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Behind the scenes of that ice-melting video

An experiment on the hottest day of the year divided Brandon Sun readers between those who thought we were hilarious, and those who thought we had lost our news-sense marbles.

With temperatures officially recorded at the airport of just over 30ºC, but thermometers in the city registering more like 34ºC, I went out and bought a four-kilogram block of ice. I set it up in a Brandon Sun car in our parking lot see how fast it would melt, using my phone to take video of the ice-block's slow demise.

My phone melted first. So I took it home with me after work, set it up in my yard, and used my (cooled-down) phone to livestream the melting block of ice to anyone who cared to watch.

But let me back up a little bit.

It's not an original idea. In fact, I entirely ripped off 9NEWS KUSA in Denver who did the exact same thing earlier this summer. I even stole their idea to include a thermometer in the shot, and I copied how they set it up with a drip tray and buckets.

Maybe next summer I'll arrange to have a 300-pound block of ice delivered, like this news station in Washington, D.C. did last year.

Livestreaming a melting block of ice seemed like a quirky thing to do, while also being a very low-stakes way to test apps and processes for livestreaming that could come in handy for other live broadcasts in the future.

Plus, let's be honest, it was hot and I didn't want to sit in the office any longer than I had to.

Setting the whole thing up was tougher than I thought. I'd been waiting for a day with temperatures of 30ºC or higher and bright sunny skies. Yesterday was the first opportunity, and of course it had to be a super busy morning. But when the afternoon rolled around, I rolled out.

I had the thermometer (long story) and I had an iPhone on which I'd installed both the Livestream app and the UStream app. Turned out that UStream lets you embed videos without paying, so I went with them.

I scrounged a bucket from around the Brandon Sun offices, and cut a slice out of a cardboard box to jury-rig an iPhone stand. I even went home to get an extension cord so I could plug the phone in and avoid draining the battery.

The hardest part turned out to be finding a block of ice. Most places only sell cubes these days, but I eventually tracked them down at the Safeway at the Shoppers Mall. It was about $3.50 and it turns out that the four-kilogram block of ice fit perfectly into my little personal-sized hard-sided cooler. I mean it slid in snugly, like it was designed for it.

Getting back to the Sun, I set things up in the car, with the ice an a foil tray that I poked holes in, so that the meltwater would drain into the bucket below. Then I snaked the power cord out the window, pointing my phone at the ice. It was HOT. The thermometer spiked to 49ºC inside the car with the windows rolled up.

Once I was satisfied, I went back to my desk to write up a quick story and post the stream. This was about 3:30 p.m.

But … the stream was blank. Back to the car I trotted, where my phone was displaying a message "Too hot to use." Uh-oh.

I quickly put the ice back in the cooler (it was wet, but hadn't really melted any) and pondered a back-up plan. I decided to head home, where I knew there was wifi, a sunny spot in the yard, power, and more importantly, I could keep an eye on it all evening long with a cool drink in my hand.

By 5 p.m., after a few snafus, the livestream was rolling again. It was harder on my wifi than I had thought, and at first it kept crapping out on me. It was better when I reduced it to standard definition instead of super high-def (who wants to watch ice melt at 1080p?) and killed the mike.

Then, it was time to just sit back and watch the accolades roll in.

Or not.

People seemed evenly split between how dumb it was, how boring it was, or how brilliant it was.

We were told that the Brandon Sun had "won the Internet" with the live streaming. Also that the place was falling apart.

One comment on our site said that we were going downhill. Comments on Facebook were mainly about how boring it seemed.

Eventually, as the sun set and the ice lingered, I began to worry that the ice would outlast the livestreaming. Temperatures dropped by 10 degrees as soon as the sun went behind the trees, although it stayed fairly warm.

Finally, I had to pull the plus on the livestream and go to bed, I think around 12:30 a.m. There was still a substantial amount of ice left — but it was all gone by the morning.

All in all, it was a lot of fun to try something different, and I learned a few things that may come in handy in the future, and at least a few people clicked on the livestream.

See you next hot day, block of ice!

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