Module 59


Updated: 01/17/2017

Module 59









 As a first step in seeing how studio productions are done we need to take a closer look at the role and responsibilities of the key person in this process -- the director.

The Role of the Director

In addition to the specific duties and responsibilities outlined in Module 1, the director's job is to get the crew and talent to function as a team and in the process bring out the best work in each person.

Any director worth the title can stay on top of things when the crew, talent, and equipment perform exactly as expected.

" Much of the value and respect that people place on directors springs from their ability to stay in control when things don't go as planned and new procedures suddenly have to be improvised."


A crew member or on-camera person may get sick, a key person may refuse to continue unless some special accommodation is made, a studio camera may go out, or a mic may suddenly fail.

A director who vacillates, gives mixed signals or is not being able to make a decision at a crucial time can bring about production paralysis.

In large-scale productions everyone is typically working under pressure. Directors must be able to control their own tension and anxiety while being sensitive to the differing abilities and temperaments of talent and crew.

A heavy-handed approach with the wrong person can temporarily destroy that person's effectiveness and turn a bad situation into a disaster. Conversely, a mealy-mouthed approach that elicits no respect or leadership ability can be just as bad.   

Put another way, a director's job is not to dictate but to clearly and effectively guide.

Requisitioning Equipment and Facilities

The director's first job in a medium to large production will be to fill out a Facilities Request Form. Production facilities typically have forms tailored to their own needs and equipment.

studio set

Noted on this form will be the production and rehearsal dates and times, studio space needed, personnel required, and the number of cameras, video recorders and mics needed.

Not anticipating a need may mean there will be last-minute delays in getting what you want.

Worse still, you may even have to do without something you need, especially if someone else has requisitioned the equipment for the same time period.

In addition to being used by the studio's Facilities Manager to plan on the necessary talent, crew, facilities, and equipment, the Facilities Request Form is used to anticipate production costs.

Studio Sets

Although virtual sets are now being used for some productions, the traditional hardwall and softwall sets are still the most widely used settings. These are discussed - here.


The Directing Process

For every audio or video event that takes place during a production several behind-the-scenes production steps are typically required.

Because production involves the activities of numerous crew members -- the number can range from 6 to more than 60 -- the director's instructions must be clearly and succinctly phrased.

Even the word sequence is important.

If the director says, "Will you pan to the left and up a little when you 'lose [your tally] light' on camera one," all camera operators must wait until the end of the sentence before they know who the director is talking to; and then they must remember what the instructions were.

However, if the director says, "Camera one, when you lose light, pan left and up a little," the first two words indicate who, the next four words tell when, and the last six words indicate what.

After the first two words, crew members know that only camera one's operator is being addressed. This will get the attention of the camera one operator, and the rest of the crew members can continue concentrating on their individual tasks.

The "when" in the sentence tells the camera one operator not to immediately pan and tilt, but to prepare for a quick move once the camera tally ("on-air") light is off. This may involve loosening the pan and tilt controls on the camera's pan head and being ready to make the adjustment -- possibly within the brief interval when the director switches to a reaction shot.

Even a two- or three-second delay can make the difference between a tight show and one where the production changes lag behind the action.

Although the specifics of the jargon vary between production facilities, directors tend to use some of the same basic terminology. To illustrate this, let's trace a director's PL line conversation for the opening of a simple interview show.

This production uses two cameras, one of which moves from position A to position B.  camera positionsIn position A the camera gets the establishing (wide) shot. In position B it gets close-ups and over-the-shoulder shots.

Since the guests on this show are different each week and will require different opening and closing announcements, only the show's theme music is prerecorded. The opening and closing announcements are read off-camera, live.  

Before we get to the actual show, let's look at several things that the audience will not see, but that are important to the production.

Color Bars, Slate, 

Countdown Clock, and Trailer

In professional productions there are four elements are typically recorded that are not seen by the audience:

1 . First on the video recording are color bars HDTV color bars for about 30 seconds accompanied by a reference level audio tone (generally  0dB) on all audio tracks.

These are used to set proper color balance and audio and video levels for the video playback. (As we've previously noted, with some playback equipment this is adjusted automatically.)

The white level (note the white block) and the primary (red, green and blue) and secondary (magenta, cyan and yellow) color bars should register correctly on a TV screen and on a vectorscope. You will recall that we explained how to set up your video monitor - here.

2. After the color bars is the slate (shown on the right) slatewhich is either picked up on a camera or electronically generated. At this point announcer reads the following program information.

  • the title of the program

  • the episode title and number

  • the date (and possibly recording machine number)

  • possibly the audio format (mono, Dolby 5.1, etc.)

  • possibly the presence of closed captioning or extra data

This information will vary, depending on the facility and production.

The slate shown above shows the time code numbers that are being encoded on the video.  Network requirements typically specify a start code of 01:00:00:00 for the first program on a recording.

After these, there is typically an electronic countdown clock that starts at 10 seconds and goes to 2 seconds. 

3. At this point there should be exactly two seconds of black and silence before the program begins. This precise timing makes it possible to roll a videotape (if you are using videotape) on a particular number and then "punch it up" at the exact moment it's needed.

Hard disk recorders and some videotape machines have an instant start capability. This means you can stop and freeze the first second of video on the screen and expect the segment it to instantly start when needed.

4. At the end of the production, network specifications require one or more minutes of black and silence with continuing time code after the last scene (generally the closing credits) of a production.

Now let's trace the director's dialogue for the first minute or so of a very basic interview show. Here we're assuming an on-camera slate and that videotape is being used to record the show.

Director's Comments


Standby on the set.

This means "attention" and "quiet" on the set. The command is given 15-30 seconds before rolling tape. (Assuming for this example that videotape is being used.)

Standby to roll tape.

Get ready to start the videotape that will record the show.

Roll tape.

The tape is rolled, and when it stabilizes the tape operator calls "speed."

Ready to take bars and tone.

Take bars and tone.

The electronic test pattern (ETP) and audio tone is recorded at the reference level (generally, 0dB). This segment will be used to set up playback equipment for proper video and audio.color bars

This may last at least 15 seconds, but that will depend on the technical requirements of the production facility.

Standby camera ONE on slate; stand by to announce slate.

Take ONE.

Read slate.

Standby black.

Assuming the slate is not electronically generated, camera one's first shot is the slate identifying the show.slate

During this time the announcer reads the basic program identifying information we previously listed.

Go to black

Ready TWO with your close-up of Lee; ready mic; ready cue.


The technical director (TD) cuts to black.

The show opens "cold" (without an introduction of any kind) with a close-up of Dr. Lee, the show's host. This "tease" statement is intended to grab attention and introduce the show's guest and topic.

Take TWO, mic, cue!

Cut to camera two with a close-up of Dr. Lee, turn her mic on, and cue her to start.

Stand by ONE on the guest.

 Take ONE!



Dr. Lee introduces subject and makes a quick reference to the guest. When Dr. Lee mentions the guest, the director makes a two- to three-second cut to the close-up camera on the guest (who is just listening) and then back to Dr. Lee on camera two.

Standby black and standby to roll commercial on tape 4.

Roll tape 4. Go black. Take it.




The commercial is rolled and taken as soon as it comes up. The audio person brings up the sound on the commercial without being cued. (Everyone's script should list basic information, such as machine playback numbers, etc. Some things, such as cutting mics when they are not needed, are done as needed without a director's command.)

Camera 1 truck left for your wide shot.

Fifteen seconds. Standby in studio.

During the commercial camera #1 will reposition for the opening wide shot. (See drawing above.) This shot will be used for keying the opening program titles.

Standby opening announce and theme.

Ready ONE on your wide shot; ready TWO on a close-up of Lee.

Standby to key in title.


Take ONE; hit music; key title.

When the commercial ends, a wide shot is taken on camera one, the theme music is established, and the title of the show is keyed over the screen.

Fade [music] and read.

The music is faded under and the opening announce for the show is read by an announcer. This will probably include the show's title, followed by the topic, and the name of the show's host.

Ready TWO with a close-up on Lee. Standby mics and cue.
Take TWO, mic, cue.

This is a close-up of the show's interviewer, Dr. Lee, who now fully introduces the day's guest and asks the first question.

Camera 1, ready on your close-up on the guest.



During this time Camera 1 trucks back to the opening position for the close-up of the guest. Dr. Lee covers the interval for the camera move by fully introducing the show and guest.

Take ONE.

The guest answers first question.

Show continues alternating between close-ups of host and guest. Occasionally cameras will zoom out to get over-the-shoulder shots.

Closing of show is similar in pattern to the opening.

Excluding the commercial all of the above takes less than a minute of production time.

During the 30 seconds or so that the interviewer uses to wrap up the show camera one can truck right to the mid-position and zoom back. This shot can be used (possibly with dimmed studio lights) as a background for the closing credits and announce.

Even though this example is a bit of old-fashioned in its format, it illustrates all the things the director is concerned with "behind the scenes" (and it represents a good starting assignment for laboratory exercises).



Note the constant use of the terms "ready" and "standby" in the director's dialogue.

During a production, crew members are normally thinking about or doing several things at once, including listening to two sources of audio: the PL line and the program audio. "Standbys" warn them of upcoming actions.

They also protect the director.

If a "standby" is given in reasonable time, the director has every right to expect the crew member involved to be prepared for the requested action — or to quickly tell the director about a problem.

But if the director simply blurts out, "Take one!" when the cameraperson is not ready, the audience may see a picture being focused, complete with a quick zoom in and out. Since no "standby" warning was given, the director can hardly blame the cameraperson.


Studio Hand Signals

Although the studio director can relay signals to the crew via a headset (PL line), getting instructions to on-camera talent while the mics are on is generally done silently through the floor director.

To do this the floor director uses agreed upon hand signals. In order for the talent to be able to easily and quickly see these signals they should be given right next to the talent's camera lens. The talent should never have to conspicuously look around for cues when they are on camera

Photos of the various - studio hand signals can be seen here.


Shooting Angles

shooting anglesIn an interview the eyes and facial expressions communicate a great deal — often even more than the words the person is saying.

Profile shots (equivalent to shooting the close-ups from camera position A in this case) often hide these important clues. A close-up of the guest from camera position B, as well as a close-up of Dr. Lee from the camera 2 position, provide much stronger shots.

These angles also offer more possibilities for shots. You have a strong close-up of the person talking, plus, if you zoom back slightly, an over-the-shoulder shot that can even be used to momentarily cover comments by the person whose back is toward the camera.


The Need to Anticipate

An essential talent for a director is the ability to react quickly to changes in action.

But "react" implies delay.

In fact, the total reaction time is equal to the accumulated time involved in recognizing the need for a specific action, communicating that action to crew members, having them respond -- or telling the technical director what you want done and having them respond.

 That can represent a delay of several seconds.

Although that may not seem long, when audiences are used to seeing production responses in sync with on-camera action, it will clearly reveal that the director is lagging behind the action.

The solution is for the director to try to anticipate what's going to happen.

During an interview a director should be able to sense when the interviewer's question is about to end or when an answer is winding up.

By saying "stand by" early and calling for a camera cut a moment before it's needed, a director will be able to cut from one camera to the other almost on the concluding period or question mark of the person's final sentence.

Also, by watching the off-air monitor in the control room, as opposed CCD displayto the on-air shot of the person talking, the director will often be able to see when the off-camera person is about to interrupt or visually react to what is being said.

Using these clues, a good director can almost appear to have precognitive powers!

This is easier to see when the cameras and video sources are grouped together on a single, large, multi-view. flatscreen monitor.  (We'll talk more about this in the next module.)


On-Camera Talent Issues

Under this heading we'll cover makeup, hair, jewelry, and wardrobe.


Back in the days of low-resolution black-and-white TV, facial features had to be somewhat exaggerated, just as they do now on the stage. However, in this day of color and high-resolution video, this type of exaggeration would look clownish.

Today, makeup is primarily used to cover or diminish facial defects, fill in deep facial chin clefts and "five o'clock shadows" on men, and to take the shine off faces.

In the case of women, judiciously applied "street makeup" is generally adequate for limited on-camera exposure.

However, when professional talent need to appear at their best under different lighting conditions and for long periods of time, things can get a bit more complicated. For this reason, we cover makeup  - in much more detail here.


For limited on-camera appearances, no special changes need to be made from normal hair styling. Stray hairs have a way of calling attention to themselves when close-ups are illuminated by backlights, so stray hair needs to be kept in place.

When applied to hair, oils and creams can impart an undesirable patent leather-like shine, which will be exaggerated by backlighting.

The absence of hair — i.e., bald heads — may need help from a powder base carefully matched to skin tones.

Backlights and blond hair, especially platinum blond hair, will cause video levels to exceed an acceptable brightness range, so backlight intensity will need to be dimmed or the beams barned off.

When it comes to the effect of backlights and lighting in general, camera shots and lighting should be carefully checked on a good video monitor before a production.


Jewelry can represent two problems.

First, if it's highly reflective, the results can range from a simple distraction to the creation of annoying streaks in the video. The simplest solution is to either substitute non-reflective jewelry or possibly remove it all together.

The second problem with jewelry such as necklaces and beads is noise -- especially if it comes in contact with a personal mic.


In general, clothes (wardrobe) that are stylish and that flatter the individual are acceptable -- as long as five caveats are kept in mind.

  • Colors that exceed 80-percent reflectance, such as white and bright yellow, need to be avoided. White shirts are often a problem, especially if not partially covered by a jacket or a sports coat.

  • Black clothes against a dark background not only can result in a tonal merger, but adjacent Caucasian skin tones can appear unnaturally light, even chalky.

  • Closely spaced stripes in clothing shiny clothingcan interact with camera scanning and result in a distracting, moving ▲moiré pattern.

  • Very bold patterns can take on a distracting, facetious appearance.

  • Sequined, metallic, and other shiny clothing (note photo), which might otherwise look good, can become quite distracting on television, especially under hard lighting.

We'll move from the studio into the TV control room in the next module.

 An Internet link that has considerable broadcast-related information is -

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