Viewers of BBC’s News at Ten were entranced last night when a glitch in its system produced over four minutes of surreal beauty.
As the program began, the usual opening rush of clips from around the world accompanied by dramatic music played. A breaking news graphic flew up onscreen and then there was silence. The host, Huw Edwards, sat at his desk, patiently awaiting his cue. But the cue was not coming. Instead, the breaking news graphic came up again... and again, and again. B-roll footage from random segments randomly played and all the while we kept seeing Edwards at his desk, deep in thought. Around the two minute mark, the camera slowly zoomed in on Edwards in a moment that felt like a climax. But no, it snapped back to a wide shot and the idle host continued to contemplate the mysteries of the universe.
Paul Royall, the show’s editor, tells The Guardian that a “technical system crash” occurred just as the show was about to begin and a backup system had to be initialized. Another glitch occurred later on Good Morning Britain that was blamed on the system overheating.
If you’re wondering why that lovely slow zoom occurred, it’s because the BBC uses a robotic camera system. In a blog post about the cameras, the network explains the two types of cameras it uses:
Furios, which are fixed to a dolly and run on tracks, limiting their movement to side-to-side, and Shotokus, which are mounted on three wheels and can move freely across the floor. They can either be pre-programmed or controlled directly by a person.
For his part, Edwards came out of this looking good. He didn’t get caught saying anything stupid and he didn’t pick his nose. He later told Radio 4 that he realized something was up about 40 seconds before the show kicked off because he heard pandemonium in the background.
Viewers loved it, tweeting their approval with messages like, “Watching Huw Edwards do nothing on BBC news is kinda absorbing, like a lava lamp.” And love it they should. Watching TV personalities when they don’t think they’re on the air is always fascinating. See it in full below.