How’d They Do That?

The latest evolutions in the diverse pop-science genre, where everything from engineering shows to motoring series are in demand.

The simple flush of a toilet belies the almost unimaginable complexities of cities’ sewer systems. The beep of a microwave oven signals the end of a journey that required incredible innovations in food science. The click of a TV remote ignites a chain reaction so you can flip on your favorite shows.

Audiences are gripped by the narrative being woven on top of the visuals that make them feel privy to private worlds. “The high production value is attractive, but viewers stay for the storytelling,” says Hud Woodle, executive VP of international sales and operations at GRB Studios. “It always goes back to the storytelling.”

The engineering and technology genres are seeing an upswing in nearly every market around the world. Orange Smarty, for one, has seen a great performance from Inside Jaguar: A Supercar is Reborn, an engineering documentary that follows a team of automotive artisans as they hand build the Jaguar XKSS from scratch. In the same vein is GRB’s Tech Toys 360, one of the company’s most popular pop-science programs. The series gives viewers “the story behind the coolest gear, from personal flying machines to supercars, and interviews with inventors and exclusive tours of the factories that produce these gadgets,” Woodle says.

GRB’s Man at Arms: Art of War explores engineering from a different angle. “This fun show highlights weapons from famous movies or TV shows, like Conan the Barbarian or Game of Thrones, and then talented artists re-create the weapons,” says Woodle.

Producers always keep in mind their potential market when chewing over the perennial question of how to present a pop-science topic to audiences. Sometimes, series need to be anchored with a host and given a little bit of a human touch. But for distributors, it can be a tough sell if a series has a person fronting it because it narrows the potential market. Hosts mean personality, but locality as well. So how do you strike the right balance between the two? “There’s really no formula to it, it just depends on meeting the audience demands,” says GRB’s Woodle. “As many options as we can have with versioning a show, the better a show can perform.”

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