TV Production Crew Positions
Following is a list of crew positions you could encounter in a multi-camera television production. Not all positions will be filled all of the time--smaller productions will not have some of the more specialized job duties or one person will fill several positions. Larger productions will have more specialized positions and assistants or associates to provide, well, assistance. For a detailed description of the job performed by each, see your text.
- Producer: Executive, Associate, Line, etc.
- Director: Associate, Assistant, Floor, Technical
- Set Designer
- Audio Engineer (A1, A2)
- Video Engineer
- Videotape Engineer/Operator
- Camera Operator
- Production Assistant
It is important that each person understand and perform his/her job responsibilities with maximum efficiency. Multi-camera television production is team-work, and for the team to operate effectively, it must coordinate and communicate. While the television production process may at times appear to be a confusing ballet (lyrics in Italian), there is a method to the madness. Please read and put into practice the following procedures for studio set-up and strike. At the end of this document you'll find a few words about directing.
Producer & Director
Learn to delegate responsibility. If you personally move props, cue music, or tweak lights you are wasting valuable time. The more you can put on paper prior to the day of production the less you'll have to try to remember. If the program is fully-scripted, spend time with the script and mark it carefully. Become very familiar with any pre-produced elements. If the program is not fully-scripted, study the subject matter of the show in order that you might be able to anticipate the direction and flow of the show. The more organized and prepared that you are, the less chance for disorganization and confusion when those inevitable changes arise.
Assignments to your crew must be clear, oftentimes in written form, and usually distributed in the following order:
1) Give the floor director his/her floor plan and directions as to the set design and dressing. Usually a floor assistant(s) will be available to help with the set-up. Ideally you will have met with the FD before class, so he/she has a good idea of what you are doing.
2) Provide your audio engineer with his/her specially marked script and explain exactly what you want in the way of microphones, audio carts, CDs, etc. Often this can, and should, be written down to save time during production.
3) Provide orientation for your camera operators as to position, main subject for each camera, shot lists, etc. Give operators shot sheets if warranted. Remember, remain flexible so that changes during rehearsal can be incorporated in the final taping/broadcast. Cameras will not be ready to move into position for rehearsal until the basic set and lighting are completed.
4) Meet with your talent to firm up last minute details and to make him/her comfortable in what may be a strange environment. It is important for the FD to meet with the talent to explain what is taking place during rehearsal and what will take place during the actual production. Also, hand signals and cues must be reviewed so that the FD and talent are "communicating".
5) Provide your production assistant or graphics operator with a detailed list of graphics to be inserted and a copy of the script with graphics noted. Ideally the graphics will already be composed and stored to disk. If so, disk page numbers will be highlighted on the PA's script. Ask the PA to double check the graphic pages for accuracy--(typos, spelling, etc.)
6) Make sure that your videotape operator has any playback tapes (with cue points noted) and the record tape(s). Ask the VT operator to review the playback segments that will be used in order to gain familiarity with them.
7) Check out your technical director on any special or unusual switcher effects to be used. Routine switcher transitions should be picked up during the run through and rehearsal.
8) Review the program with your assistant director making sure that he/she understands the flow of the program and knows what time cues will be needed. Important--Make sure that you, your AD and talent all agree as to whether the time remaining cues are to end of talent, or end of show.
Begin a run through of your shots as soon as talent and cameras can get into position. Check all your shots in the order that they appear in the program. Do this first run through in the studio, as you watch the studio monitor. Any changes can be noted by your assistant director and incorporated into the first rehearsal in the control room.
Move into the control room and do your first full rehearsal from there, utilizing camera changes and other notes that your AD took down during the run through. This will be your first opportunity to time your production; so conduct a full rehearsal--do not stop for each and every mistake. Your AD can make note of changes to be made before the next rehearsal.
If you planned properly, your second rehearsal should go smoothly and should be videotaped just in case this one is a "save". If the taping turns out well, consider this your final take. If it still needs some fine tuning, go on to the final taping.
You are the second eyes and ears for the director. During the run through and rehearsals you will be at the side of the director making any notations re script changes and timing. Once inside the control room you may be expected to perform various task, probably the most important being keeping track of timing and giving timing cues to the studio and control room crew. In addition to timing, ADs are sometimes asked to assist the director by watching the monitors for framing, setting up the next shot, calling for videotape segments to roll in, calling graphic supers in and out, etc. It is important that the AD become familiar with the operation of the countdown clock and stopwatch.
Report to the Producer/Director for instructions regarding the set and set dressing. With the help of floor assistants, set-up and dress the set as instructed. Make certain that you introduce yourself to the talent and call them by name when addressing them. Review the hand signals that you will be using with the talent. Make sure that talent is comfortable and understands what is going on. You'll be on PL (intercom) this whole time--be sure to listen for the voice of the director and respond quickly to his/her directions.
As floor director, you are the most important crew member in the studio and you must understand the production nearly as well as the director. Be careful to delegate set-up responsibilities to your assistants and make sure that the talent is as comfortable and relaxed as possible. If there is a break in the taping, all of the crew on headsets will know what is going on, but you must remember to let the talent know what is going on.
Obtain your marked script from the producer/director. Note the audio elements specified by the script and gather the necessary microphones and accessories. When laying microphone cables, consider camera movement and placement. Cables should be positioned so that they are out of sight of the cameras.
Ideally you are responsible for miking talent, however this may be delegated to the FD if necessary. Be sure that microphones and cables are hidden. When assisting a member of the opposite sex with a lavaliere microphone, be careful to protect his/her privacy. The talent may want to step into the green room or backstage to run the cable under her blouse. Make sure that mike batteries are inserted properly and that switches are set to on.
Next, move to the audio control room and test the microphones to make absolutely sure that they are working properly. Mark the audio console's channels for talent's name and the approximate level for each microphone. The FD can assist you with this by having each talent speak in turn. Be sure that they are speaking at a level representative of their real performance. Next, check out the other audio sources that you will be using. Audio carts must be checked for level and to ensure that they are cued. CDs should be previewed for level and to become familiar with the cut to be used.
Get your shot sheets (if they are being used) from the director and attach them to the back of the camera. Make sure that you have sufficient cable to reach the furthermost position you will occupy. Uncap the lens (after you have obtained permission from the video operator) and set your filter wheel to the proper setting. For studio work it should be set to 3200 K to match the studio lights. Adjust the viewfinders (VF) brightness and contrast controls for optimum picture on your monitor. Unlock the pan and tilt locks and adjust the pan and tilt friction (drag) adjustments to suit your preference.
Next, familiarize yourself with the program and your responsibilities. Visualize the shots that will be required of your camera and rehearse any complicated moves. Practice with the zoom and focus controls to ensure that you can operate them smoothly.
While operating the camera, the pan and tilt locks are to remain unlocked at all times. Locking down a camera shot during a rehearsal or production is unacceptable in most studio operations! On the other hand, never leave your camera without first locking the pan and tilts locks and capping the lens.
Once you have been given the playback videotape (if there is one), cue it up and familiarize yourself with the video to be played back into the program. Note video levels and color accuracy. Adjust the video tracking if necessary for optimum playback. Also note the audio and whether it is recorded on channels 1 and/or 2, normal or Hi-Fi. Adjust your audio playback levels if necessary and coordinate with the audio operator so that he/she can set levels at the audio board.
Regarding setting cue in/out points for videotape you have two options. Either make note of the TC (time code) numbers of the in and out points, or set the readout to CT (control track) and zero the counter at the in cue point.
Confirm the position of the record tape and cue it up for recording. Again, set the readout to control track and zero it at the proper record-in point. (This should be approximately 10 seconds past the last audio/video recorded on the tape.) Confirm the proper setting of switches and patches so that you are in fact recording program video as output from the Vista switcher and program audio from the Howell audio board on channel 1 (normal and Hi-Fi) and director's PL on audio channel 2 (normal and Hi-Fi). This can be confirmed by monitoring the video and audio monitors connected to the record VTRs output.
When recording the new program, be sure to record at least 10 seconds of black video and silent audio after the program fades to black.
NOTE: If the Director chooses to record a second take of his/her production, rewind the record tape to the previous in-point and record over the previous recording. Only one recording will be saved for each student project.
Before the first run through, take time to familiarize yourself with the switcher and the transitions you will be expected to execute. During the run through you will switch while taking direction over the PL (intercom). During rehearsals you will follow the director's requests while seated next to him/her in the control room. In addition to knowing the switcher, it is important that you know the monitor layout and preview shots and/or effects before taking them on-line. If there is a technical or aesthetic problem with a shot, video source or effect, bring it to the director's attention before switching to it on-line.
Production Assistant (CG Operator)
As the CG (character generator) operator it is important that you pay attention to detail and accuracy. If graphic pages are stored to disk, review them for content and accuracy. If you are composing or correcting pages, make sure that spelling, drop-shadow, and other details are correct. Review all pages and note position in script. Review credits for accuracy or last minute changes/additions. Coordinate with TD to review pages while keyed over video to ensure proper key settings (clip) on switcher.
When a production is complete, cap your camera using the filter wheel, lock the pan and tilt controls, and place the PL headset on the pan handle. If this is the final production for the day, truck the camera to its position for storage and wrap the camera cable in a figure-eight on the wall hangers. After this is complete, assist other crew members in striking the set, coiling cable, etc.
As soon as the production is finished, assist the talent with the removal of their microphones. If it is the last production of the day, assist the audio engineer by removing the batteries from the microphones and placing them in their cases. Next, retrieve any personally owned props or camera graphic cards and return them to the Producer. Finally, assist other crew members with the strike of the set, floor monitors, audio, etc.
If there are more production to follow, check with the next audio engineer as to what microphones will be needed and strike those that will not be used. Return all prerecorded media (carts, discs) to the Producer. Remain at the audio board until the next engineer arrives to convey information about the channels that are being used and what audio signals are available and where. If you are the last engineer for the day, return the console to its neutral position--all faders down, switches to off. Strike all microphones and return them to the instructor.
Remain at the switcher until the next TD arrives to convey information about the inputs and basic set-up of the switcher. If you are the last TD for the day, return the switcher to its neutral position--black punched up on all busses. Also, unless there is a KTSC-TV studio production scheduled after class, power down the preview and program monitors and all other monitors.
At the completion of the project being recorded, remain in record mode for at least 10 seconds after video and audio has faded to black. At this point stop tape, rewind into the program and play for a few seconds to confirm that audio and video have been successful recorded. Once you have confirmed a successful recording for the crew, cue the tape up to a point exactly 10 seconds past the end of the recorded program and reset the control track counter to 00:00:00. Wait for the next VT operator to arrive and confirm the position of the record tape.
Remove the playback videotape from the playback VTR and return to the Producer/Director. If it is the last project for the day, return the record tape to the instructor.
A Few Words About Directing
Directing live television can be either a great adrenaline kick or a major frustration--the key is your organization and communication. We've already addressed organization, so let's spend a moment on communication.
The first rule of communication for live TV is be precise and concise. But first you'll have to master the lingo that directors use. Be warned that the lingo can and will change from market (city) to market, station to station. But one thing is fairly consistent. Always give a ready cue before giving the cue to execute the command. This allows your crew to prepare to do what you want them to do, and then when you call for the command to be executed, the crew can respond immediately. For example:
- Ready Cam 1 ..... Take Cam 1
- Ready to Roll VT ..... Roll VT
- Ready to Cue Host ..... Cue Host
- Ready with Name Super ..... Name In, Name Out, etc.
In each case since the crew has been prepared with the ready command, they can execute the take command at the instant the director says, "Take, Roll, Cue, etc." As you may surmise, the ready cue becomes worthless if the director changes his/her mind, e.g. I've heard directors say, "Ready Cam 2, Take 3..." and in these cases only a really good TD can save the director's hide.
And finally, learn to watch your monitors. You can see a lot about what's going on in the studio and VT room simply by looking at your monitors. Often you can see a problem before it gets to air and still have time to do something to correct it. And look at your camera shots before you put them "on-line". Is the framing right, can it be improved slightly by asking the camera op to adjust the framing a bit? You are the director, and the look of the program is your responsibility. Now, go get 'em.
The Assistant Director
The role of the Assistant Director (AD) is crucial to the smooth operation of the control room. Live television is a matter of split-second timing and the AD is the crew member responsible for informing the crew of time used and time remaining. The two most important crew members to be informed of time cues are the Director and the Floor Director (FD).
The AD begins by counting the crew into the show, i.e. announcing the time remaining to air. This may begin as early as 30 minutes before airtime, depending on the complexity of the show, and continues right up until the 10 second countdown. For the sake of in-class projects (beginning with project #2) the AD will give time remaining cues beginning at 3 minutes to air and as follows:
- 3 minutes to air
- 2 minutes to air
- 1 minute to air
- 30 seconds to air
- 15 seconds to air
- 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5...
Once into the program the AD continues to give time cues over the intercom for the benefit of the Director and FD. These time cues should announce the number of whole minutes remaining, down to the last minute, and then every 15 seconds, with the final 10 second counted down to black. Be sure to give time cues with enough vocal authority to be heard over the normal din of control room chatter.
In addition to time remaining in program, the AD may be requested to time individual segments such as VT clips and commercial breaks. For this reason it is sometimes necessary to have a stopwatch in addition to the master count-down clock. That way the stopwatch can be used to time individual segments while the master count-down clock can remain dedicated to showing the time remaining in the program.
At some networks and stations the AD rolls VT clips and sets up camera shots. However, not all directors like the idea of giving up control of these crucial tasks. So be sure to discuss with your director exactly what he/she expects of you as AD.
Return to CSU-Pueblo Television Production Handbook home page.
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