How long to prepare 30 seconds on air?

The email inviting me to be one of the bloggers in Q&A’s Bloggerheads came while we were in Australia a couple of weeks ago.

I replied saying I was interested and would report in when I was back in New Zealand, which I did.

The producer, Tim Watkin, responded to that with a phone call on Thursday asking if I could record 30 seconds on the issue of the week for this Sunday in the next 24 hours. I hesitated.

There were  several semi-urgent things on my to-do list, but goodness, how much time would it take to prepare for and record 30 seconds on air?

I said yes and he emailed a link for the software I needed to download in order to get the video from my computer to his.


I tried downloading it to the laptop and when that didn’t work I tried the PC. That didn’t work either. I called Tim. He sent a different link. It worked.

Thirty seconds is a maximum of 90 words. Any more and you have totalksofastallthewordsruntogether.

But three words a second still means talking quite quickly and leaves no time for pause or emphasis.

I used to write a column for Teletext which required getting a coherent idea across in very few words and that discipline came in handy. I managed to make a point in 75 words and prepared to record.


I’d never used the webcam, couldn’t find the paper instructions and a search on the computer drew a blank.

Maybe that little eye thingy wasn’t a camera and the computer didn’t have one? But I was going to be in Dunedin next day so could buy one and record the clip there.

My first stop on Friday was Noel Leeming where a very helpful young woman explained the pros and cons of various cameras, recommended one and then mentioned discs. The HP Mini I had with me doesn’t have a disc drive.

She looked at it and agreed with me, then she looked again and said, “But it’s got a camera.”

She did that fast tap, tapping young computer-literate people do, found the camera and showed me how to use it.

I thanked her profusely and went back to the car. En route I caught sight of my reflection in a mirror and gulped. I know what they say about a sow’s ear and a silk purse, but even a sow’s ear can be improved with skilled help.

As I drove along George Street I noticed a park outside Rodney Wayne, a hairdressing salon I’d used before. I parked, went in and explained why my hair required a little emergency attention. The lovely receptionist consulted the appointment book and said Amy could help.

Half an hour later,  looking much less dishevelled, I drove to my niece’s flat and requested the use of a quiet room for recording.

I turned the computer on, found the camera, pushed record, counted to 10 as instructed and delivered my 75 words. Then I clicked  preview.


The preview showed pictures but had no sound.

I searched for audio devices and as far as I could see anything that ought to be turned on was.

I went back to Noel Leeming and explained my problem. A helpful young man talked me through the pros and cons of various microphones, told me the one he recommended just had to be plugged into a USB port and all would be well.

I returned to my niece’s flat, commandeered her baby’s bedroom again, turned on the computer, plugged in the microphone, turned it on, opened the webcam, clicked record,  did my piece again, and clicked preview.


It still showed pictures but had no sound.

I shut down the computer, packed it up and took it to SCL electronics who’d sold it to me in the first place. There Alex did the  fast tap, tapping young computer-literate people do, clicked record, said a few words, clicked preview and got pictures and words back.

He then talked me through the steps to follow in case I lost the sound again.

I returned to my niece’s flat, commandeered her baby’s bedroom a third time, turned on the computer, plugged in the microphone, opened the webcam, recorded my piece and clicked preview.


It played pictures but no words again..

I followed Alex’s instructions, clicked on record, recited the 75 words again, clicked preview and got both words and pictures.

I then tried to send it to Auckland.


The wireless connection kept disconnecting.

My niece suggested trying to connect via their computer.

I did and it worked.


Connecting to the programme was only the first step I had to transfer the file and I couldn’t find it.

My niece tried but she couldn’t find it either. She called her husband, who’s studying IT.

He did the fast tap, tapping young computer-literate people do, found the file and told me how to transfer it.

I clicked and dragged as instructed, clicked send and it worked.


So there you have it, several hours to prepare the 30 seconds on air which is to be broadcast on Q& A sometime between 9 and 10.30 this morning.

Brought to you with the help of  two young people at Noel Leeming, Amy at Rodney Wayne, Alex at SCL, my niece and her husband – with  special thanks tom their son whose cot appears in the background.

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