Robert Llewellyn


Many of you will have heard of the TV show on the "Dave" Channel called "Carpool".
You know the one, Red Dwarf and Scrap heap Challenge star Robert Llewellyn picks up someone in his car, drives him or her around a bit and has a chat. It’s a great series and you feel like your spying on a private conversation between two people on their way to work.
What many of you will not know is how this series came about. Its far from the usual process of, bloke pitches idea to TV bosses, TV bosses say "umm here is £1 make a pilot"
No this series was born on the internet, grew up on youtube and is enjoying a long life in both new and old media worlds.
I caught up with Robert and asked him a few questions about how this all came about:
What was your initial intention when you first came up with the idea of Carpool?
Carpool grew out of so many different ideas over such a long time it's really hard to pin down. One of them was the development of small TV cameras that could be safely mounted in the car, another was my enjoyment in meeting people and talking with them and finding out stuff, I interviewed 100's of people over 10 years on Scrapheap and really enjoyed doing it. It was also partly watching a video I recorded over 10 years ago with the comedian Dave Baddiel when he gave me a lift through London. I just left the camera running and we forgot it was there. The result was surprising and un-broadcastable, but I knew I was onto something.
Over the past 3 years I have been developing a new series about sustainable energy, electric cars and related matters and the carpool idea seemed to fit into that as a way of interviewing scientists and engineers but eventually I tried it out and stuck it on the net and it just took off.
What kit did you start out with? and what was your work flow?
I initially used some second hand mini cameras, bullet cams or lipstick cams as they're commonly known. We'd used these a lot on Scrapheap and they were rugged and very small. However the technology they used was fairly old school, they only shot at 4:3 in sort of 1990's low def and the sound input was very basic. I used lapel mikes which always rubbed on the seat belts, the wires got pulled out, everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
What technical problems did you have at first?
'Ingesting' the material into the computer was fairly complex. I used an early iMac and as always nothing was compatible, I had to import the AV files, then convert them to .MOV's then put them in Final Cut Pro, then render them. I did everything wrong, I knew the basics of how to synch and cut video, but the import settings were a mystery to me. The early episodes of carpool are testament to this bungling.
I eventually got hold of some Sony HSR MC1P cameras when I was working in the USA. I still use them, the picture quality is stunning, the sound is amazing, no lapel mics, everything was much easier once I used them.
How easy was it to get guests to appear?
I suppose that's where I have an advantage, I knew quite a few people who'd appeared on the telly and they were all really kind and supportive and said yes. That really helped spread the word, but I always wanted to feature people who interested me who weren't famous. I think it's proved successful, the mix of well known faces and people who may not be well known but are interesting seems to have worked so far.
Where did you host your videos?
I had a lot of help setting up the system with a wonderful company called channelflip, (www.channelflip.com) and they suggested I use blip.TV which is sort of like YouTube except they had no restrictions on the length of shows. At the time you could only upload 10 minutes to YouTube so that's why it started out there. I also had help making the feed appear on iTunes, and once the people at iTunes saw the show, they also promoted it which really helped.
I now have an account with YouTune and that's about to be upgraded considerably, but the vast majority of views come through iTunes and llewtube still. That's where the show has been running the longest.
You use twitter a lot, how did this help you promote carpool?
I do use twitter a lot, too much maybe but I quite enjoy the discussions taking place there. I actually think genuine word of mouth helped Carpool more than me banging on about it. I keep my carpool tweets to a minimum, I always loose a few followers when I mention it.
Were you surprised at how quickly carpool grew in popularity?
Yes, I was really surprised, it was beyond anything I could have imagined.
What changes did you make in terms of technical equipment and format as popularity grew?
Really very few, obviously the cameras I've already mentioned and an enormous amount of hard drives and back up. I now use a Mac Pro, I have something like 15 terabytes of storage all in, and most of that is full. Video is very space hogging, I've shot 123 shows and that's a lot of gigs.
At which point did you feel it was right to present the idea to RDF/Dave ?
It sort of happened the other way around. I think broadcasters could see the potential and they approached me. I was hesitant at first as I'd always seen Carpool as the format I was looking for to do on the internet and to have complete editorial control over it. I still earn my living doing 'normal' telly, so it was a long term experiment/hobby. However After doing something like 60 episodes on my own, I thought it worth trying out doing it on a more pro scale.
I assume RDF needed to know how many people were watching each episode, what systems do you use to gather viewing figures?
It was more Toyota who wanted to know how many people saw the show and what the likely reach would be. They have been very supportive without being prescriptive right from the start, they actively asked me not to mention the car or the brand, quite the opposite to what you might expect.
How they count TV viewing figures is beyond me, I've never understood it, I now down to the last view how many people watch on iTunes and YouTube, much easier. (4.2 million on iTunes, around half a million on YouTube in total)
What changes needed to be made in order to convert the show from a purely internet based show to a terrestrial TV show?
We used more cameras, much more complex sound recording, we had lighting panels in the car, the windows were carefully tinted (legally) and we shot the passengers getting in and out of the car. However once we were driving, it was exactly the same experience.
You produce a longer version of the show for the internet viewers, how did this come about as it seems fairly unique?
That was always the deal and all the parties involved were happy for that to happen. The biggest mistake I made was letting the online versions go cold while I did the Dave versions. Before I stopped the weekly updates I was getting around 30,000 downloads every Friday. When I started them up again 5 months later it had fallen to under 10,000. Now it's slowly building up again, but it's the reliability of people knowing every week there's a new episode which really helps build and audience.
What's next for carpool, and do you have similar projects in the pipeline?
Still unclear, the online version is definitely going to continue, I hope to re-vamp the delivery and presentation some time this year but the essential guts of the show will remain the same.
Feel free to plug Red Dwarf and fully charged.
Fully Charged is a very different project. Making carpool is essentially very simple to shoot and edit. 3 cameras running for 50 minutes, I cut it down to between 25 and 430 minutes and slap it on the internet. Fully Charged is more like a traditional TV show, takes longer to shoot and edit and is very much more time consuming. I'm hoping to get proper funding for Fully Charged, it's in the works, can't reveal any more at the moment.
Oh yeah, and there's this obscure little BBC show I used to do, Red Dwarf, not many people ever watched it, 8 to 10 million on average, and all around the world. We're making a new series at the end of this year, goes out in 2012. Don't know much more about it yet, I know the original cast are all doing it, that's about it.
Thanks to Robert for taking the time to tell us a bit about Carpool and his other projects.
If you want to know more you can follow Robert on twitter (he tweets a lot and is well worth the follow) @bobbyllew
His website http://www.llewtube.com/ is where you can see the latest episodes of Carpool as well as his new online series, called "Fully Charged"

Tags: dave | iss055 | scrapheap | carpool | red dwarf | scrap heap challenge | jon pratchett | robert llewellyn | youtube | llewtube | youtune | channelflip | twitter | @bobbyllew | N/A
Contributing Author N/A

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Contributing Author KitPlus Click to read or download PDF
Grand slam IPTV and digital signage platform
Joe Walsh Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, is home to major league baseball’s Kansas City Royals. Built in 1973, “The K” has a proud baseball legacy, and goes down in history for winning two World Series championship titles; one in 1985 and another in 2015 — exactly 20 years apart. The most recent win brought a resurgence of baseball fever to the stadium, hosting more than 2.7 million fans during its 2015 winning season.
Tags: iss130 | iptv | vitec | eztv | Joe Walsh
Contributing Author Joe Walsh Click to read or download PDF
The shining star of Dancing On Ice
Rod Aaron Gammons Lighting is an incredibly important part of any TV production, and it can make a huge difference to what is seen on-screen. If the right lights are used in the right way, it can create a mood, set a tone and convey a certain atmosphere.
Tags: iss130 | rotolight | led lighting | anova pro 2 | chris yacoubian | Rod Aaron Gammons
Contributing Author Rod Aaron Gammons Click to read or download PDF
Six steps for award winning sound design with Jungle Studios
Chris Turner Few can argue that great sound design is one of the most important elements to any moving picture. Mute most horrors, and the difference in fear factor will be enormous. Visualize Jaws or Star Wars, and John Williams’s iconic score will instantly come to mind.
Tags: iss130 | jungle studios | fairlight | blackmagic design | davinci | Chris Turner
Contributing Author Chris Turner Click to read or download PDF
Reliable back-up at the Music City Bowl
Sam Gordon WLEX – LEX18 – is the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky, and part of the Cordillera Communications Group. As a very popular local station with a broadcast area that covers 40 counties across central Kentucky we have a big commitment to news, broadcasting more than seven hours of live programming on a typical day.
Tags: iss130 | wlex-tv | dejero | engo | gobox | cellsat | Sam Gordon
Contributing Author Sam Gordon Click to read or download PDF
Interview with Peter Rowsell, Polar Graphics
Polar If you don’t recognise the name Peter Rowsell instantly you no doubt would recognise him in person, from the famous ‘Pink Coconut’ parties during IBC (Brighton) in the 80s or the name ‘Polar Video or Polar Graphics’ both companies which he’s built up over the years.
Tags: iss130 | polar graphics | apantac | bluefish | cinedeck | focalpoint | mediaproxy | stardom | storagedna | Polar
Contributing Author Polar Click to read or download PDF
Technological advances in the broadcast industry
Alan Wheable Since it is Omnitek’s 20th anniversary this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back over the technological advances in the broadcast industry over the last few decades and look at the similarities between then and now.
Tags: iss130 | omnitek | test and measurement | smpte 2110 | untra tq | 2022 | sdi 2022-6 | Alan Wheable
Contributing Author Alan Wheable Click to read or download PDF
Out of the box: Sennheiser Ambeo VR microphone
Jon Pratchett 2 The use of 360 video, especially on platforms like Facebook and YouTube is really starting to take off. Gone are the days when you needed to buy multiple GoPros and rigs in order to get something decent looking. Now players like Insta360 and even GoPro with their fusion 360 camera are providing single camera, high quality solutions, enabling the masses to put out reasonable quality, certainly watchable, 360 video.
Tags: iss130 | vr | virtual reality | audio | ambiosonic | Jon Pratchett 2
Contributing Author Jon Pratchett 2 Click to read or download PDF
NAB is all about people
John Smith -new The relative success of NAB is down to people. The individuals we meet, the relationships we make and renew with customers and the desire to work together to develop a technology solution to any given challenge.
Tags: iss130 | media links | nab | mdp 3020 | md8000 | John Smith -new
Contributing Author John Smith -new Click to read or download PDF
State of the Nation
Dick Hobbs - new

On the most recent occasion I was trimmed, my hairdresser had just returned from a holiday in Hawaii.

Where she thought she was going to die. She thought this because the state’s emergency alert system was triggered, sending messages across all available platforms, for 38 minutes, that a ballistic missile was about to strike. That, I suspect, is the sort of thing that casts a pall across your holiday.

Why did it happen? Essentially it happened because an operator selected the wrong menu item. “I feel very badly from what’s happened,” he is quoted as saying, in a somewhat mangled version of English which may at least in part explain his difficulties with menu items.

Tags: iss130 | alertsense | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new Click to read or download PDF
Why OTT needs multicast ABR
Damien Lucas Last year, Netflix’s global revenue reached $11 billion, with 24 million new names added to its subscribers’ list. Viewers are certainly making their preferences heard – and voting with their remote controls to show that over-the-top (OTT) content is here to stay.
Tags: iss130 | ott | abr | adaptive bit rate | cdn | dsl | lte | Damien Lucas
Contributing Author Damien Lucas Click to read or download PDF
How IP-based KVM can improve workflow in broadcast control rooms
John Halksworth One of the most significant shifts the broadcast industry has seen over recent years is the adoption of IP technology as a standard infrastructure across the entire broadcast workflow. IP provides a network suitable for routing audio, video and control around a broadcast facility and is providing the answers to many industry challenges.
Tags: iss130 | kvm | adder | adderlink | alif100t | John Halksworth
Contributing Author John Halksworth Click to read or download PDF
Capturing the spirit of Mexico
Leonardo Dalessandri Filmmaker, director and editor, Leonardo Dalessandri first came to fame with his stunning video ‘Watchtower of Turkey,’ which with more than 200 million views, garnered the accolade of Best Vimeo Video in 2014. His vibrant images are combined with a unique editing style, incorporating slow motion, hyper lapses and invisible match cuts to produce genuinely breathtaking final results.
Tags: iss129 | watchtower of turkey | davinci resolve | blackmagic. corona | Leonardo Dalessandri
Contributing Author Leonardo Dalessandri Click to read