Internet users will have control of Big Brother cameras

Ground-breaking technology will be used in the next series of the Channel Four television programme that will give Internet viewers more control than ever before
Written by Wendy McAuliffe, Contributor

Big Brother will put viewers in the director's chair this Friday when the programme's Web site goes live with groundbreaking Internet technology.

The second instalment of last summer's voyeuristic experiment in television will let viewers control cameras that stream live video over the Internet.

Programme maker Channel Four has fitted the infamous house with Be Here cameras, to be dubbed as PanCams, which can stream panoramic images to an individual PC or to a wide audience and allow the users to view a portion of the shot at one time. TranCams will also empower the audience to direct the camera lens onto the person that they most want to watch.

As last year, live video-streaming promises will deliver images to users' desktops, allowing them to see the action at the same time as the production crew, way ahead of television viewers.

However this year, the uptake of high speed Internet connections such as ADSL mean there will be no time delay.

"The only delay is encoding -- the streaming will be as fast as a PIII can encode RealVideo," said Morgan Holt, editor of the Big Brother Web site. The use of instant streaming removes the opportunity for producers to cut saucy content, but this is not a problem for the producers.

"We've got a team of people working to ensure the content is compliant for a Big Brother audience -- the majority of our viewers want to see flirtation and the promise of sex," said Holt.

Last summer the Big Brother site experienced a series of outage problems when up to four million viewers attempted to log on for landmark events such as the violent confrontation between Craig and Nick. But with British telco Energis on board this year, streaming will be broadcast directly from its facilities which should provide five times as much bandwidth as last year. "We're taking Web streaming to the edge, playing with how to get online broadcasting working," said Holt.

The revisited phenomenon is also going for a multi-platform approach this time round, teaming up with BT to provide WAP and mobile updates. "Last year lots of Internet users were hungry for more coverage," said Holt.

They can see you... Read about how and why in Surveillance, a ZDNet News Special

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