Billed as the first such event staged for TV anywhere in the world, Channel 5's week-long production of 'Touch the Truck' followed in the footsteps of 'Big Brother', yielding round-the-clock broadcast coverage of a test of endurance.
20 members of the public competed in a challenge to see who could last longest at standing in Lakeside Shopping Centre, keeping one hand on a Toyota Landcruiser. The £50,000 4WD vehicle was the prize. The show, consisting of live and edited coverage, was broadcast on 5 consecutive nights, and continuous live coverage was available on the broadcaster's web site.
Three engineers, led by sound supervisor Mark Swinglehurst, took it in turns to man the Soundcraft Ghost 32/8/2 audio mixer, providing facilities for Shots Television. "Each contestant wore a cabled lavalier microphone, and these 20 channels were mixed down on the Ghost. The output was then fed to five Beta VTR machines, which were recording the five "surveillance" cameras via audio D.A.s.
"The mix was fed to the Outside Broadcast Truck, for contribution into the live show, transmitted from site every night. It was also mixed with the other radio mics, audience mics, music cues and edited VT packages to be transmitted via satellite up-link to Channel 5." A further feed was also routed onto the internet, to give access to the site, live via the Channel 5 website.
"I chose the Ghost console because it is very quiet, and offers flexible technical facilities in a compact-sized frame. It was essential to have a 100% reliability, as it was operational 24 hours a day, and it performed really well throughout the series."
'Touch the Soundcraft' was not an event; Mark Swinglehurst and his two colleagues actually worked a shift system, taking it in terms to man the audio mix position.
Made by Vashca Productions' for Channel 5, 'Touch the Truck' saved its best until the final moments. Last man standing, and therefore winner of the Landcruiser, was eco-warrior Jerry Middleton, a man who once spent 4 days sitting in the top of a tree as part of an anti-road building campaign. In his acceptance speech, he announced that he was going to sell "the gas-guzzler" and use the money to fund the formation of a new political party. Look out for him at the next General Election.