In this chapter, the author argues that this book is long enough to introduce the working practices of multi-camera studios. The content is based on the author's own observations and experience both of those practices and what newcomers to them generally seem to find useful. The intention is to show the readers how they can make things work in a multi-camera environment and to save them from having to re-invent methods that have been proved to work. This should allow more effort and thought to go into the content of projects and save time on the mechanisms the readers use. Working in the real world of television and film is not like any kind of course. It's harder, more frustrating - and more fun. It should also be reasonably paid, but this is not guaranteed.
One can expect to find all or most of the following elements in any multi-camera TV studio: a big, dark, soundproof, empty space; a grid or gantry; and fire exits, fire lane and safety lighting. There will be a mixing desk for the studio mikes, incoming sound lines and machines for effects, music and so on. All incoming sources would have sound routed through the sound gallery to ensure consistency of level and quality. These might include controls for incoming telephone lines (for phone-in programmes), remote studios and outside broadcasts, as well as foldback and talkback systems. Some studios are set up to deal with incoming phone lines, scoring devices and so on, any of which might have monitoring or control equipment in the main gallery.
This chapter contains information about camera scripts (studio shooting scripts). It also tells how to create a professional-looking script with MS Word Tables, whilst assuming very little or no experience of working with tables. The camera script is the 'bible' of a multi-camera production. It is like the orchestral score in a concert performance: it's also the primary source of information in the studio giving instructions for each moment of a rehearsal or recording session and is relevant for each member of the crew and cast (or presenting team and guests). Each camera will need a set of camera cards giving shot information for that particular camera. Companies like Granada and the BBC developed their own softwares for creating camera scripts.
This book is about producing video content with a multi-camera set-up. The principles apply whatever the form of distribution: digital network, Internet, mobile phone or 'other'. It is intended to be used alongside practical courses or modules, both in teaching institutions and in professional training environments. The book centres on Health and Safety in TV studios, which are potentially dangerous places. It gives a lot of key information about television studios and the people who work in them. The book focuses on exercises to practise some basic principles and shows how to build on these and develop proposals and projects. It goes into more detail on Drama, Music and Action, both in the context of student projects and in the professional world. The book explains detail of television aspect ratios; and a little about the meanings of Continuity. Since many multi-camera video productions use inserts shot on single camera, there are several references to single-camera shooting. The necessary elements in multi-camera production are: a vision mixer (switcher) for selecting the images to be recorded or transmitted; a Director co-ordinating the content; an assistant to keep track of timings and where the Director is in the script; and a Camera Operator for each camera, with a tally-light to show when the particular camera is on-shot.
This chapter is intended to help cover two forms of studio demonstration: presenter plus guest demonstrator and demonstrations with a single presenter and no guest. Underlying them are the general principles for covering any kind of shooting of detail. Whatever the item and whichever method of staging the demonstration, the object is generally to show the audience how to do something that they are presumed to know little of. Clarity of thought, speech and shooting is essential. The safety shot does not have to be on the same camera all the time; the director will have seen the demonstration and should be able to make a good guess as to which camera will be most interesting at any given moment. In addition to the challenge offered by speakers reacting unpredictably, the studio team must work out how best to cover each contestant's movement across the set.
Set design is a highly complex area. In a drama-based production, the Designer would need to read the scripts to understand how the look of the set could reinforce the story, perhaps adding its own comments about period and the style of the sets' fictitious owners. The Designer will also work closely with the Costume Designer, especially in the matter of colours. A professional Costume Designer might be expected to buy, hire, design or make costumes for particular characters. Naturally, the Costume Designer must work within the allocated budget and schedule. Visual Effects Designers come from many backgrounds and all have strong practical training in at least one field of expertise. Working in films and television calls on an expansion of those skills, and, as ever, the ability to work safely to a deadline and to a budget.
Multi-camera studio drama provides some of the most popular programming on British broadcast television, judging by the figures in the weekly Broadcast magazine. This chapter begins with a brief history of British studio drama to show what has been achieved and what could be achieved. Scripts are the foundation stones of any form of drama. The writer's intentions should be fully respected and scripts should not be changed without consultation, but the writer also has to respect the artistry and craft of the actors and crew. The chapter looks at children, puppets and animals as actors. There seems to be a perception that, for students, they can offer effective and, even, easy solutions to the challenge of finding material for projects. In terms of multi-camera drama, the Director writes a camera script for the whole recording, which will allow for the generation of camera cards.
Having worked out what the readers need to do to create their project, the next stage, once it has been commissioned, is to plan it. This takes into account the available budget and the time. A useful planning tool for any kind of project in almost any walk of life is critical path analysis. Before starting shooting on location, there should be a planning meeting. This covered all the technical and logistical details for that week and outlined what would be happening in the first studio recordings, including the special studio day we had to record the science-fiction fantasy sequences. Even a straightforward magazine show takes some planning if the readers are going to use expensive studio time efficiently; that is, to get the best out of it. 'Rehearse-record' could be the best use of available resources and the best use of time.
The development of a real project might go something like this: have the idea, turn it into a proposal, turn the proposal into a treatment, develop interactive elements, work out a budget, get a commission, work out the finance, make and distribute the show, and cash in on merchandising. Professionally, it is necessary to organise each step of production and post-production carefully with schedules and timetables because so many steps depend on earlier steps having been completed. A practical video module is not, perhaps, the place to go into a lot of detail about writing a script; there are other books and courses that cover this area most effectively. However, the success of any project or programme revolves around its script or format. If these are right, then the performers, be they hosts, actors, comedians, or members of the public, will, simply, perform better.
The traditional sequence for scripted sequences would be as follows: blocking, stagger, run or run-through, dress run, and recording or transmission. Even on dramas, there was not always time for steps 3 and 4. Blocking, staggering and a final or dress run were usually adequate. When it comes to run-throughs, all scripted pieces and links should be played out in full. As directed sections can be played through with real guests, proper introductions and dummy questions, or with stand-ins. The Director needs to make it quite clear when it is time for a take. In the first few year of the twenty first century, the commonest recording media for students' recordings were DV and mini-DV. It is surprising, though, how often a project has developed unnecessary complications because 'common sense' disappeared in the heat of the moment. Making TV content really does depend on good communication and teamwork.