College TV Diary

While I was doing a TV course in 2007 we had to keep a diary which covered what went on during the course of two weeks of filming… I have XXXX’ed out a participants name – I’m sure they don’t want it ending up on my blog!

Here it is!

Programme 1 – Graphics – 14/11/2007

Programme 13 – Graphics – 21/11/2007

On programme one I had to prepare graphics for broadcast using Inscribe CG. This included preparing name graphics for the presenters, guest and newsreader as well as individual news headline graphics and credits for the end of the show.

The basics of the software are quite similar to that of Photoshop. During programme one, the graphic down stream key was enabled on the vision mixer, giving me control of what graphics appeared and when they appeared on screen. It was my responsibility to ensure that the correct name/graphic appeared at the correct time. During Programme 13, I had a second chance to do graphics, this time using the vision mixer to put the graphics on screen.

I feel I did a good job on this, I enjoy graphics and manipulating digital artwork and would like to learn more about broadcast graphics.

Programme 2 – Production Assistant 15/11/2007

The first thing I did when preparing for this position was to introduce myself to the Presenters and Guests on the studio floor. I told them if they had any problems or didn’t feel comfortable about anything to let the Floor Manager know. I also mentioned that if they had a list of questions for the guest during interview not to worry if they came out in the wrong order, it was a learning experience for all of us. I felt by doing this it put them at ease.

I then took note of all of their names and what they were doing during the programme and what news items were being included. I made sure that the Autocue operator was aware of their roles.

On returning to the Control Room, I consulted with the Director to find out what Music Videos were being included and also informed the Autocue Operator of these. I then asked the Floor Manager to make the presenters aware of the choices. I made a note of when I had to do count ins from the top of the programme to when VT was to roll.

During rehearsals I took note of the last question in the interview, the last line of the scripted links and of the news. From this I worked back the time from which to count in VT. I also found that different people speak at different rates, so one person’s five seconds may be another’s three. During rehearsals we were able to determine this.

In a real life situation, programmes need to stay within an exact time frame. On reviewing a number of “Reel News” programmes, no two programme times were the same. A production assistant would have 2 or 3 stopwatches. One counting the actual programme time, one counting the remaining time and one counting the segment time. Depending on the directors way of working the Production Assistant may also have to call the cues, for example “Roll VT”, “Lights Up” and let the director solely look after which camera shots are to be broadcast.

I feel I didn’t do a bad job on this but I did miss one count in, which panicked the Director. This, however, isn’t as big a deal working from a digital Video Tape as it would be from an older model Tape Machine that needs a run in. Even though the VT Operator only got a “3, 2, Roll VT” count in, after a “VT Standby” approximately ten seconds earlier, it was enough for them and it didn’t effect the segment of the programme.

Programme 3 – Free Studio 16/11/2007

During this time I looked over the Directors shoulder and had a look at what everyone in the Control Room was actually doing.

Programme 4 – Vision Mixer 16/11/2007

I enjoyed this – I found it not a million miles away from ‘paneling’ a radio show which I have done on many occasions. Basically it was my responsibility that the shots the Director called were what actually went to Transmission.

I was conscious that the opening titles contained a flash of a previous presenter and was determined not to let that go to TX.

I had worked out what I needed to do beforehand and with the director discussed what shots he would like at the beginning and at the end of the interview. I felt this worked as during the interview, I could get a better ‘feel’ for what the Presenter and Guest were discussing.

Programme 5 – Director 16/11/2007

When I Directed I started planning the same way as I had for Production Assistant. I introduced myself to the Presenters and Guests and made sure they were as comfortable as possible. I felt this was important for both me and them as it was their first show. By chatting to them beforehand I felt this relaxed them as they knew who was doing the ‘shouting’. It also made them more at ease when I asked them to change something they were doing during the show. For example, Emma was racing through the news and when asking her to slow down it didn’t seem like a complete stranger was criticizing.

I then returned to the Control Room and spoke to the Floor Manager and Camera Crew in regards to lining up the shots. The initial position for Camera 1 was fine and during rehearsals was fine for the interview. However during the interview when camera one was on the Guest, Presenter B came into shot on a few occasions.

Camera 2 then went into position for the Interview as did Camera 3. During this interview the Presenters and Guest decided to speak about Jewelery and brought some in to show us. This worked fine for the two shot, Presenter B and Guest were in frame with the table of jewelery in the centre. Camera 3, during the interview set up, went from a wide 2 shot to a close up of the jewelery on the table which worked but a mid shot of the guest with the jewelery didn’t work as well as I had hoped. Reviewing the programme, it looks a bit weird and too much of a profile shot when its just one person. There was a mix up between myself and the Vision Mixer at the beginning of the interview. The shot goes to the Presenter when it should be on the Guest.

During Preparation I chose two videos, My Chemical Romance and CSS, and told the Floor Manager to inform the Presenters of my choices. I also told the VT Operator and the Autocue operator. The Graphics person was informed of the complete crew list for the credits.

I was happy with the way the programme went. The newsreader however got a bit muddled while reading the news. I felt that this was because they had practiced too much. The one thing I was disappointed about was the end credits. At the end the Sound Operator was told to fade sound, the Vision Mixer also faded to black when the credits were still rolling, so there was no credit for me or Copyright symbol at the end.

When reviewing the programme it didn’t seem as bad as it did as the time. A couple of recommendations would be though that the Control Room is actually quiet and the only people that should be heard should be The Director and the Production Assistant and confirmation of everyone standing by.

Programme 6 – Vision Engineer – 19/11/2007

Before doing this I actually wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I learned that it is the Vision Engineers responsibility to ensure that all shots from different cameras have the same depths of blacks and whites.

I learned that the lighting crew must be happy with their setup first then the Vision Engineer adjusts each camera. I also learned that each time the camera moves the whites/blacks must be adjusted as each will change in different lighting. It is also important to remember that the Monitors you are looking at may not be a true representation of what is actually going to TX therefore it is important to use the bars/lines/graphs to judge the contrasts and consistencies.

Programme 7 – Lights – 19/11/2007

Programme 8 – Lights – 19/11/2007

I had two gos at doing the Lighting, which I was glad about. I had no experience of lighting situations beforehand.

All the lights on the grid were pre-assigned to faders on the lighting desk which made life easier. It was then my job it figure out which was being used as a Key, Fill and Back light. It took me a while to get used to what the lights should look like on screen. It was a case of trial and error. The height of a presenter, their clothes or their hair can alter the lighting effects.

I didn’t know until the second show I did Lights for that the desk could be programmed into groups. So for Presenter 1, their 3 lights needed could be programmed so you only needed one fader so there was no errors. The same went for the interview set up and for the news set up. While some people left the lights up all the time, spill from the interview could be seen on the news set during one show. This was down to the height of a presenter and therefore the interview lights had to be lowered.

For a first time using the desk I think it went OK, I would like to learn more about how to programme the desk and what you can and can’t do.

Programme 9 – Autocue – 20/11/2007

Programme 16 – Autocue – 22/11/2007

This is a position everyone was saying they didn’t enjoy. I found it interesting. You have to concentrate completely during the show and your timing can mean a presenter looking good or bad. I did this during a couple of shows and found that one of the problems was that the presenters were afraid of losing their spots or not being able to read the Autocue. The angle the Autocue is on the camera can be changed, which saved one presenter from being blinded. The light from the grid was somehow reflecting on the Autocue glass and she wasn’t able to read it, which panicked her a bit when doing her link to camera. I found that giving the presenters, especially the newsreader the opportunity to read the script from the Autocue beforehand calmed their nerves. I also found that some presenters didn’t bring a hard copy of their script or news with them so if the Autocue sticks, they’re stuck.

Programme 10 – Camera 1 – 20/11/2007

Programme 12 – Camera 2 – 20/11/2007

Programme 15 – Camera 3 – 21/11/2007

During these three shows I was a Camera Operator. Once the Director was happy with a shot I was mark the floor with an X so when I moved position I knew where I had to move back to.

On Camera 1 the first position was the opening shot of Presenter A, once they introduced the show and went to VT I had to get into position for the interview. My camera then framed the guest. Once the interview is over I go back to the original position for Presenter A’s link to news and final link of the show.

On Camera 2 the first position is that for the interview when I frame Presenter B. From here I move into position for framing the newsreader and graphics.

Camera 3’s first set up is for the 2 shot for the interview. When the interview is over I then took the camera back to the corner of the room where I did the final pan which was transmitted under the credits.

Programme 11 – Cables – 20/11/2007

Even though people don’t like doing it, it is an essential job on the studio floor. A Health and Safety necessity, the cable basher looks out for potential cable hazards on the floor and assists the Camera operators when moving equipment. The Cameras can’t roll over cables and so knots of cable aren’t left of the floor I assisted in lifting cables over cameras and operators. The biggest potential cable hazards were the floor manager walking around, getting caught in camera cables and when moving the cameras from the interview position into the final position, Camera 2 to news and Camera 3 to the corner of the room.

Programme 14 – Floor Manager – 21/11/2007

The Floor Manager is basically responsible for everything that goes on on the Studio Floor, from making sure the Talent is ready, to the Crew, if gels in lights need replacing, making sure the studio is closed. I feel is takes a strong character to be a Floor Manager and one that can command respect. If there’s noise on the studio floor, its the Floor Managers fault, if a presenter isn’t cue’d in properly its a Floor Managers fault. For these reasons the moment I knew I was going to be Floor Manager on this show I wanted to be the first person on the floor. I made the Talent aware of their call times, crew aware that smoke breaks were over/weren’t permitted. From previously seeing Floor Managers at work while on Work Experience I knew what was expected and think I commanded enough respect from the Studio Crew to get what I wanted done when it needed to be.

I didn’t have the opportunity to do Sound Assistant, Sound Operator and Video Operator. I have previously studied and worked with sound and have knowledge of the Sound Board and radio microphones. I have previously mixed sound in Live Venues, Recording Studios and Radio stations so I feel comfortable in this situation. I have also used Video Machines including the older Beta and DigiBeta Machines while at work

The Control Room Role:

I would like to look at the role of Graphics person.

During programme 1, using Inscribe CG, it was possible for me to create graphics for inclusion on Reel News. I had a basic storyline to work with and all graphics pre-prepared, this is probably the simplest way of putting graphics on screen. The Downstream key on the vision mixer was activated so I could put the relevant graphic on screen when necessary and remove it when necessary. To prevent the incorrect graphic being transmitted , I left a blank box in the storyline. To the viewer this would just be a screen with a presenter and no graphics.

During programme 13, the graphic role evolved. The graphics were then output through a small vision mixer, to the main mixer. By having the first vision mixer we were able to have better graphics for the news by chromakey-ing them to the background. This is an important step. Almost everyday in television we see the weather person standing in front of a map of the world, being able to zoom around the world with the click of a button. Chromakey-ing their maps of weather fronts is not only a regular occurrence but an expected one.

Rather than Inscribe CG, in the real world a programme like Promotor, made by VDS ( would be used, giving more editable and flashier graphics. This was used by FOX News during the last US Presidential elections. Other software in the area include Newsticker where up to the minute news stories crawl along the bottom of the news screen and information can be cut and paste from another document or can be entered manually. Graphics persons working for example in a news station often type in words or comments from speeches and reports as they are going out live on air. Spelling mistakes often happen and can be changed and updated in an instant. The Flashy “Breaking News” Graphics add to the drama and suspense in a news story and keep the viewer watching as the story breaks.

It is a common occurrence to have maybe 4 different type of graphics on screen at once. For example Sky News have their logo and time in the left hand side of the screen. On the very bottom of the screen the “Ticker” gives us all the top stories’ headlines, above that we have a slogan or title relating to the story for example “ Man in Court Now” and above that another graphic changing from “ Live from Old Bailey” to “Breaking News”.

With so many news channels now and so many ways to gain information, it is important that headline graphics for news are clear concise and easy to read. Within a couple of seconds if you don’t grab a viewers attention they will keep on switching. Everything now needs a graphic, static graphics, moving graphics for stocks and shares, it is an essential part of keeping the viewer engaged in not only news but in other forms of television. Jerry Springer, Jeremy Kyle, The Late Late Show all use graphics to keep the viewer informed of the subject of the conversations and viewers text messages and comments.

With the quality of digital graphics getting better all the time and the ability to manipulate static and motion graphics its not surprising to learn that many U.S. Universities are now giving courses in Broadcast graphics. It is easy to see why. Although in the majority of situations most graphics can be prepared, the graphics operator must know their software inside out and be able to adjust the graphics while on air. Along with camera angles, lighting, the presenters and their style, graphics are another element in what makes a television have its own identity.

The Studio Floor Role:

I would like to look at the role of Floor Manager.

As I previously mentioned, The Floor Manager is responsible for everything that happens on the floor. As my turn as Floor Manager approached I was increasingly aware of the lack of command a number of fellow students had as Floor Manager. I was determined not to make the same mistakes.

As the countdown to rehearsing and recording began I looked for the Talent (Presenters and Guest) and gave them a call time. I also went to the rest of the Crew and gave them their call times. I told them they had less time than they actually had. Over the previous shows I felt that people were starting to relax a little bit and weren’t as focused as should be. In the real world if you’re doing a Live Show, two minutes means two minutes, not ten. I had also noticed that camera operators had approached presenters and guests about clothing issues. This is not a camera operators role – they should make the Floor Manager aware of the situation and let them deal with the situation. This undermines the Floor Managers authority.

The Floor Manager is responsible for making sure the set is closed, knowing the personnel on the set , knowing the presenters’ and guests’ names, making sure everyone is in position, knowing where their positions are as well as cue-ing in presenters and if the the show has an audience making sure they clap when they are supposed to. A Floor Managers job is an important one, leading the presenters or guests from a bright stage may seem like a handy number but you don’t want them falling off the side of the staging area as they leave the blinding lights and head to the darkness of ‘off stage’. They probably wont see the cables on the floor then either. The Floor Manager has the influence to make a programme run well and to schedule.

During Reel News, I noticed that the presenters weren’t actually taking their cues from the Floor Manager but from the Red Tally Light on top of the camera. One presenter didn’t speak at all even though her cue had been given because she said she couldn’t see the light. The camera operator had the viewfinder fixed at an angle that was easier for them to see. When I was Floor Manager, I re-explained to the presenters to take their cue from me. I also spoke to them about the Autocue and the possibility of malfunction. I feel that this made them at ease because they knew what they could do if that happened. I also spoke to the Newsreader and made sure they had a hard copy of their script. Unfortunately things can go wrong, in one instance the Autocue froze and the newsreader stopped even though they had a hard copy in front of them, they didn’t look at it.

In the Real world, once you rehearse and know what everyone has to do you have to get on with it. At the end of the day time is money. If you are going ‘Live’ you just end up looking amateur.

From a lighting perspective I asked if everyone was happy with the gels that were on the lights behind the stage. In the real world it is a Floor Manager’s job to ensure that the set is correct, its in the right place and hasn’t been moved, that the guests are sitting in the correct position, at the correct angles.

During my time on the Floor I noticed that when the Floor Manger said ‘Quiet on Set’ there wasn’t. To overcome this issue which, in reality is an authority issue, I took no prisoners. Once everyone was in position then sound checks were done, I asked everyone who wasn’t taking an active part to leave the studio floor so we could proceed. After that the main task was to maintain quiet on set during links and approximately ten seconds after so if there was any problems with sound no speech would come through. Throughout the programme I ensured that the cameras were in the positions the director had wanted – keeping in contact with the control room through Talk Back. I helped Camera Operators get into position, made sure the presenters stayed on their marks and maintained silence until the final Credits had finished. I then thanked the crew for their patience and help from both myself and the Director.

Health and Safety issues on the floor are also the Floor Managers’ responsibility. During Reel News I was aware of cables on the floor and how we needed to move cameras without damaging them or injuring crew by tripping up. Fire is also a big concern, gels on floor lights can melt and burn. Both in the TV industry and in college it is important to note where the emergency exits are and to keep them clear.

I tried to keep my role as close as possible to what a Professional would do. One major factor was we didn’t have an audience. If audiences are involved in the filming of a television show there is normally an assistant Floor Manager or an Audience Liaison person involved, making sure they get to their seats, they don’t walk where they shouldn’t but the Floor Manager tries to get them to clap or cheer when they should.

The Floor Manager should always have a roll of gaffer tape and a small torch to be able to attend to any crew difficulties which may arise during filming. These all seem like little things but collectively they make for the efficient running of the TV Studio Floor.

The Programme I would like to review is Programme 7 when XXXXXX directed.

The reason I would like to review this programme is because this is the programme that I feel the group of people in the Control Room gelled best as a group.

Personnel difficulties meant that XXXX’s PA left the room while rehearsing the programme. During this show I was doing lights. But because of the need for personnel to move into different roles at the last minute I prepared for both the lighting and the Vision Engineering positions. During filming, the crew overall started to feel a bit relaxed, in my opinion. They knew the format and knew what segment went where. I feel that because during this programme no one wanted to let XXXXX down while she was directing, everyone tried that little bit harder.

Preparation for the show had gone fine, Presenters were in there positions, sound checks were done, I was learning a bit more about the lighting desk. The Floor Manager and Cable basher were in place on the Studio Floor. Camera set ups went well with no hiccups and health and safety issues on the Floor had been looked at. Cables were dealt with, floor lights were checked that they weren’t too close to the set or gels weren’t a fire hazard.

At the start of the show the initial Ident graphics were let run over the Reel News titles. At the end of the titles, sound from the person at the end of the titles on VT was heard as we were seeing Presenter A come into shot. Graphics for the Presenters Name were fine. The Presenters’ Link to VT 1 ( Bell X1) was fine also, VT went in on time. Sound for Presenter A seemed OK. I noticed that Presenter A had jewelry which reflected a light shining on her. It wasn’t a major deal if it only happened once but it is something that should be avoided if possible.

Leaving VT and going to the Interview, the makeup and skin tone difference between Presenter B and the Guest are apparent. I think that the Microphone on Presenter B could have been closer to her, the sound seemed a little ‘toppy’ and more distant in comparison to Presenter A which had a slightly warmer feel. The Graphics were messed up during the introductions. Presenter A’s name was still showing when the camera cut to a 2 shot and the Guests names came onto screen while Presenter B was was on screen. The Guests name was also spelled incorrectly. Camera One and Camera Two’s shots seemed to match with the Presenter and the Guest being a similar size in the frame. In Camera Two though you can just see the edge of Presenter B’s hair and arm coming into shot.

At the end of the interview Presenter A is talking to Camera and should be on Camera 2, but Camera 3’s 2 shot is on TX. The graphic for the website mentioned in the interview appears on screen and the camera then cuts to the correct shot from Camera 2. There’s also a bit of a mix up when the presenter is speaking the visual is the shot from Camera one, a shot of the guest.

Coming out of VT 2, Presenter A seems to be taking two cues, one from the Floor Manager and one from the Tally light at the top of Camera one.

When we cut to Camera 2 on the news set we can see the newsreader looking at the top of the camera again for her cue. Sound on the Newsreader seems a bit higher than Presenter A. This is important as sound levels throughout the programme should be at a consistent level. During the news, newsreaders should also be aware of any hard to pronounce names.

When we cut back to Presenter A for the final link she seems to trip over her words but is relaxed enough to continue and get over it. As the presenter finishes and the lights fade, the microphones on the floor should also be lowered. You can hear presenter A about to say something and it is also possible to to hear the microphone on the newsreader ruffle as they relax.

As the titles are playing and Camera 3 is doing its final pan, the sound on the titles should be faded to avoided hearing ‘Hi’.

Technically there were a lot of mistakes and I would not like my name being used if it were to go on Television. However, I do feel at during this show was one of the times when as a group we gelled best and learned the most.

Not everyone is going to get a position in a company only doing one specific job. In this industry there are more and more independent production companies that we rely on for work, maybe even working for ourselves. I feel this show was important as many of us changed our job roles or had to double up and multi task to get the end product. Once you are happy and comfortable within your role and know your equipment, it is essential that you can handle every eventuality within the role assigned.

During a multi camera set up in studio, camera positions for different shots must be framed, lights for each set up should be checked and adjusted as necessary. During a three camera interview one camera should be one a 2 shot of the Presenter and Guest. One on the Presenter and one on the Guest. The easiest way to accomplish this so it looks visually correct to the viewer is to cross the shots. For example Camera One On the left frames Guest on the right. Camera Two on the right frames the guest on the left. To show the viewer which side of the setup the Presenter is sitting on and to correspond to the 2 shot, Camera 2 will frame the Presenter So they are on the left of the screen with space for the Presenter to speak to the Guest on the right of the screen. The Guest will be framed in the opposite manner by Camera One, sitting on the right of the screen with space to the left. If there is no space between the presenter or guest and the edge of the screen it looks wrong and looks like the person is speaking to the edge of the television set. These set ups are changing slightly as the wide screen format takes hold but these would be general guidelines. It is important that the Director and the Vision Mixer be aware that Camera one is on Person 2, Camera Two on Person 1. This would be to avoid having the incorrect camera shot appearing on TX.

Lighting set ups are normally 3 point lighting on the presenter and guest while other lights would flood the actual set. It doesn’t matter which side your key light is on as long as there is consistency between the shots on your show. If they lighting looks different on each set up it will confuse the viewer. They will think each segment takes place in a different location.

Sound should be consistent. I feel it is important that each Presenter or Guest be as closely matched as possible. If one microphone is placed too far away or too close to the source on a person, it will change the sound. You don’t want the viewer to think that Presenter B was asking the questions from a barnyard or warehouse because that is what it sounds like.

Consistencies between Camera Shots, Lighting, Sound, Vision Engineering along with a working knowledge of Graphics, VT Operations and Vision Mixing and with the guidance of the Production Assistant and Director, we can hopefully get the finished product that we are looking for.