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It's so 'real' on the Net

July 13, 2009 11:17 IST

Swapnali: Frozen in the 2 degree C at Kruger. Warmed at heart by leopards and cubs.

Chhavi: Morning game ride and river cruise - stunning!

Hrish: Headed for a world-class spa at Drakensberg mountains after leaving sunny Durban behind! :)

Rohit: Checking out of Tsala Treetop - if there was a better word for luxury, this would be it. Posts on Tsala later. . .

Zishaan: Swam with the Great White sharks in the Atlantic.

Quick postings from participants on another reality show? Correct. An adventurous bunch of youngsters let loose on a gritty series? Yes.

Yet another to add to the lethal mix of shows like Bigg Boss, Sarkar Ki Duniya and Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao on the idiot box?

No. We're talking about theĀ  first-of-its-kind 'online' reality show offered by www.in.com, the web initiative of Network 18 and the South Africa Tourism.

Yes, you heard it right. It's an ongoing reality show of sorts on the World Wide Web (http://f5southafrica.in.com/). Even as you read on, a group of five young Indians -- two documentary filmmakers, a radio journalist, a web content specialist and a start-up telecom executive -- with a passion for adventure, travel and internet (not strictly in that order) are in South Africa jotting down observations, shooting videos, writing blog posts, posting online images and essentially sharing their views on what they think of the beautiful country that is, for now, their temporary home.

What's nice (as the aforementioned online notes suggest) is that their trip is a healthy mix of luxury, camping, adventure and sport, all tailored to perfection into one tidy trip.

The Fantastic Five, as they are called, have already gone through a gruelling schedule in the process of getting selected. According to Web18 CEO Surya Mantha, while the groundwork for this online event started five months ago, the selection was done at three levels -- online auditions across India, uploading of a minute's travel video/travel photo series and a 100-word essay to show off the participants' writing skills.

Later, 15 of them were followed through blogs and finally five were selected.

The participants are engaging themselves in a riot of fun. What's more, while traversing cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and losing themselves in the majestic Kruger National Park (jealous, aren't you?), they are also getting a dedicated following.

The entire series is powered by Blish, in.com's new micro-blogging platform (www.blish.in.com) that allows the participants to post status updates, videos, photos and text articles quickly, even via GPRS or WAP, if required.

While the response has been tremendous, Mantha adds that the concept is a relatively new one for Indian audiences.

"It will be some time before we experience a rise in the number of online reality shows," says Mantha, adding: "We are the first to have reality content virtually live and unedited from five different locations in parallel, 7,800 km away."

The show could well be a crash course in what today's travellers should carry on their trips. The winners, for instance, will be capturing amazing sights of the Kruger National Park through videos on a Sony DCR SR47 hard-disk camcorder with 20GB capacity while shooting breathtaking visuals on an 8-megapixel digital camera.

The content will be uploaded via 2Mbps global roaming data cards on Apple MacBooks, Lenovo and HP laptops. As for blogging, Mantha explains that the participants are engaging in micro-blogging with content often being sent live from phones in, what he calls, "Twitter-like short message updates".

Simply put, their travel experiences are recorded 'live' and weave together a whole lot of elements, including imagery through videos, photos and articles.

A few years from now, an online series like this one may be nothing extraordinary.

But you must remember the initiative taken by www.in.com and the South Africa Tourism. Also remember, it is here that you read about it first.

Abhilasha Ojha in New Delhi
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