A first-of-its-kind travel show that takes an Emirati idea to the world, Peeta Planet has been drawing a constant following right from the day it launched on Dubai One. BroadcastPro ME caught up with the men behind the social media travel show to learn more When Peeta Planet first aired on Dubai One in April […]
A first-of-its-kind travel show that takes an Emirati idea to the world, Peeta Planet has been drawing a constant following right from the day it launched on Dubai One. BroadcastPro ME caught up with the men behind the social media travel show to learn more
When Peeta Planet first aired on Dubai One in April this year, it immediately made headlines. It was attention well deserved for a TV series claimed to be the first of its kind. The series is targeted at the social media generation. Although not quite breaking away from traditional TV, it offers a rather different viewing experience, with several dimensions of social media added to it.
A brainchild of Mohamed and Peyman Parham Al Awadhi, it is anything but another travel show that features exotic locales and tourist attractions. For starters, it is presented by kandoura-clad Emirati brothers looking for the lesser known treasures a place has to offer. It is also an Emirati idea that goes out to the rest of the world.
The idea took root as early as 2009 when social media was not so popular; it was before the smartphone and tablet revolution.
“We were big on social media and used it extensively back then, when very few people had taken to it. We had just opened our restaurant Wild Peeta. To take a break we happened to crowdsource a three day vacation to Sri Lanka through Twitter and Facebook. It turned out to be quite an interesting trip as we were constantly tweeting about the places we visited, posting photos and comments,” says Mohamed, the older of the two brothers.
This sort of unusual vacation opened a whole new virtual world of friends and followers for the brothers, who decided to take the idea further and came up with the concept of a social media travel show on TV.
Mohamed says, “It was almost like we had all the ingredients but couldnt figure out the recipe.”
They approached twofour54 ibtikar, which embraced the concept and offered to fund a pilot.
After several sessions of discussions and brainstorming, Mohamed and Peyman set up their production company Qabeela New Media in 2010. The newly minted company, which is based out of Abu Dhabi Media Freezone produced the pilot episode to demonstrate the concept. The pilot was shot in Tokyo with support from Ibtikar development fund. The 22-minute pilot was then pitched to Dubai Media Incorporated, which commissioned twelve 21-minute episodes to Qabeela New Media. The title of the show was an offshoot of the brothers restaurants name.
In fact, Peeta Planet is the first Ibtikar project to go on air and a financially viable one at that.
A documentary on social travel
Peeta Planet is a social media driven show, which means the destinations covered on the show have been suggested by the brothers social media following. Even the places to visit and the people to interview come from the same lot. There is no dearth of travel shows but the control the viewer has over this particular format is what makes it different.
Mohamed says: “The style that you see in our show is not the standard reality show style. When we show a city we dont film the usual tourist spots but try to capture the texture of the place by filming the lesser known places that give viewers the true essence of the city.”
“Its a completely new way of filming, the viewers are all directors of the show,” explains Peyman.
Everything from the show goes online, and the viewers are involved at every step of the show in true social media style, there is not a moment missed.
However, the team admits that there was a degree of ambiguity involved in some segments of the show, the crew learnt as they filmed and only got a firm grasp of the format by the time they were in the third country.
Having said that, it is this ambiguity that brings a thrill of unravelling something new every time.
Tony Ruthnam, Senior Supervising Editor at twofour54 and Lead Editor and Co-Producer of Peeta Planet, handled the pilot of the series. He has also worked on the post production of the subsequent episodes. Ruthnam describes the show as organic; although it doesnt follow a definitive script, everything falls in place because everyone in the team shares a common vision.
He explains, “We dont have a script but about three hours of rushes for an interview that are sent to us. Given the nature of the show, you film for two hours and get two minutes.”
A multi-cultural crew adds yet another dimension to the multi-layered show. No one in the team except for the presenters is Arab.
The team on location puts together a plan and the brief is sent out to the crew at the editing desk. One member of the post collates all the information. As soon as the information is picked up its on Google handle instantly, discussing how things are going to playout.
The editors receive up to two terrabites of footage for each episode to work on in post. The colour grading is done on ProTools10 and Final Cut Pro suites.
“The footage that comes back is stunning; colours, levels, everything is already there. We balance it out at the editing desk, making sure it comes out crystal clear, and therefore, our task in grading is fairly minimal. We are often pleasantly surprised by what comes out,” adds Ruthnam.
For season one, two editors worked for three months each and spent six months in all to edit the footage; which makes it about two and half to three days on each episode. The show was in pre-production for four weeks with 20-hour daily work schedules.
The editing to shooting ratios are very high and finding the correct balance can make or break an episode, explains Ruthnam.
The editors work five days offline and three days online adding the social media elements and all the graphic overlays. The audio requires some amount of work too. Grading, by far, is the toughest, because unlike in a creative grade you cannot cover up much as most of it goes in the original format.
Mohamed says, “Our social media director passes over all the material that is posted online including all the behind-the-scenes pictures and clips.
“We ensure that we incorporate the same clips in the show as well.”
As for the musical score, the show features local musicians and the lesser known bands from a particular city. According to the team, music is a good vehicle to highlight the true flavour of a city, hence a lot of emphasis is laid upon street music and local bands on the show. They help unravel the weft and waft of a place, and give the show its unique streak.
The show doesnt feature the stereotypical musicians but slightly off-beat bands and street artists that truly define a place.
Each of the crew members wears different hats, as the roles are not clearly demarcated. For instance, the producers and directors are also the showss cinematographers everything they plan, they shoot at the same time.
Peeta Planet is a labour of love for all those involved. The spontaneity of the show sets it apart from a regualr scripted show, which is probably the reason for its popularity as well.