Let's resume our list of the key people involved in TV production.
Major dramatic productions have a wardrobe person who sees that the actors have clothes appropriate to the story and script.
The audio director or audio technician arranges for the audio recording equipment, sets up and checks mics (microphones), monitors audio quality during the production, and then strikes (another production term meaning disassembles and, if necessary, removes) the audio recording equipment and accessories after the production is over. (Mic, strangely enough, is pronounced mike.)
The microphone boom/grip operator watches rehearsals and decides on the proper mics and their placement for each scene. During an on-location (out-of-the-studio) shoot, this person may need strong arms to hold the mic boom over the talent for long periods of time.
The video recorder operator arranges video recording equipment and accessories, sets up video recordings, performs recording checks, and monitors video quality.
In dramatic productions, the continuity secretary (CS) carefully makes notes on scene and continuity details as each scene is shot to ensure that these details remain consistent between takes and scenes.
As we will see, this is a much more important job than you might think, especially in single-camera, on-location production.
Once production concerns are taken care of, the continuity secretary is responsible for releasing the actors after each scene or segment is shot.
We're almost done with our list. Are you still with us?
The ¥ CG Operator, (electronic character generator operator) programs (designs/types in) opening titles, subtitles, and closing credits into a computer-based device that inserts the text over the video.
Camera operators often do more than just operate cameras. They can help set up the cameras and ensure their technical quality, and work with the director, lighting director, and audio technician in blocking (setting up) and shooting each shot.
On a field (out-of-the-studio, or on-location) production, they may also coordinate camera equipment pickup and delivery.
Depending on the production, there may be a floor manager or stage manager who's responsible for coordinating activities on the set. One or more floor persons, or stagehands, may assist him or her.
After shooting is completed, the editors use the video and audio recordings to blend the segments together. Technicians add music and audio effects to create the final product.
The importance of editing to the success of a production is far greater than most people realize. As we will see, an editor can make or break a production.
This finishes the list of people and what they do. We'll revisit these as we go along, so don't worry if you don't remember them all at this point.
Now for the production itself.
The Three Production Phases
The production process is commonly broken down into preproduction, production, and postproduction, which some people roughly characterize as "before, during, and after."
The Preproduction Phase
There is a saying in TV production:
The importance of this is often more fully appreciated after things get pretty well messed up during a production and the production people look back and wish they had paid attention to this from the start.
In preproduction the basic ideas and approaches of the production are developed and set in motion. It is in this phase that the production can be set on a proper course or misdirected (messed up) to such an extent that no amount of time, talent, or editing expertise can save it.
The Prime Directive
"Trekkies" know that Star Trek (remember Star Trek?) has its prime directive. So does TV production:
Hit the target audience.
In order for the program to be successful, you must keep in mind throughout each production phase the needs, interests, and general background of the target audience (the audience your production is designed to reach).
More on that later.
During preproduction, not only are key talent and production members selected, but all the major elements are planned. Since things such as scene design, lighting, and audio are interrelated, they must be carefully coordinated in a series of production meetings.
Once all the basic elements are in place, rehearsals can start.
A simple on-location segment may involve only a quick check of talent positions so that camera moves, audio, and lighting can be checked.
A complex dramatic production may require many days of rehearsals. These generally start with a table reading or dry rehearsal where the talent along with key production personnel sit around a table and read through the script. Often, script changes take place at this point.
Finally, there's a dress rehearsal. Here, the talent dresses in the appropriate wardrobe, and all production elements are in place. This is the final opportunity for production personnel to solve whatever production problems remain.
The Production Phase
The production phase is where everything comes together (we can hope) in a kind of final performance.
Productions can be broadcast live or recorded. With the exception of news shows, sports remotes, and some special-event broadcasts, productions are typically recorded for later broadcast or distribution.
Recording the show or program segment provides an opportunity to fix problems by either making changes during the editing phase or stopping the recording and redoing a segment.
And, Finally, the Postproduction Phase
Tasks, such as striking (taking down) sets, dismantling and packing equipment, handling final financial obligations, and evaluating the effect of the program, are part of the postproduction phase.
Even though postproduction includes all of these after-the-production jobs, most people associate postproduction with editing.
As computer-controlled editing techniques and postproduction ¥ visual effects (VFX) have become more sophisticated, editing has gone far beyond the original concept of simply joining segments in a desired order. Editing is now a major focus of production creativity.
Armed with the latest digital effects, the editing phase can add much in the way of razzmatazz to a production. In fact, it's pretty easy to become enthralled with the special effect capabilities of your equipment.
But, then there is this...
Confusing the Medium
With the Message
As fun as all the razzmatazz effects might be to play with, you should consider all this high-tech stuff merely a tool for a greater purpose: the effective communication of ideas and information.
If that sounds a bit academic and stuffy, you might want to look at things from a broader time line.
If you think about it, today's latest high-tech effects will look pretty lame in a few years. (Think of the visual effects in some early films.)
It's only the ideas and feelings that have a chance of enduring.
How many times have you seen a movie and forgotten about it almost as soon as you left the theater? In contrast, some movies seem to "stick with you," and you may think about them for days or even weeks.
As we noted, average adults spend more than 150 hours each month watching television. Today, the average U.S. home has more ¥ TV sets than people.
The medium you are learning to control can be used either to provide audiences with time-wasting, mindless, drivel...
...or with ideas that can make a positive difference in the overall scheme of things. (And, as you may have noticed, there is a definite need in the world for people who can make a positive difference.)
How would you rather have your work and life remembered?
Before You Continue -
Some Important Notes
1. Again note that links with a green square in front of them signify required readings. This material (but not any links within the readings) is covered on the interactive tests, the words squares, the interactive crosswords, and the interactive Quick Quizzes at the end of the modules. (In other words, don't skip them!)
These linked readings will add perspective and a greater understanding of television's role, impact, and responsibility. George Lucas, one of the most revered film and video innovators, has repeatedly pointed out that to be successful we must go beyond simply knowing how to do things.
2. Television is a visual medium, so we'll occasionally include photos that do not directly tie in with the discussion, but illustrate the power of television to communicate ideas and feelings.
Here is an example.
3. Some optional supplemental readings, starting here, will provide perspective on the impact of TV on society. These are not "green dot required readings," but they may be required by a classroom instructor.
4. To test your understanding of this first module, click on the Interactive Test link below. These interactive tests are not designed to be "a piece of cake." Many questions demand a thorough understanding of the material and some serious thinking about what it all means.
5. For those of you who like to solve crossword puzzles, there are interactive crossword puzzles over key terms and concepts. You can find the links to the module's puzzle at the bottom of the page.
A full index of these puzzles can be found here. Hint: if you get stuck, you can use the search option link at the bottom of each page to find key terms.
6. The bottom of each module contains additional links. They will take you directly to various resources and key pages: a site search, revision information, the CyberCollege Forum, moving to the next module, etc.
7. Next, there are the interactive Quick Quizzes. You can use your mouse to capture and move the answer blocks around to match them up with phrases on the left. These are a very quick review of the basic terms in each module. The Quick Quizzes, like many of the features on this site, require a Java-enabled browser and may not be available on some mobile devices.
8. Here is another quote: If you want to eliminate as many mistakes in your own life as possible, study the mistakes of others. Having worked in the radio and television fields for a few decades (and having made my share of mistakes), I talk about these and other things in an ongoing personal blog.
9. Finally, this required reading shows, among other things, how a country, with lots of help from the broadcast media, was able to topple a corrupt dictatorship. It provides background on the role and influence of video in today's world.)
To get to the next module, click on "TO NEXT MODULE" on the left below.
NOTES: The Microsoft Edge Browser by default turns off a feature necessary for the popup information. If you get an allow blocked content question when you go to one of these pages, simply indicate yes.
If you get a "Java not present" message for the interactive tests or a page that is mostly blank, you may need to move to a more a recent browser with operational Java, such as Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Safari. The first time you use the Interactive Crossword (below) the code may take a while to load. Some browsers turn this off by default.