Docs

Giving life to a TV show online

C4's groundbreaking documentary series One Born Every Minute provides unique access to a bustling maternity hospital with a rig of 40 remote cameras following the hospital staff and patients. Digital Emmy award-winning agency Airlock was responsible for giving life to the program on the Web. Here, Chris Mair, Airlock's Strategy Director, gives us an insight into giving birth to an online project.
April 21, 2010

C4′s groundbreaking documentary series One Born Every Minute provides unique access to a bustling maternity hospital with a rig of 40 remote cameras following the hospital staff and patients. Digital Emmy award-winning agency Airlock was responsible for giving life to the program on the Web. Here, Chris Mair, Airlock’s Strategy Director, gives us an insight into giving birth to an online project.

Our aim for Life Begins was to engage the online viewer by creating an ongoing, useful resource for would-be parents that would complement the TV series and also exist outside it. Our strategy was to find ways to encourage users to interact with the subject matter of birth, which for many is both unfamiliar, and slightly terrifying, territory.

The TV series was produced by Dragonfly Productions, and they shot solidly for 30 days to capture every situation you could expect in a maternity ward. This resulted in a vast amount of unique video content – some of which was destined for TV, and the rest was allocated for online. The video content was ideal for the website; it allowed us to extend the narrative beyond the series and build on the audience. This additional content makes Life Begins a near-comprehensive resource of birth scenarios for prospective parents, shot from a real-life perspective of a maternity ward; as a resource it also sits apart from existing parenting sites, which tend to feature text-based content from experts.

The design of the site also needed to share continuity with the TV series. We based the site’s visual identity on hospital signage. Hospital signage is very emotive; it immediately conveys a sense of place and is representational of a user’s own local hospital as well as reflecting the hospital depicted in the TV series; this we felt would make it more relevant.

Likewise, the video content had to compliment the narrative of the show. The site needed to act as program support during the broadcast and had to be able to exist as a standalone resource for users with no TV exposure, so we developed a video solution that linked the subject matter of birth with the narrative of the TV show.

It’s important to put users at the heart of the activity. For the next stage of development, we created interactive tools to drive engagement for those who did not want to delve into the birth-oriented video content. We created a comparison tool that asked mothers to tell us about their experiences of birth, we asked couples to swap their thoughts on what was actually going to happen on the day of the birth via a Facebook app and we gave parents a place to highlight amazing midwives who have saved the day. We also tracked and exposed birth announcements on Twitter and we created a birth certificate engine that was personalized with the key facts of the day. All was underpinned with the ability to comment across the site.

The site was promoted from the broadcast as well as on the C4 website, 4oD, YouTube and TV trails. It received upwards of 200,000 page views on the nights of the transmission, which remained consistent across all episodes. The site has had 5 million page views since its launch, showing that strong digital extensions can thrive long after the TV series.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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