Norwegian Public Service broadcaster NRK will be transmitting the 134 hour boat trip from Bergen to Kirkenes live and non stop, starting Thursday June 16th at 19:45 CET. And you can catch it in the comfort of your own home, either live or via BitTorrent-fueled download. Because we’ll be making everything available with a Creative Commons license. And you can win stuff! More on that shortly.
134 hours of television, that must be a Guinness World Record? Well, no, it can’t compete with the 8,763 hours of a Big Brother show. But it’s still pretty long and close to double the world record for uninterrupted TV watching, so this show should be prime material to set your own world records
Here’s a quick taster; the TV promo:
The live stream is available at nrk.no/hurtigruten from Thursday June 16th 2011 until the ship lands in Kirkenes Wednesday June 22nd. Info on how to download etc. can be found there as well.
8040 minutes of sea and arctic nature
Hurtigruten, the Norwegian Express Line, has for well over 100 years been the backbone of coastal Norway, bringing people and goods up and down the weatherbeaten west coast towards the north of Norway. A fleet of 11 ships service 34 ports from Bergen to Kirkenes, covering a distance comparable to the distance Oslo – Tunisia. Daily, and all year round, regardless of weather. In its heyday, this earned the line its nickname National Highway 1.
With the advent of air transport and roads, the goods and the local travellers aboard have gradually been replaced by tourists coming to explore the fjords and expanses of largely untouched arctic nature in the comfort of cruise ship-like amenities. Comfort except for the sea temperature and the possible range of weather, that is.
Watching paint dry – live on TV
Does this trip makes for brilliant live transmitted television? Five and a half days of rolling sea, with a ship crawling slo-o-owly northwards through the changing seascape, just briefly interrupted by a little less than six daily stops for loading and unloading…?
Well, we wouldn’t have thought as much until one and a half year ago. That’s when we did a TV show covering the train trip from Oslo to Bergen – 7 hours 16 minutes, across mountains and through forests and long tunnels – in real time. It turned out to be NRK2′s most watched show ever – with a healthy margin: 30 % of Norway’s entire TV population dropped in during the transmission. Several of them even wrote to tell us they loved it.
During the show, people were watching the show together, while chatting in the Twitter Carriage – as they put it. A while later, Danish TV channel DR gathered a horde of Danes (probably steeped in mountain envy) in front of their screens when they aired the show in 2010, 170.000 were watching – at a time of day the channel was off air normally. Which might indicate it wasn’t just Norwegian patriotism driving people towards their screens, but maybe also some kind of need for a soothing anti-overload experience.
Following the TV show, people around the world have downloaded the footage, which we’ve made available for download via BitTorrent, and done wonderful things with it – you can read more about that in the article Download Bergensbanen in HD.
No sleep ’til Hammerfest
But. The voyage of Hurtigruten is 18 times as long as the train trip – 134 hours, making it close to humanly impossible, even for hardcore insomniacs, to watch the entire trip. And even before the ship reaches the midnight sun (the sun is up 24/7 as soon as the ship crosses the Polar Circle Sunday morning), the Scandinavian night will be so light it will be hard to excuse a quick nap by grumbling «too dark to see anything».
So what IS this midnight sun thing?
A friend of mine was working in the front line of the tourist trade a couple of years ago and was one day confronted by a visibly disappointed tourist fresh off the cruise ship, who complained she couldn’t see the midnight sun, and also wondered whether it would be possible to see it and the normal sun simultaneously.
The answers to her questions were:
1) the midnight sun is not a daytime thing, hence it’s name
2) it is not visible in Oslo, we’re too far south – but to end on a positive note
3) it is possible to see the midnight sun and the normal sun simultaneously, as they are one and the same.
What is known as the midnight sun, is the good old sun we all see, but the phenomenon only exists in summer, at nighttime, close to the poles. Short explanation: Planet Earth’s axis of rotation is not at a straight angle to our plane of spinning around the sun, it is slightly tilted. Meaning that the half-year of our spin the north is sun-facing, the days are longer in the north and vice versa. Close enough to the poles, beyond the polar circle, the sun doesn’t set during summer. It gets fairly low, so the light is dimmer, but it’s visible. And it’s quite light outside. The flipside is of course that in winter the sun doesn’t rise at all. That makes it easier to see the northern lights, but, well, it isn’t for everyone.
The sun’s highest point is at summer solstice, which in 2011 will be June 21st at 17:16 UTC, right before the ship is landing in Mehamn, as far as I’ve been able to calculate. That is in the daytime, so the midnight sun won’t take notice, but it means that these nights, we’ll be seeing the midnight sun at it’s highest possible point.
What can I see from abroad?
The short answer is everything. Language barriers may stop you from understanding some of the content, but there probably won’t be that much talking on the boat trip, so as long as you understand seagulls, you’ll probably be all right. We’ll also crowd source translations for the torrents, we’ll be returning to that in a later article.
You can watch the entire transmission live via internet streaming right here: nrk.no/hurtigruten. The main content will probably be the forward facing camera, broken up with some other cameras and the odd interview and archive footage.
The TV signal will be beamed back to NRK’s Main Control via satellite from the boat. The massiveness of the TV signal prohibits us from doing more than one live stream from the boat, so live you’ll be seeing the produced programme, which is interspersed with cutaways to different cameras, interviews and archive footage, but at every port on the trip, we’ll be dropping off disks with uninterrupted footage from the forward facing main camera, which we’ll be making available for download continuously as quick as possible via BitTorrent. The video is produced in full HD, but is converted down to SD for transmission from the boat because of bandwidth limitations. The torrents will be full HD, though.
Why are we doing this?
Primarily because we’re a publicly funded Public Service Broadcaster with a responsibility towards Norwegian culture; a responsibility for covering things important to the inhabitants of a small country, a country that in spite of, or perhaps because of, our significant oil wealth has a vulnerable culture. And programmes like this aren’t economically feasible for a commercial channel; to a large amount of the public it probably seems completely useless, but to some of our viewers it can have a very high value, be something they wouldn’t get in any other way, and in twenty or two hundred years, it will be a strange document of life at the edge of civilisation from a different time.
Also, there’s the NRKbeta Doctrine
The only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it.
It is only by doing this we can we be sure that the content is available to the public in the best possible quality.
And finally, we have to admit there’s an element of «because we can» – as Norway’s largest broadcaster, we have the experience, we have the personnel and we have the equipment to undertake productions of this magnitude, and marathon productions keep us on our toes.
What we’re giving you to play with
Apart from the TV transmission via old-skool TV here in Norway, we are streaming the programme live to the Internet.
Underway, we’re giving you a Flash site (we know some of our users, for instance those on iPads, aren’t happy with Flash, but some of the video trickery is unfortunately impossible to do otherwise). We’re working on a stripped down version for iOS which we hope will be available later tonight. Here you’ll be able to go back and forth in the video, chat with the other passengers partaking in the virtual cruise, share all of or parts of the trip with friends, navigate maps, get data from the bridge, such as map with information on ships in the vicinity, position, depth, speed, weather etc, you’ll find behind the scenes-footage about the production, archive footage and still images, plus you’ll be able to do the trip in 3D with the Google Earth plugin. And there’s also a Flickr photostream.
So how was the internet part of the production conceived?
a little MASSIVE help from our friends
NRKbeta (NRK’s technology & media sandbox – the blog you’re reading right now) is blessed with a large contingent of helpful and friendly readers providing us with endless input. After we asked how we best could undertake this project, our readers have suggested a lot of the things we’ll try to be doing the coming days. To put the amount of effort our readers have put in in perspective: After we wrote this blog post (translated to English by one of our kind readers here), which is 3 PageDowns long on my PC, we got 64 PageDown-lengths of suggestions, comments and «I’m now paying my license fee with pleasure»-thumbs ups. Which kind of makes you proud to work at a place like this.
The circled part is the article, the rest is comments and suggestions:
As the ship lands in the various ports northwards, we’ll be dropping off video material from the forward facing camera and make it continuously available for BitTorrent download. And as soon as the trip is over, we’ll do an export from all the ship’s data systems, crunch it, and make it available in a sensible form.
It is up to you to do weird and wonderful stuff with all this. For inspiration, you can take a look at the projects submitted for the Bergensbanen remix competition (in Norwegian, sorry)
We cannot let this project last only during the voyage, we must make sure it lives on beyond today and beyond Norway. Because of that, we are giving away all the material with a Creative Commons license, in the hope that the creative people of the world can make better, wider, more creative use of the material than we can imagine or achieve within our means. And to make it attractive, we’re giving away a NOK 8040 (that’s one Norwegian Kroner pr minute video material, or around € 1000) gift card, good for travelling in Norway, to the person presenting the best application of the material from the boat trip. A jury consisting of swell people from NRK will select the best mashup project based on content from Hurtigruten. Submissions must comply with the Creative Commons BY-SA license terms, be available for evaluation and be submitted to remix @ nrkbeta.no by September 1st 2011. The first prize is a gift card, good for travel in Norway, value of Norwegian Kroner 8040. Go create!
License for use
The license for using the material will be the same as for Bergensbanen, Creative Commons BY-SA, which means:
You are free to…
to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work.
to Remix — to adapt the work
You can edit the work, color correct it, put on graphics, play backwards, anything, as long as you follow the terms in the license.
Under the following conditions…
Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
All your derivative works must be marked with the URL to http://nrkbeta.no/hurtigruten. If you make something for the web, the link should be clickable. Videos should have both a clickable link in the text description and this text superimposed at the end:
«Hurtigruten» – NRK
Failing to do this, is a breach of terms.
Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license.
Everything you make from our work, must have the same Creative Commons license. Which rules out using other people’s work (unless they also are Creative Commons or similiar), because you have to share your work with the same license.
Failing to do this, is a breach of terms.
The work is also licensed for commercial use. But again, you have to make your work available with the same Creative Commons license.
You can share and remix the work – also commercially – as long as you credit NRK and link to http://nrkbeta.no/hurtigruten, and use the same Creative Commons license on your work. For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this, is with a link to this web page.
Talk to us
If you’d like to share your experience, give us suggestions etc, use the Twitter hashtag #hurtigruten – and there’s always the comments field under this article.
If you’re a reddit-user, the discussion is here
If you’re on Digg – please digg it.
More English language coverage of Hurtigruten:
newsinenglish.no: Norwegians love Hurtigruten show
newsinenglish.no: Hurtigruten show draws millions
wired.co.uk: Norway’s NRK webcasts 134-hour arctic boat ride
broadbandtvnews.com: NRK sets pace with ‘slow TV’