From corpses to omnipotence

Guy Campos meets the brains behind the Big Brother Web site and uncovers his sinister past

Guy Campos meets the brains behind the Big Brother Web site and uncovers his sinister past

Mark Baynes spent nine years photographing dead bodies before designing the network architecture for the Big Brother Web site, writes Guy Campos.

Baynes' career in scene-of-crime photography involved him in a process known to law enforcement professionals as "carcass retrieval". He had to photograph corpses before they were put into body suits and taken to the morgue. He then had to take more photographs.

No doubt the experience prepared him for any image to come out of the Big Brother house in East London, where 10 participants in a TV-cum-Web site show are locked up for nine weeks. For those who don't know, every week one of the prisoners is kicked out after a vote by TV and Internet viewers, with the last survivor winning a prize of £70,000.

In many ways, Baynes has just the right mix of technical and media skills needed for his job as executive producer of the site. After leaving the morgue behind him, he took a computing degree and worked as a computer journalist, setting-up and running hardware and network testing laboratories. He then went back to college to do media studies before going into Web site design.

Baynes' role at the Big Brother Web site combines the technical and the managerial. He had to liaise with the site's key technology partners Intel Online Services and Real Networks. Intel Online Services is hosting the site at a datacentre in Berkshire. Real Networks is involved in encoding TV signals for streaming video transmission from the Big Brother house.

Before setting up the network at the Big Brother house in East London, Baynes and his team at new media agency Victoria Real spent £50,000 on Dell hardware, which was delivered to the company's Brighton offices. They then developed a content management system before putting everything on to a lorry and taking it to the house.

Baynes' next project is likely to be setting up a permanent broadband content management system, which would be hosted from Victoria Real's offices in Brighton and applied to any client's project.

"After working on Big Brother, I think we can handle anything," he says.

Funnily enough, he makes the same observation about his own experience of photographing dead bodies before turning to a career in IT.

Curriculum vitae

  • Name: Mark Baynes

  • Age: 39

  • Qualifications: BA in computing and artificial intelligence, MA in media studies

  • IT skills: Photoshop, Flash Director, Dreamweaver 2, Access, SQL Server, Linux, Apache, NT, Unix, Java, DHTML

  • Hobbies: "hobbies are for wimps"

  • Favourite pub: The Unity, Brighton

  • Favourite book: The Golden Gate, Vikram Seth

  • Baynes on Baynes: firm and fair, like the Krays

  • Read more on IT risk management