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A practical approach to working in multi-camera studios

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.

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Roger Singleton-Turner

This chapter provides an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The 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 also 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.

in Cue and Cut
Roger Singleton-Turner

This chapter provides some general points about safety in TV studios, whether student or professional. There are some points about safety on location because it is sometimes necessary to include one or more single-camera sequences in a predominantly studio-based project. There are two aspects to safety: the readers' own protection and their responsibility to others. In almost all circumstances, whether on location or in a stage or studio, a production will have to generate a risk assessment form. This will indicate the level of risk associated with the production and the precautions that have been taken. Film and TV studios and locations are notorious for cables snaking across the floor. Most studios have a fire lane, which may extend all around the studio. The readers must learn safe procedures for each piece of equipment they use. It is advisable that professionals should each have their own public liability insurance.

in Cue and Cut
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Roger Singleton-Turner

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.

in Cue and Cut
Roger Singleton-Turner

It takes time to master any kind of professional camera and there are specialist books on the subject. The information here is the basis of what anyone working in television or film production needs to know, but nothing beats working with a camera and an experienced camera crew. The process in most studio quality colour cameras entails the use of mirrors splitting the different wavelengths of light, usually into red, green and blue components. Each split needs its own CCD. This is broadly true for all current video cameras from cell-phones to the latest Red Digital Cinema equipment, where the quality of the image is close to 35 mm film. Colour control of the camera output, including colour balance and exposure, are dealt with by the Vision Operator through the CCUs. TV studio cameras should have tally lights.

in Cue and Cut
Roger Singleton-Turner

In practical classes, students should have hands-on experience of operating studio cameras and will see how the appearance of a programme can be affected by careless - or inspired - use of lenses. In general, people used to working with prime lenses (that is, convex lenses with a fixed focal length) will talk about the focal length of the lens. Those used to multi-camera studios are more likely to think in terms of the horizontal angle of view. This was true even before the introduction of zoom lenses on all studio cameras. A zoom lens has a variable focal length, so it has a variable angle of view. A low focal length corresponds to a high (horizontal) angle of view. The chapter also looks at aspects of the theory and practice of camera operation. The term 'conventions' also includes the problems associated with 'crossing the line'.

in Cue and Cut
Roger Singleton-Turner

This chapter looks at the responsibilities of the production team and presenters. The team includes producer, director, floor manager, researcher, script supervisor, vision mixer or switcher, sound supervisor, sound assistant, camera operator, lighting director, lighting assistant, character generator (graphics), video operator/editor, teleprompter operator, set designer, presenter or actor, technical resources manager, and scene crew. Together with the Producer, the Director will be responsible for arriving at a workable schedule, casting (where applicable), shooting and post-production. The more complex the programme and the higher its budget, the more likely it is that there will be other people to support all these responsibilities. Student productions tend not to use scene crew, but they are often present in some guise in professional studios, though the tasks may often be absorbed into other roles.

in Cue and Cut
Roger Singleton-Turner

This chapter provides a detailed discussion on technical jobs in the studio. The Vision Mixer is responsible for switching between the output of different cameras and other sources available in the particular production. In some organisations, there is a (Studio) Technical Director. This individual could perform the function of a Switcher or Vision Mixer, including responsibility for overall technical quality of the picture output and for ensuring the crew are all present and functioning. The Sound Supervisor is responsible for all sound elements required for the programme, though if a programme is edited and then dubbed, there may be one Supervisor for the Studio Recording and another, a Dubbing Mixer, for the dub. The Sound Assistant is responsible to the Sound Supervisor and assists him or her as required. Virtually all professional studios and most student facilities have a character generator available, usually operated from the gallery.

in Cue and Cut
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Roger Singleton-Turner

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.

in Cue and Cut
Roger Singleton-Turner

Job titles and duties change over the years. All paperwork needs to be identified and page numbered. In the professional world, a vital member of the team is the Script Supervisor who (sometimes with a Production Secretary) is responsible for generating most of the practical paperwork and converting the sloppy scrawls of the Director into a clear and efficient means of communication that is relevant to each member of the studio team. As the Vision Mixer cuts to each new camera-scripted shot, the Script Supervisor calls out the new shot number, as showing on the programme or TX monitor, and identifies which camera is next to be used. An experienced Script Supervisor will also note stop or end timecodes. Traditionally, notes were hand-written directly onto a hard copy of the script. In a tapeless environment, the software on the server notes the duration and start and finish timecodes automatically.

in Cue and Cut