26 Apr 2016

USP at the Olivier Awards

With the awards season hangover finally wearing off, we thought now would be the perfect time to share our story of life on the red carpet and at our theatres most sought-after honours ceremony, the Olivier Awards.

This year we joined in the 40th anniversary celebrations at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. USP Content were live from the red carpet as the stars walked stylishly into London’s iconic six columned beacon of culture that is, of course, home to the Royal Ballet. Here, we conducted pre-show interviews for Mellow Magic with some of musical theatres most prestigious stars who talked joyfully to us mere mortals in front of camera. We chatted to and filmed the West End’s finest performers, including Dame Judi Dench, Juliet Stevenson, Luke Evans, Mark Gatiss, Arlene Philips and Imelda Staunton, to name but a small yet anticipant few. The video interviews we produced went straight up online and were repackaged for Magic, the Bauer Network and Sirius XM radio station to much rapturous applause in the form of more digital claps in the form of ‘likes’ and ’shares’ – all the world is, it would appear, now a stage!

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But the fun didn’t stop there. Our presenters were on hand to bring the best of the action from the ceremony itself as well as all the action backstage before. Only once all the awards were handed out and celebrity swooning was complete, did we have the opportunity to let our hair down at the after-party. Complete with complimentary Fortnum & Mason chocolates, an excellent canapé collection and the finest selection of wine to help ease the blows from being star struck. We saw out the night feeling on a par at last with these great stage and screen performers, nay national treasures! Our A-list evening lasted only for a wonderful couple of hours before we were back to the office and back down to Earth on Monday morning.

Check out our photo gallery from the evening here

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20 Apr 2016

In Search of Southern Hospitality

What is southern hospitality? Where can you find the Soul from the South? A recent USP Content production commissioned by BBC Radio 4 tries to find out. It is without a doubt a different way of life and the programme goes in search around various towns, cities and events of America’s deep south, teemed with Rich Hall’s comedic understanding of the place he originally comes from.

Rich starts by aiming to explore the geographical definition for ‘southern’. Is it below the Mason Dixon line, the mid-south or deep-south and what do Brits think of the so-called Southern Charm? There are those who believe the charm, the hospitality and friendliness to be a façade for a dark past or reality.

The programme rightly delves into history. Could it be that the former gentry culture which the upper classes adopted from English country life influenced the current image of southern America? As the programme explores, you’re never too poor to be hospitable. The notion of be friendly and welcoming stems from the lonely days on the farm where those working on the land would welcome visitors to hear new stories from the outside world to order to compensate for their sheltered life.

Rich goes in search of culture in Memphis, home to Elvis Presley and the country, hill-billy and blues music scene. Is it possible that the exportation of music is the firm vibe of true southern hospitality? Down in the farmers’ market consumers give their opinions, food, family and festivals of music are all the key ingredients of a staple southern life and conversational diet. To them, it’s the freedom to approach anybody safe in the knowledge that they will talk and dance and ultimately love life, which keeps spirits high – even the most sceptical of souls.

Rich Hall goes in search of Southern Soul

Rich Hall goes in search of Southern Soul

The unique culture, which contribute to Southern Hospitality, also contrast between the old and the young. Rich discovers that real Southern Hospitality for the younger generations is less about being hospitable and more about how you view others and accept them to make them feel comfortable.

Rich goes to a ‘tailgate party’, which to those less familiar is a pre-football (American not soccer) festival of cooking, drinking and serving up music for strangers on the street. The answers to any questions he has range simply from telling their colourful life stories to simply smiling and saying ‘Hi’ in return.

So what is this well-known and well-loved concept we call Southern Hospitality? Is it food, music or friendliness? Rich neatly wraps this up while hanging out on a balcony overlooking a porch in front of the community at large. It is here that he, and therefore we, become the fabric of the community. The porch is your true living room, in front of the neighbours where the opportunity – and honour – to get an invite up to a stranger’s porch should always be taken. There is surely no better focal point to engage in the hospitality Rich went in search for, but right here!

Have a listen to the joint project between USP Content and Folder Media and judge for yourself here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b075mlth

13 Apr 2016

Virtually Reality

As the techno-tentacles of Oculus Rift get ready to grip the globe into submissions of an alternative reality, USP Content got to have a play of the virtual reality kit deemed to be the future of gaming technology ahead of its official release.
Understandably, there was no training and no manual to read beforehand. But, having grown up with a Commodore 64, Super Nintendo and eventually a PlayStation, it was just going to be another computer game, right?

No. In fact, not at all. Make no illusions, no amount of preparation for this highly anticipated ultra-3D experience can get you prepared for how mind-boggling and emotionally overwhelming the whole concoction is. Transporting from the office chair to submerge into an entirely different world is nothing short of the experience.

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Place the goggles before your expectant eyes, headphones over your eager ears and…relax?
The excitement is unsettling and even for the most hardened of joystick tapping veterans of the home entertainment world it is, heart-wrenchingly good fun!

So, what did we do?

The first game played was Alien Isolation. Inside the dilapidated spaceship you look around to discover you’re stranded in some kind of green armoured metal wreck. It’s an iron fortress, galactic-hopping vehicle destroyed by a rogue alien who was on the prowl for human flesh – yours!

Turning the headpiece full–circle in order to navigate the room, you are conscious of the fact that your nodding and bobbing head probably looks ridiculous in the real world and to those watching, but humiliation is a small price to pay for staying alive when aliens are on the hunt.

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Walking around the ship using the controller, your warm seat and gravitational pull to it is the only reminder that you are not really dodging an alien assault. Push the controller forward and you walk towards a door, press a button and it opens. Then you see a new scene with which you only have a minute to comprehend fully before an alien – on this occasion – stabs you in the back before you are forced to look over your disemboweled body. Your heart, though virtually dead, is thumping in reality!

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Our next challenge was to defuse a bomb in the new game called Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. With the help of colleagues shouting instructions (or should that be destructions!) aimlessly from afar. We gave ourselves names: the man in the hot seat, Maverick, received the codes from Goose in order to stop the explosive device detonating. The bomb Maverick saw was settled on a table from which he could hit various buttons at the right time, or work out picture sequences in the right order, from only the communication between the two ‘top-gamers’ and the manual Goose had to command instructions and defuse it. No member of the USP team averted a nuclear disaster and it’s fair to say the future is safe without us interfering!

Adjusting to Reality

While this colourful piece of prose might question the reader into believing they’re harder than the average man – unlike us softies here! – duly note this: the true difficulty of virtual reality, in whatever format it comes in today or in the future, is adapting back to normality once the headphones and goggles are off. A part of you ends up questioning whether it all really happened at all, whilst a different part of course notes that it was just a game. This, much like stepping off a boat you’ve been on for three days, leaves you sea – or game – sick and a number of us here at USP Content (including a tall burly bearded beer-drinker, surely of Viking descent) enough to crash into corridor walls on our way out of the games studio.

The conscious separation of knowing that you’re somewhere physically but seeing something else confuses the mind delightfully. Look out for another USP Content production in podcast form over the coming weeks about this awesome piece of kit. One thing is clear, virtual reality gaming has arrived!

5 Jan 2016

USP Content see in 2016 at the London New Year’s Day Parade

Happy New Year from everyone at USP Content! Not everyone in the office was able to party hard into the early hours of 2016 as we prepared to put on a spectacular show in Central London.

The London New Year’s Day Parade is watched by over 300 million people worldwide on TV and it boasts twice as many participants than the Thanksgiving Day parade by Macy’s in New York City.

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Presenters Dan Lobb and Harriet Scott in action

The turn of the year tradition celebrated its 30th year on January 1st. The London New Year’s Day Parade consisted of an amalgamation of marching bands from the USA, cheerleaders, historic cars and motorbikes, large helium balloons and a daring escape from international illusionist Darcy Oake. The Canadian daredevil performed a sensational escape from being handcuffed and in stocks whilst his head was submerged in a water tank for the half a million members of the public lining the London streets.

USP Content produced the worldwide TV coverage of the event across all channels and streams, alongside delivering broadcast PR coverage in the run up to the event.

USP Content Production Crew in action

USP Content Production Crew in action

30 Nov 2015

LEGO’s Santa Express Train Launch

Last week, we had the pleasure of working with plastic construction company LEGO for the launch of their Christmas Build in Covent Garden. This year’s festive treat was unveiled as a Santa Express Train, made with over 500,000 LEGO bricks. It features three carriages, an engine and driver’s cabin, a carriage full of presents and a carriage delivering a Christmas Tree. The Santa Express is complete with special effects including smoke from the funnel, sounds and lights. Check out the video from the launch here.

USP Content were present for the unveiling at a fresh, cold and cloudy Covent Garden at 6:30am. After earning live spots with Good Morning Britain and conducting interviews for an upcoming Boxing Day feature on Channel 4, the sun rose enough to allow photographers to get shots of the impressive build, blanketed by snow…of the machine variety, not natural climatic conditions. We even managed to gain some coverage ourselves (see below).

USP at the LEGO Launch

After achieving a hard day’s work in the early morning, we took the mastermind LEGO builder Duncan Titmarsh back to our studios to conduct over 20 interviews for radio stations up and down the UK, who wanted to hear more about his enviable job.

Audiences across Britain heard more about Duncan’s awesome life as the UK’s only LEGO Certified Professional. Talking about how he came to discovering the joy of building LEGO towers at the tender age of four to setting up his own company ‘Bright Bricks’ and embarking on the journey to become the UK’s one and only Official Certified LEGO Builder.

In 2010 he had to prove that he was operating his own LEGO building business and submit a portfolio of his creative builds for assessment. He also had to demonstrate his understanding of the LEGO Company and its values.

Duncan in our studios

Duncan in our studios

His full-time job has now meant that he has taken on LEGO fans to work alongside him at his unit near Farnham, Surrey. He has helped LEGO build all of their Christmas builds since it began in 2011.
Managing to achieve video, TV and online coverage, alongside extensive radio broadcast, the event was a large success.

This year’s Santa Express train is situated in North-East Covent Garden Piazza until December 29th 2015, go check it out!