Module 1-A

audio speaker Optional RealAudio® Introduction


Updated: 02/21/2017

red dot An explanation of the features of this course can be found here.

module 1








  So you really want to learn TV production?

You've come to the right place.


Not a "Home Movies" Course

I'm going to assume you're serious about this; that you want to learn more than you'd need to know just to make home movies of your vacation, your little brother's birthday party, or your trip to Disneyland.

The instruction manual that came with your camcorder should cover these needs.

Although most who use these modules study in class situations, many people go through these modules on an individual basis -- i.e., they want to get a good personal or professional understanding of the concepts.

" Thousands of students around the world are now using this award-winning course in television production to meet serious personal and professional goals."


Completing this course could mean an exciting career in broadcast television, Internet webcasting - [note: mouseover the text that follows the symbol] institutional videography, satellite programming, mobile video, and other areas -- including the advertising and public relations aspects of any of these. Video production now even includes feature films -- the kind you see at your local theater.

I have prepared thousands of people for jobs in television production. I worked professionally in the field for many years and by simply paying close attention to what's here I can guarantee that you'll end up with good understanding of the audio and video production process.

In this digital age almost anyone with a digital video camera, a computer, and creative talent can put together a production. 

At the same time, I've found that those who win ongoing recognition for their work draw upon an understanding of the full production process.

Although the modules emphasize studio and field production for broadcast television, what's presented is applicable to a wide variety of audio- and video-based media. It's all pretty much the same once you know the basics.

Of course, it's desirable to have a full range of audio and video equipment to work television productionwith -- either personal equipment or equipment provided in a school or lab setting.

However,some equipment referenced in these modules may not be available to you. That's okay, it's important to understand the equipment and techniques that are part of larger production facilities.

For one thing, you may suddenly be confronted with an internship or job opportunity where this knowledge is essential. Or, you could easily be asked about some of these things in a job interview.

Camerapersons, writers, directors, producers, and even on-camera talent find that having a solid understanding of the tools and techniques of the entire process makes a major difference in the success of productions -- not to mention their careers.

In television production, as in most of today's high-tech areas, knowledge is power.

Enough of the sales pitch. Let's get down to business.

A Bird's Eye View of the

Production Process

Let's take a whirlwind tour of the production process. But unlike a whirlwind tour of Europe (if it's Tuesday, this must be Barcelona), we'll come back to these people and places later. For now, let's take a quick look at the production process from the standpoint of the key people.

We'll start by thinking big -- big productions, that is -- because these things can be scaled down, combined, or eliminated in smaller productions.  

Who Does What and Why

This list is long, but have you noticed the lengthy credit lists for major films and TV programs?

Although titles and responsibilities can vary, the person in charge of launching and guiding the entire production is generally the producer.

A term you will also encounter in major TV series for this role is executive producer and showrunner.

Although there are various types of producers -- some TV series have been known to list twenty or more in the opening credits -- for our purposes we'll stick with the generic  definition of producer.

This person generally comes up with the program concept, lays out the budget, and makes the major decisions.

He or she is the team leader, the one who works with the writers, hires the director, decides on the key talent, and guides the general direction of the production.

In smaller productions the producer may also take charge of the more mundane activities. And in small productions the director may handle the producer's responsibilities. In this case, the combined job title becomes (want to guess?), producer-director.

On a major production, one of the producer's first jobs is to hire or assign a writer to write the script (the document that tells everyone what to do and say). The script is like a written plan or blueprint for the production.

The producer will next consider the key talent for the production. In general, the talent includes actors, reporters, hosts, guests, and off-camera narrators -- anyone whose voice is heard or who appears on camera.

Sometimes tv director talent is broken down into three sub-categories: actors (who portray other people in dramatic productions), performers (who appear on camera in nondramatic roles), and announcers (who are heard but generally don't appear on camera).

In a large production, the producer will hire or assign the director.

The director is generally in charge of working out preproduction (before the production) details, coordinating the activities of the production staff and on-camera talent, working out camera and talent positions on the set, selecting the camera shots during production, and supervising postproduction (after production) work.

In other words, once the producer sets things in motion, the director is in charge of taking the script from the beginning to the very end of the production process.

video switcher Assisting a director in the control room is typically a technical director who operates the video switcher. (An elaborate version is shown here.)

The technical director, or TD, is also responsible for coordinating the technical aspects of the production.

One or more production assistants (PAs) may be hired to help the producer and director. Among other things, PAs keep notes on ongoing production needs and director's work

The lighting director (LD) designs the lighting plan, arranges for the lighting equipment, and sets up and checks the lighting.

As we'll see, lighting is a key element in the overall look of a production.

Some productions have a set designer who, along with the producer and director, designs the set and supervises its construction, painting, and installation.

The makeup person, with the help of cosmetics, hair spray, etc., sees that the talent look their best -- or their worst, if that's what the script calls for. make-up artist

 -- Makeup is just one of the areas where the link indicated will take you to advanced information. (We discuss the meaning of the colored squares below).

It should be emphasized that specific responsibilities of production personnel will vary widely, depending on the production facility. In Europe, and in particular at the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) in London,  these distinctions are made.

Before you move on to Part Two of this module, let me call your attention to some things:

First, you'll notice the Site Search / Key Terms link at the end of each module. This link is useful in finding terms and phrases anywhere on the site.

Links will also take you to about 100 associated files intended to add to the basic information presented in these modules. (The makeup link above is an example.)

For further readings on any topic click on the link at the bottom of each module for a bibliography of additional readings (the hardcopy type).

For important background information on the television medium, check out the series of modules yellow dot starting here.

After you visit any of these links, you can either close the window that pops up or click on the back arrow at the top of your browser.

The "Quick Quiz" button at the end of each chapter takes you to a very short interactive matching game that acts as a review of some of the major concepts in the chapter (and checks to see if you really were awake while you were reading it!).


Green, Yellow, Blue,

and Red Readings

And now to explain those little colored squares before most links.

A green square ( green dot ) in front of a link indicates information that's important to what's being discussed. We cover this information in the interactive tests and puzzles. Linked information within these readings is not covered in the tests.Laptop & Coffee

A yellow square ( yellow dot ) indicates helpful background reading. This material is not included on the interactive tests, but instructors may include the readings on their own tests.

A blue square ( blue dot ) indicates technical information designed for advanced classes and professionals. Again, this material may or may not be required by an instructor (assuming you are in a classroom setting).

A red square ( red dot ) indicates external links with related information not included on the interactive tests -- but your instructor has the option of asking that you read this information. We have no control over the content of these external links.

( ¥ ) This symbol or a black triangle indicates pop-up information directly related to the discussion. Just mouse-over the text that follows the symbol.

click for quick quiz

(Click on "more" for the second half of this section.)

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