually because we didn't have the resources to complete the project. But in June, after letting the rest of the team in on our theoretical plan, we started to lay the foundations for what turned out to be a much bigger project than we invisioned.
PART TWO - THE INFRASTRUCTURE
The first thing we discussed as a production team was frankly, rather obvious:
"How on earth are we going to fill 28 hours of live radio?!"
We had a few brainstorming sessions to see how much content we could come up with in order to sort that - and to be honest, I think that was the biggest challenge in the whole process.
My next question was:
"How do we get as many people involved as possible?"
Now as a station, we've been increasing our use of social media over the last year so it seemed silly not to use social media as much as possible.. we made some social media banners, created some tweets and best of all - we came up with a plan to use Facebook Live to stream what was going on in the studio.
We had a little photoshoot too, and from that we were able to make some promotional videos, images and some physical flyers to take around the wards to drum up support around the hospital.
In terms of a technical challenge, incorporating Facebook Live was the big one. It took a three-man strong production team around two-and-a-half days to not only work out how to integrate the Facebook stream into our plans for the broadcast; but also to ensure that Facebook Live actually worked from our studios. The star of the show was a free piece of software called OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) and quite honestly I'd recommend it for anything you want to stream - games, video, radio shows; anything.
So here's how OBS worked for us - originally, I wanted to create a little extension for OBS that would automatically switch to the different shots depending on microphone input, which ended up being impossible for a couple of reasons. My MacBook and all the inputs were sat in our production studio - and we fed all the cables for the cameras through the wall into the main on-air studio.
The stream setup itself was rather easy - we used a base resolution of 1080p and downscaled to 720p before streaming to Facebook (because Facebook Live would have downscaled it anyway, so at least there's no loss in quality in the live output).
We had 7 scenes setup - 1 for each camera, a "starting soon" shot, a "during the songs" shot - due to Facebook's copyright system we couldn't risk playing too much music on the stream (even though we're licensed by PRS to do so... annoying) - a duel shot of both the presenter and guest cameras (another stroke of genius by Producer Gareth) and also a 7th scene with all the cameras on, that never went to air, but helped us double check the positioning of ALL the cameras.
PART THREE - THE EVENT
Friday. 10am. I arrived at the studio surprisingly calm - after all, there wasn't much left to do - open the MacBook, plug the cameras back in, and then go and present for 28 hours. No biggie.
Of course, the first minute or so went very smoothly, but that doesn't mean it was completely without it's problems. I was the only member of the team with previous OBS experience so I was the main troubleshooter - tough to do whilst also keeping a live radio show going. I basically had to train the production team to use OBS on the fly as we were live. There were internet problems, camera problems; as you'd expect - but on the whole, we managed to pull off a jam-packed broadcast full of surprises.
Guests galore, intriguing interviews, fab features such including Golden Hours and The 28-Letter Phrase (SPOILER: "Don't Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth"), and best of all.. the surprises - free Domino's Pizza during the middle of the night!
and that's how we did it! A lot of planning - before and during the broadcast.
Top tip: to get the best content out of your presenter, don't tell him everything that's happening.. my amazing producer put together a whole hour where I wasn't in control of any sound on-air other than the microphones.
Myself and my co-host for the hour, Duggie, were given cryptic clues to guess the music we were going to play: which is a fabulous idea, and a great piece of live radio - but we were rubbish at getting the clues right so it really did drag for us!
Yet another challenge ticked off the bucket list for me, and yet another achievement for Radio BGM. We raised over £200 in donations from our stall, some more money from online donations and even more from our sponsors during the broadcast. A massive, huge THANK YOU to the following:
- Principality Building Society
- The PAI Group of Companies
- The Half Moon, Llanelli
- Seagers Restaurants
- Llanelli Scarlets
- Sheesh Mahal, Llanelli
- Domino's Pizza Llanelli
- Papa John's, Llanelli
and also a massive THANK YOU to the following for coming in to visit and for supporting!
- Owain Gunn, for lending your vocal chords in the intro!
- Jamie Pritchard from The Wave, for your message of support and good luck!
- Prince Philip Hospital League of Friends (specifically Ken Rees)
- Hospital Notes Choir (specifically Linda & Marie)
- Dafydd Stephens
- Gale Morgan-Williams
- Christian Reed
- Nicholas Heath (not on air, but a visit during the night!)
- Wayne Cleaver
- Blood Bikes Wales (specifically Tony, Darren & Kingsley)
- Emyr Evans
- Andrew "Duggie" Douglas
... and finally, every other volunteer behind-the-scenes who pulled together - especially the amazing production team:
- Gareth Hurford: the glue that kept everything together!
- Liam Jones: the master of vision!
- David Hurford: the boss and his endless support!
I'll be forever grateful to everyone above and everyone else I've missed out for the support, the means and the confidence to pull this marathon broadcast off.