Producing (Television Production Guide)

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This section describes the major aspects of producing. Since the range of activities a producer may encounter will vary with the particular task, the emphasis here will be on the principles of the production process. These areas include:

1. Systems design for production, with four principal factors: need assessment, viewer involvement, medium requirements, and feedback and evaluation. Special emphasis is put on the process message objective, derived from the interaction between the audiovisual stimuli of the program and the involvement of the viewer, the percipient.

2. Above-the-line production, which includes the functions of such personnel as producers, writers, and talent.

3. Below-the-line production, which covers the technical facilities and the engineers and production people responsible for their operation and coordination, such as studio, camera, audio, and lighting personnel.

4. Special production aspects having to do with program types, copyrights and other clearances, union affiliation, and legal matters.

5. Steps in the production process, which demonstrate a reasonable flow of activities, from the need assessment to the feedback and evaluation.

Producing means to see to it that a worthwhile idea gets to be a worthwhile television show. As a producer, you are in charge of this process. You are involved in managing a great number of people and in coordinating an even greater number of activities and other production details. As an originator of a mass communication process, you must bear responsibility toward the perceivers of the television program, the viewers, and toward the originating institution, the station for which you are working.


Above-the-Line A budgetary division of production elements. It concerns mainly nontechnical personnel.

AFTRA American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. A broadcasting talent union.

Below-the-Line A budgetary division of production elements. It concerns technical personnel and facilities.

Canon 35 Deals with the question of allowing television equipment in a courtroom.

Demographic Data Audience research data that are concerned with such items as age, sex, marital status, and income.

Ecological Data Audience research data that are concerned with where the members of the audience live, such as city, suburb, country, and so forth.

Effect-to-Cause Approach A production approach, or a system, that starts with the definition of viewer experience and works backwards to the production elements the medium requires in order to produce such a viewer experience.

IBEW International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Union for studio and master control engineers; may include floor personnel.

Libel Written defamation.

NABET National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians.

Union for studio and master control engineers; may include floor personnel.

Percipient The television viewer in the act of perceiving television audio and video stimuli (a television program). It implies more than mere watching of a program; it requires a certain degree of involvement.

Process Message The interaction between the percipient and the audiovisual stimuli of the television program.

Section 315: Section of the Communications Act that affords candidates for public office equal opportunity to appear on television. All candidates must, for example, be charged equal fees.

Slander Oral defamation during a television program.

Sustaining Program--Program that is not commercially supported.

System The interrelationship of various elements and processes.

Systems Design A plan that shows the interrelation of two or more systems. In television production, it shows the interrelation of all major production elements, as well as the flow (direction) of the production processes.


14.1 Basic Television Communication System.

You will find that it is not always easy to serve both masters. In trying to fulfill your obligation to the public, you may propose a program series that is counter to the economic interests of your station. The program manager may tell you that he or she, the sales manager, and the general manager of the station are in agreement on the worth of your program idea of how a university campus operates and what college learning is all about; however, they all feel that such a series would probably attract only a highly specific audience, produce low ratings, and therefore hardly be an attractive package for time buyers who want to reach as large an audience as possible with their commercials. How about carrying such a series as sustaining (noncommercial) programs, as part of the station's public service? The program manager asks you to check with the public service director and to prepare a budget for the first three shows.

As you can see, you are already in the middle of rather delicate negotiations, the selling of your idea to people who look at the program series from highly divergent points of view and who apply different criteria for the relative success of the show. And all this work, before you have even had a chance to think much about the creative aspects of the production! Such is the lot of a producer.

Some people may get dismayed at the thought of having a show turned down because it does not seem financially feasible. But a skillful producer will anticipate such problems, and approach a show idea from a business as well as a creative point of view. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with combining art and money. The fact that novelists and painters get paid for their art does not cheapen their products. But if you sell an idea that has little or no aesthetic or social value, for the sole purpose of improving the ratings and beating the competition, you are abusing the public and you are acting irresponsibly, even though you make money in the process.

Realizing that as a producer you must operate within the public's "interest, convenience, and necessity," how, then, can you develop an idea into an on-the-air television show? What are the techniques of television production? Although each show idea has certain peculiar production requirements, there are nevertheless techniques, or at least approaches, that apply to television production in general. We will, therefore, attempt to acquaint you with a systems design that covers the major points of production. You should keep in mind, however, that some productions may require procedures that differ considerably from the standard. The systems approach as mentioned here should serve as a guide to problem solving; don't take it as a recipe.

Specifically, we will discuss (1) systems design for production, or the "effect-to-cause approach," (2) above-the-line production, (3) below-the-line production, (4) special production aspects, and (5) the steps in the production process.

Production Systems

Design Since production involves a great number of processes, each one interacting with the others, at least to some degree, we learn its function most profitably by considering it as a system. In the production system, as in any other, various elements and processes are linked together and interact with one another so as to achieve the desired product--in this case, the television audience experiencing the televised material in a specific way.

The system helps you to identify quickly, and fairly accurately and reliably, the major production elements each program requires, and the necessary interaction among them. Simply, the system assists you in determining which people you require, what they should do, and what equipment is necessary at what time in order to televise a show that fulfills a specific need of the audience, or that entices the audience to a specific reaction.

[[Wilbur Schramm and Janet Alexander, "Broadcasting," Handbook of Communication, ed. by Ithiel de Sola Pool et ai. (Chicago: Rand McNally Publishing Co., 1973), p. 584. ]]

14.2 Content-to-Medium-to-Audience Process.

Content Approach:

Traditionally, such a system begins with content, material for a program that is produced into a television show and transmitted to an audience.' Many productions for instructional television operate within such a system. The content expert (the professor who knows history of twentieth-century painting, for example) gets together with the medium expert (the teacher of television production or the student producer), who then takes the material from the content expert and prepares it so that it will appear more or less intelligible on the television screen. The students, under the threat of a grade, try to gain as much information from the show as possible so that they will do reasonably well in the next test. (14.1 and 14.2.) As widespread as this system may be, it has some serious flaws. (1) The content (program material) is selected by someone who has little or no knowledge of how television works. Thus, the "content expert" selects his or her material simply by what should be communicated, and not by how it may appear on the television screen, or how it will be received by a television audience. (2) The so-called medium expert is handed the task of distributing the already selected material via television. In this way, the final criteria as to the television program's worthwhileness are generally stipulated by the content expert, and not by the medium expert, or even the eventual receiver of the message. Thus, the medium expert has little influence on the content, which may or may not be suited to the television medium or the television audience. (3) The separation of content expert and medium expert only fosters the development of mutual mistrust. (4) Most seriously, the medium is considered a mere distribution device rather than a production element that has a great influence on the content as well as its reception by the television audience. (5) The effect of the program is presupposed because of the content alone, not by how and how much the television viewer is affected.

A more viable systems design seems to be the one that focuses more on viewer need and, ultimately, on what he experiences during the program and his response afterward, rather than on content and how it can be molded into a television show.

In effect, once you have ascertained a specific viewer need or desire, you work backwards from viewer experience to what the medium requires in order to produce such an experience. Because the system starts with the viewer experience and works backwards, we call it the effect-to-cause approach to production. (See 14.3.) Effect-to-Cause Approach The effect-to-cause approach to production, or the effect-to-cause systems design, stresses (1) need assessment, (2) viewer involvement, (3) medium requirements, and (4) feedback and evaluation.

[[ FCC Report and Order 66-904, Docket 13961, Section IV-A. October 10, 1966. ]]

14.3 Effect-to-Cause System.


14.4 Indeed, every station should institute a need assessment department, whose members could use scientific methods not only for assessment projects but also for the evaluation of need satisfaction through programming.


Need Assessment

Common sense and the FCC tell us that we should ascertain the basic needs and desires of the television audience for specific programming, rather than superimposing programs upon an unsuspecting public. Indeed, the FCC stresses need assessment as an important factor in granting license renewals.2 The FCC requires the broadcaster (1) to make meaningful efforts to determine the tastes, needs, and desires of those within its service area, and (2) to provide programs in response to those needs. According to the FCC, the need assessment must include consultation with (1) the general viewing public, (2) leaders in the community, and (3) professional and eleemosynary (charitable) organizations.3 Such surveys will tell you something about the overt needs of a community, but how about the viewer's covert needs-needs of which the viewer himself is not aware? For many centuries, the arts have catered to and even fulfilled covert emotional and social needs of the public. But the way we have gone about assessing and fulfilling these needs has been more than haphazard. In order to promote emotional and social stability, we must become more discerning. But how can you do all this as a producer?

[[3 Editors of BM/E Magazine, Interpreting FCC Broadcast Rules and Regulations, Vol. 2 (Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.: Tab Books, 1968). ]]

14.5 Process Message.

If your station does not have a need assessment expert, you may consider employing an independent research firm, or, better yet, seeking the help of the mass communication, sociology, and psychology departments of the nearby university. After all, these departments know of the latest developments in their field and usually have a number of expert faculty and students available to undertake such projects.

Viewer Involvement--Involvement describes the state of the viewer while watching a television program, and his response to the program afterward. Usually, the experience of the viewer relative to the program (the audiovisual stimuli) is extremely complex. Although we cannot make this perception process any less complex through programming, we can, to a certain degree, channel the viewer's experience and response. In its most obvious forms, a comedian can make us laugh with a funny joke; the closeup of a tender kiss of the reunited couple can make us experience human warmth and compassion, even love; a police officer approaching the gunman's trap can increase our anxiety; and an especially tragic news event or play can make us cry.

If the program is indeed geared to the viewer's overt and/or covert needs, the process of viewing the program is no longer a simple watching and listening but an involvement and, in its most ideal state, a participation in the audiovisual event. The viewer thus becomes a percipient, and we can define the perception process as an event (X) that-for the convenience of assigning it a place in the system-we put between the screen and the percipient (14.5). In other words, the real message of the communication lies in the interaction between the percipient and the audiovisual stimuli and not in an arbitrarily predetermined content that is distributed by television. This message we call the process message. It cannot exist independently of the viewer, or even before the actual process of perception.

Now, in order to arrive at this process message, we must give some direction to the viewer experience-or, more precisely, the percipient involvement. Taking a cue from instructional systems and programmed learning, we simply state a desired process message, an experience objective.

Here are some examples:

1. The process message (perceived during the program) should help the percipient to learn, and later apply, five simple steps of energy conservation. In this objective we simply want the viewer (percipient) to learn five ways of energy conservation, which he might not have known before, and learn them well enough so that he can not only recount them but use them in his daily activities. (Obviously, they do not contain the recommendation for shutting off the television set; otherwise all subsequent process messages would not occur.) The process message contains action cues for overt activities, not unlike much advertising, which persuades the viewer to go and buy a specific product.

2. The process message should make the percipient vicariously experience the beauty as well as the immense physical power inherent in a football game. Here the objective is not to entertain the viewer with selected delayed football action but to give him a certain experience while he is perceiving the program. The ordinary televising of football games often fails to communicate the immense physical power of the sport, especially if the viewer has never actually played football. At the same time, the movements of the players, their reactions to one another in a play, and the structure of teamwork have an inherent beauty that, too, is often not clarified and intensified enough for the average viewer. But such a process message, which stresses the aesthetic values of football, could certainly contribute to emotional literacy, especially of those viewers who do not seek aesthetic stimuli in other programs, such as dance, drama, or music, or in other experiences, such as going to a concert or a dance recital.

3. The process message should help the percipient to relax and escape for a while from the reality of the daily routine, laugh with the talent on the screen, and, hopefully, about himself With the value of the objective for the process message clearly established, we will now move to the medium requirements-probably one of the most important points for the producer.

Medium Requirements

Since, as you have seen in previous sections, the medium demands certain production equipment and procedures, such as shot composition and sequence, lighting, and audio, you should now ask what it needs in order to meet the stated objective as fully as possible.

When we talk about medium, we do not mean just the different pieces of production equipment, such as cameras, lights, and microphones, but also the people and agencies that work in television or are somehow connected with its operation.

Let's take objective 2 (power and aesthetics of a football game) and see what the medium might require so that the process message can be accomplished. We will simply jot down some of the major points that come to mind, without worrying at this time how they should be organized or how they may fit the systems design.

[[4 Herbert Zettl, Sight-Sound-Motion (Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1973), pp. 230-233. ]]

We will state the objective again: The process message should make the percipient vicariously experience the beauty as well as the immense physical power inherent in a football game.

1. Who should be the percipients? Where and how should they perceive the program, and when? We are now approaching a precise audience definition. Housewives usually have a viewing pattern quite different from working women. Teenagers watch at different times from adults. Viewing customs on weekends are different from the rest of the week. Usually the program manager will have a great deal to say about when the program will be aired, but you should have some idea of the preferred broadcast time. The type of audience will generally dictate the ideal broadcast time.

2. There are some key phrases in the objective: vicarious experience, physical power, and beauty. To give the percipient vicarious experience, you must involve her (or him) in the action, not just show her something to look at. Involvement and power immediately suggest an extremely tight camera throughout the program. Closeups and extreme closeups will not only intensify the physical force of the game but also bring the viewer into the fray. You may even want to try some subjective camera techniques, whereby the camera participates in the action.' In this case, your equipment must be highly mobile-portable cameras and videotape units, for instance. Do you have them available? How many? If not, can you rent some? You may even try to shoot black-and-white with 1/2-inch videotape format recorders (such as portapaks), for later dubbing up (with the aid of a time base corrector), colorizing, and other possible electronic manipulations.

Or you may want to use some videotape slow motion or freeze frames. Again, when talking to the production manager, or engineering supervisor, you should have a pretty good idea of what you need and why. Perhaps you may have to, or want to, resort to film. Since this football experience is a staged event, almost like a play, you may justify the lack of immediacy through added production control and ease that film can afford you.

Film is mobile, yields readily to slow motion, editing, and other production manipulations. Perhaps you may want to combine videotape and film. In any case, post-production activities will play an important part in this project.

3. Since you are building an event through several takes, with the action shot from various viewpoints, angles, and sometimes in slow motion (power and beauty elements), you will have to repeat a specific action over and over again. The shooting requirements make the coverage of a single game impractical, if not impossible. What you probably need is a football team that is willing to participate in this project. A high school or college team will probably be more willing than a professional team. In any case, they will be less expensive.

4. The power factor suggests a heavy use of audio.

Because you are filming (or videotaping with mobile gear with some slow-motion film inserts), you may want to do double-system sound. Since the production demands heavy editing, the independent audio will make the cutting easier than with single-system sound.

Also, you can get close with your portable audiotape recorders to get the full impact sounds (thumps, groans, crashes). Since the production is not a mere look at a football game, but a look into a creative conception of the game, you can liberally add music or other related sounds for the intensification of the action.

5. Unless the background music is especially written for the show and played by friends, you need clearance for the recording used. By the way, you need written clearances from all the football players, the coach, and the school official (such as the athletic director or the dean). Don't ever rely on a verbal agreement. If you can't get it in writing, look for another show.

6. Beauty again. Oh, yes. Color is a must. Perhaps you can intensify the event by manipulating the colors.

Check with the film lab or, if done in videotape, with the video engineer. Perhaps you want to shoot it in black-and-white and colorize it later.

7. The heavy postproduction activities involved in this project need careful scheduling of editing equipment and time. You need an expert editor; and, of course, an extremely sensitive director, whose major qualifications may not be an expert knowledge of football (though this would help) but should include a great sense of motion, composition, dynamic picturization.

The camera operators must have similar qualifications.


14.6 Audiences are usually identified and categorized by the traditional sociological, demographic, and ecological classification system. Demographic data include age, sex, income, profession, and so forth. Ecological data include where people live, such as city, small town, suburb, country. If you have a need assessment study at your disposal, the socio-psychological data will permit an even more precise audience classification. Don't forget that your audience is a great number of individual percipients, not a collective.


This coordination calls for preproduction meetings: with the director, camera operators, audio engineers, editor, floor manager, and production assistants. In fact, you may need to spend a great deal of time in such meetings. A thorough understanding of the process message by all members of the production team will greatly facilitate the actual production later on. A second meeting should involve the players. The director should clue them in about the purpose of the show, and the process message.

8. When can you get the players to meet? Where? Is the field reserved? What if it rains that day?-perhaps the rain will add to the power idea, and to beauty. You will need several shooting days. How many? How many production people do you need?

9. What is it going to cost? Do you have a budget large enough to pay for the participants, the equipment used, and the materials needed (film, audiotape, and so forth)?

10. The station wants to give the program wide publicity; it has already interested several local sports shops in buying program time. That brings up another thought. How many commercial inserts should you expect during the half-hour program time assigned to you by the programming department? Check with the sales department.

11. The show requires special graphics. The art director should sit in during the first two briefing sessions.

12. Will you need narration in certain places? Perhaps some rather poetic statements that express the power and beauty of the game? Or will the natural sounds and the music be enough to clarify and intensify the event? If you decide on narration, you need a writer, unless you tackle the writing yourself. Also, the announcer will have to be included in the postproduction schedule and the budget.

As you can see, the list goes on and on. The better your knowledge of the medium, the more you know about the specific requirements, the more detailed your list will be and, most of all, the more prepared you will be for the actual production. A good producer is the one who works out the problems before they arise. Thorough preparation is the key to an efficient and successful production.

What happened to content? It has become simply part of the medium requirements. If you go back over the previous list, you will discover that "content" appears in several of the points listed.

Thus, what is finally seen and heard and, hopefully, perceived by the viewer is not just subject matter that has been predetermined independently of the medium and simply distributed thereby, but images that have been created as part of the medium requirement within the context of the basic process message.

Figure 14.7 will show the basic medium requirements as they occur in the average production.

Feedback and Evaluation:

How will you know whether or not a show has been successful; whether or not your process message has indeed been perceived? This aspect of production is probably one of the most difficult to ascertain.

When, as sometimes happens, viewers respond by telephone calls, postcards, and letters, try to make provisions so that their comments are recorded as to positive and negative responses. Try not to dismiss the negative response. Analyze it and see what you can learn from it. Certain program formats include some stimulus for feedback; the talent may ask for the viewer's response, or the viewer may be obligated to respond-as when he is enrolled in a tele-course, for example. Ratings, of course, test viewer contact with the show, but not necessarily impact. Generally, however, a very popular show with a high rating must fulfill some kind of viewer need; otherwise the viewers wouldn't watch it.

Press reviews are sometimes biased and therefore not always reliable. Perhaps as a producer you may want to ask faculty and students of broadcasting to help in designing and administering a significant program evaluation test. In fact, you may want to evaluate the various steps of your system prior to the actual telecast so that you can predict the process message with some reliability.

14.7 Medium Requirements.

Above-the-Line Production

As you can see from figure 14.7, medium requirements that deal with nontechnical elements--writers, producers, directors, talent, art directors, and others--are diagramed "above the line," while technical facilities-studio, cameras, scenery, graphic arts, and engineering personnel-are listed "below the line." This division comes from the custom of preparing two separate budgets, an above-the-line budget and a below-the-line budget. We will adopt this convenient grouping in our discussion of specific production elements.

The above-the-line production is accomplished mainly by nontechnical personnel. Figure 14.8 shows the major above-the-line production workers with their principal functions, and the major facilities of a typical medium-sized television operation.

In large productions, the above-the-line personnel may also include script or dialogue editors (who edit the script for the specific show requirement), composers (for the original score), conductor and musicians (if there is live music during the production, or for postproduction dubbing), designers and art directors, a unit manager (in charge of day-to-day schedules and budgets), and production assistants. Of course, most small or medium-sized stations use their regular employees, who are on the station's payroll anyway, except for occasional outside talent. Only large networks, or independent production companies, usually hire freelance above-the-line personnel.


14.8 Above-the-Line Personnel.

Personnel | Function

Executive Producer--Producer Assistant or Associate Producer Director Art Director Talent Writer Announcer


In charge of one or several program series, has overall responsibility of complete series.

Takes care of entire budget and handles station management, advertising agencies, financial supporters, salaries for principal actors.

In charge of individual production. Is responsible for all supervisory personnel working on it. Responsible for coordinating technical and nontechnical production elements. Often serves as writer in small station operation, and sometimes as director of the show as well.

Assists the producer in all production matters. Often does the actual coordinating job, such as telephoning talent, confirming schedules, worrying about deadlines, picking up the slides from the art department. Unfortunately, many secretaries are made to function as assistant or even full-fledged producers without the benefit of the authority and financial reward that ordinarily go with this responsibility.

In charge of directing talent and technical facilities. Is responsible for transforming a script into video and audio images, for creating the medium's part of the process message (the other part being the involvement of the percipient). A residue director or duty director coordinates the program sequence of prerecorded materials. Often, this function is taken over by master control personnel or by computer. Small stations combine the producing and directing functions in a producer-director.

In charge of creative design aspects of show (set, display, graphics). Performers and actors who appear on television, either live, on videotape, or on film.

Large productions include dancers, singers, or extras in a play.

Writes television scripts. In small station operations, the writer's function is often assumed by the producer or the director.

Performer who does not appear on camera. If on camera, the announcer moves up into the talent category.


Below-the-Line Production:

The below-the-line production has to do with coordinating the engineering and production personnel who operate equipment during the production, as well as the necessary production equipment and facilities. Most often, the director of the show, the production manager, and the engineering supervisor (either studio supervisor or assistant chief engineer) will determine exactly which technical facilities will be necessary. However, as a producer, you cannot afford to leave all the below-the-line decisions to the director or the engineering personnel. Otherwise you may find yourself losing control not only of the production but especially of the below-the-line budget, for which, after all, you are responsible. A producer who is knowledgeable of all aspects of television production techniques (including the potentials and limitations of the major equipment, such as cameras, lights, and audio equipment) can save considerable time, effort, and money without limiting the concept or production scope of the proposed show.

Figure 14.10 shows some of the major below-the-line production personnel and facilities.

Again, the below-the-line personnel are usually employed by the station. When you rent your facilities to an outside agency, however, the engineering and production personnel need to be included in the below-the-line budget.

The above- and below-the-line production categories make it mandatory for you to organize the medium requirements into a specific production sequence. Sometimes, the process message requires that you start with the above-the-line items and then move to the below-the-line items. At other times, you must involve them both simultaneously. A careful analysis of the objective of the process message, however, will generally suggest a production sequence to you. Obviously, you cannot order title slides if the writer has not yet finished the script and given you the title of the show. Nor can you argue with the director over the number of cameras before the sets have been designed and the action tentatively blocked by the director.

14.9 News operations usually have their own above-the-line personnel, which includes a news producer, assignment editor, writers, and reporters.

But since most of them are regularly employed by a station, their salaries need not be considered in an above-the-line budget.


14.10 Below-the-Line Personnel and Facilities.


Personnel: Engineering:

Studio or Remote Supervisor T.D. Camera Operators Lighting Technician Video Engineer Audio Engineer Videotape Engineer


Oversees all technical operations.

Technical director; usually acts as crew chief and does the switching.

Operate the cameras; often take care of the lighting.

In charge of lighting; usually in large production centers, or for large productions only.

Shades cameras; often serves also as videotape operator on remotes.

In charge of all audio operations. Works the audio board during the show.

Runs the videotape machines, and takes care of the videotape editing.

--Personnel: Production

Floor Manager--Floorpersons (also called grips, stagehands, facilities persons)

Associate or Assistant Director Graphic Artists

(Some of these functions may be performed by engineering personnel. In small station operations, and especially in college and university operations, the engineering and production personnel functions often overlap considerably. For example, the simplified operation of the television camera certainly makes it possible for nonengineering personnel to function as camera operators. Certain labor union restrictions, however, may delimit the personnel functions quite explicitly.) In charge of all floor activities. Directs talent on the floor, relays director's cues to studio talent, and supervises floor personnel.

Set up scenery and dress sets. Operate easel cards and graphics. Sometimes operate microphone booms and camera dollies. Assist camera operators in pulling cables. Usually act as properties, wardrobe, and makeup people, especially in small stations.

Classified as below-the-line personnel in most television operations. Assists the director in all his duties. Often supervises rehearsals and does the timing during the actual production. In difficult shows, gives the appropriate "ready" cues to cameras, audio, lighting, VTR, and so forth.

Prepare studio cards, slides, and other graphic material.


Studio Use

Cameras Lighting Audio VTR Telecine Graphics Sets and Properties Film Special Production Effects Postproduction Remote Facilities

Producer's Involvement :

(Although most of these facilities are stipulated by the director of the specific show, you, as a producer, are nevertheless ultimately responsible for their use and cost): Requests studio use and confirms studio schedules with production manager. Studio needs to be scheduled for rehearsal, setup, lighting, and actual production time.

Checks with director on the agreed number of cameras. Establishes whether all the requested cameras are, indeed, needed.

Checks with the T.D. or lighting person whether he or she has the proper information about the lighting needed. (Floor plan and lighting plot should be in the hands of the lighting person.) Confirms with audio engineer special audio requests, such as guest to play a guitar number, or the exact instrumentation of a rock group.

Confirms with the videotape engineer the approximate length of the show, or various takes, and any special requests. This is simply a double-check on the director's request.

Checks on availability and scheduling of film islands.

Often requests the necessary graphics, and sees to it that they are promptly delivered to master control (slides) or the studio (charts, easel cards). This is an especially important job for the producer. A missing slide can seriously impair the whole production. Watches for unity in style.

Follows through on special set construction, and the purchase of special properties. Since some art directors may get carried away when sent on a shopping trip for properties, the producer should keep close watch over all purchases.

Checks with the film editor about special film inserts, or film footage. Some producers are actively supervising the entire editing, especially in a documentary film production.

Checks with engineering (studio supervisor) on all special effects that involve additional equipment and manpower, or unusual equipment use.

Checks on all postproduction schedules and facilities (VTR's editing facilities, video and audio dubbings, as well as personnel.) Checks on all aspects of remote productions (see Section 16).

Note: In large productions, you may also have to include special makeup and wardrobe services in the below-the-line production activities and budget.


Besides helping you to determine the production sequence, the systems design will aid you greatly in the production of a program series. You can, for example, state the objective of the process message and identify the medium requirements for each of the shows. You will then be able to see which of the production activities overlap for the whole series. For example, you may find that the same set will do for the whole series, or that you can use certain graphics for more than one show. Or you may even be able to videotape two shows on the same day, one right after the other.

You may find that you can combine on-location work and shoot several sequences with the same crew.

Such a system is particularly beneficial if you produce a series of commercials, all treating the same product, or if you have to produce an instructional television series covering the same topic. (See 14.11.) Special Production Aspects Besides the above and below the-line production processes, there are other important production aspects that you must consider. These are (1) definition of program types, (2) copyright and clearances, (3) union affiliation, and (4) code and legal aspects.

Program Types

All program types have been standardized by the FCC into eight categories: (1) Agricultural (A), (2)

Entertainment (E), (3) News (N), (4) Public Affairs (PA), (5) Religious (R), (6) Instructional (I), (7) Sports (S), and (8) Other (0). The last (0) includes all programs not falling within the first seven. These program types are not to overlap one another.

Furthermore, there are subcategories, which may overlap with any of the above types. They are (1) Editorials (EDIT), (2) Political (POL), and Educational Institution (ED); the last (ED) includes any program prepared by, on behalf of, or in cooperation with educational institutions.5

[[5 For more information concerning program type definitions, see Editors of BM/E Magazine, Interpreting FCC Broadcast Rules, Vol. 3 (Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.: Tab Books, 1972); and Sydney W. Head, Broadcasting in America, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976). ]]

14.11 Multiple Production System.

Copyright and Clearances

If you use copyrighted material on your show, you must procure proper clearances. Usually, the name of the copyright holder and the year of the copyright are printed right after the © copyright symbol. Some photographs, reproductions of famous paintings, and prints are often copyrighted, as are, of course, books, periodicals, short stories, plays, and musical scores. Check with the station's attorney about special copyright clauses and public domain.

You will need clearances for the use of recorded music, as well as the performance of written music, on the air. All published music is subject to performance royalties, with three major organizations holding most of the music copyrights: (1) ASCAP-the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; (2) BMI-Broadcast Music, Incorporated; and (3) SESAC-The Society of European Stage Authors and Composers. If the licensing society is not indicated on the label of the recording, for example, check the large music catalogs of any one of these societies. Larger stations have standing contracts with these societies; all you have to do then is to report the music used on the air.

Union Affiliation

Most directors, writers, and talent belong to a guild or union, as do almost all below-the-line personnel. As a producer, you must be alert to the various union regulations in your production area, the minimum fees and specific work jurisdictions such as overtime, turnaround time (stipulated hours of rest between workdays), rest periods, who can legally run a camera and who cannot, and so forth. If you use nonunion personnel, check with the respective union for proper clearance.

These are the most important television unions:

American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). Most television talent.

American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA). American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). Directors Guild of America, Inc.

Writers' Guild of America, Inc.

Screen Actors Guild (SAG); Screen Extras Guild (SEG). Important only when film commercials are produced.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Studio and master control engineers; may include floor personnel.

National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET). Studio and control room engineers; may include floor personnel.

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Machine Operators (IATSE). In small station operation, some members of the production crew may belong to engineering unions also. Directors sometimes belong to AFTRA, especially when they double as announcers.

Always be careful when you ask a studio guest to do anything but answer questions during an interview. As soon as he (or she) gives a short demonstration of his talents, he may be classified as a performer and automatically become subject to AFTRA fees. Also, don't request the floor crew to do anything that is not directly connected with their regular line of duty, or they, too, may collect talent fees. Camera operators usually have a contract clause that assures them a substantial penalty fee if they are willfully shown by another camera on the television screen.

Code and Legal Aspects

Before you accept a script or go into rehearsal, make sure that the material is well suited for television presentation. Sometimes a script that reads well may become quite objectionable when presented in a certain manner. Be guided by good taste and respect for the viewing public, not just by laws. There is a fine line between using an expletive simply to "liven up an otherwise dull interview" and using it as an essential part of characterization by one of the actors.

The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) periodically issues a Television Code that suggests guidelines for responsible broadcasting.

As a producer, you should certainly keep abreast of such information.6 Check with the station attorney or legal counsel about up-to-date rulings on libel (written defamation), slander (oral defamation), the right of privacy (not the same in all states), Canon 35 (courtroom television), obscenity laws, Section 315 of the Communications Act (affording candidates for public office equal opportunities), and similar matters.

6. The Television Code is subject to change. Up-to-date information is available from the Director, Code Authority, National Association of Broadcasters, 1771 N Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

Production Process

Because each television production is unique, it has very specific production requirements. Therefore, the clearest way to give you an idea of the entire production process is to list a series of steps and add some of the major factors and questions you ought to consider along with them. The steps you will follow in a real situation may not always match the ones outlined here, either in number or sequence, but the basic patterns of activity will remain. The factors indicated here follow the effect-to-cause systems design, as mentioned previously.

1. Need Assessment: Is the program idea truly in the public interest? If the idea were developed into a television show, what, if anything, would the viewer gain by it? Don't forget that relaxation and entertainment, just plain fun, are indeed important program objectives. Check with the assessment person, the program director, the public service director, or anyone else whose judgment you trust, about defined needs. Most of all, stay attuned to life around you. Keep up with the news; observe how people live, what they say, how they feel. Talk to community leaders. Exchange ideas with communication experts, such as mass communication educators, sociologists, philosophers, and artists.

Sensitive artists are usually very much aware of the prevailing social climate and of future needs.

2. Formulation of Program Idea and Research: Before stating a program objective, try to arrive at a general program idea. Narrow it down to manageable proportions. Don't try to solve all the world's problems in 27:30 minutes.

If you have decided on a worthwhile issue, do some research on it. Try to get all the information you can so that you can present a balanced point of view. Local high school and college libraries are a great resource for information, as are newspaper offices and public libraries.

3. Stating Objective for Process Message: What would you like the viewer to get out of your program? What do you want him to experience, to feel, to think, during the show? After the show? What specifically will the percipient gain by your program?

4. Audience: What specific type of audience would you like to reach? Teenagers? Senior citizens? Families? Housewives? Working women and men? General works on mass communication research, and sociological studies, as well as rating services, usually have a fairly good definition of audience types and their demographic and ecological parameters. If the issue is important enough, fight for the right of minority audiences (audiences that have special interests, in contrast to mass audience; not an audience defined by ethnic criteria) to receive the information, despite the likelihood that the ratings will be low. Although in a commercial station one of your major objectives is to make money, you also have a responsibility as a public servant.

5. Time: In general, the type of audience determines a specific telecasting time, such as morning, noon, late afternoon, early evening, late evening, weekend. What time would be ideal for your purposes? What are your extreme time limits? What compromises are you prepared to make? For example, if your target audience is working women, and you get a Tuesday morning from ten to eleven program time, you will most likely not reach your intended audience.

6. Tentative Budget: Work out a tentative budget, although you do not as yet know all the above-the-line and below-the-line requirements. If the show is produced in your station, the above-the-line cost will probably be absorbed by the station (directors, announcers, art director, and so forth are all employed by the station on a regular salary). The estimate for the below-the-line budget must be based on the approximate facilities you think you need. Check with the engineering supervisor on the current rates. Again, it may be that your station requires a budget only for moneys that are actually paid out, such as the construction of a new set by an outside agency, union scale for freelance talent, copyright release fees, and others. Larger stations, however, require a budget for both above-the-line and below-the-line expenditures, regardless of whether the cost is, at least partially, absorbed by the salaries of regularly employed personnel.

7. Show Approval: You should now write up the proposal, mentioning the items above. Include the tentative budget. Present the proposal to the program manager, or the public service director if the program falls into the public service category. The program manager will present your proposal to higher management; in small stations, to the general manager and the comptroller or business manager. Be realistic in your initial budget, but don't make it too small. It is psychologically, as well as financially, more appropriate to agree to a budget cut than to have to ask for more money later on.

If your show is to be sponsored (either by a single client or through participating spots), the sales manager will, of course, participate in the initial decision-making process. Often the presumed "salability" of your program idea is a decisive factor in the preliminary negotiations. The sales manager would like to know how the show is going to turn out before you have even started producing it. The networks usually pretest pilot programs as to public appeal.

If a single client becomes the sponsor of your show, you will have to include his representative in at least the preliminary production meetings. The client is usually very much interested in your budget.

8. Above-the-Line Considerations: As soon as you have the go-ahead for your project, select your above-the-line personnel, unless these functions are assigned to you.

Select a director in whom you have confidence and who is sufficiently sensitive to the program topic that he or she can work toward the process message. In small stations, you probably will have to direct as well as write the script for the show.

In larger production centers, you may have the luxury of hiring a writer, who must know the medium and also show some interest in the project. Make sure that this specialist understands the program objective and, especially, the proposed process message. If he or she disagrees with the process message or the whole idea of the program and does not come up with a better one, don't use him or her. The script such a writer will produce may be technically quite efficient but will probably lack inspiration and enthusiasm. Agree on a fee before delivery of the script; some writers charge amounts that can swallow up your whole budget.

You still may need to hire talent. For most simple shows-interviews, panel discussions, documentaries, or in-depth reports-you will have the talent in mind when you conceive the program format. However, if you have to cast the talent, consult the director of the show. It should be the director, not you, who makes the final talent selection, assuming that the talent falls within the allocated budget. Your budget should remain flexible as to categories. Try to establish some money reserves in a contingency fund.

The assistant producer, if you have one, is most likely assigned to you permanently and needs no special consideration. The art director, too, works within the station and is readily available for consultation.

9. Initial Production Conference: Before the below-the-line considerations, ask the writer to come up with a show treatment (a rough outline of what he thinks should be in the script). Then call the initial production conference, which, ideally, should be attended by the producer, assistant producer, director, writer, art director, talent (if already specified), production manager, and engineering supervisor. Sometimes, in small operations, the program manager sits in on the initial meeting. In any case, you may want to invite him. In this meeting you present the process message objective and let the writer discuss the basic show treatment (the basic video and audio images that the writer thinks are essential for achieving the process message). Listen carefully to all suggestions, but don't let the conference deteriorate into an anecdote session. Have your assistant write down all major suggestions. If the program is relatively simple, many below-the-line items will be discussed in this initial meeting. These are the specific assignments that should be made there: (1) To writer: complete script with deadline. (2) To art director: tentative floor plan (set design) with deadline. (3) To director: list of complete technical facilities with deadline, and list of talent (if not decided already). (4) To production manager: schedule rehearsal and air times, as well as studio facilities and floor crews. (5) To engineering supervisor: assignment of T.D. and crew. (6) To all: precise budget figures for all necessary expenditures.

From now on, the various key production people will establish their own lines of communication and contact one another in order to fulfill the assignment within the specified time. Obviously, the art director must get together with the writer and the director in order to work out a suitable set, and the director must consult the production manager about specific technical requirements, such as number of cameras, type of audio equipment, preproduction work (pretaping or filming of certain show elements) or postproduction (editing, dubbing). Many of the production activities occur from now on simultaneously, or in an order most convenient to the parties involved. However, you must keep track of all such activities. Since deadlines are essential for efficient teamwork, make sure that they are adhered to.

List the telephone numbers (home and work) and address of each key production member.

10. Script Conference: As soon as the writer has finished the script, call another production conference. Ideally, it should include the same people who attended the first one. But now you are involved primarily in below-the-line matters. These persons are especially important to this meeting: writer with completed script (the script still being open for minor changes), art director with tentative floor plan, T.D. with a good idea of technical facilities needed, production manager, floor manager, and talent. Previous to this conference you should have received the completed script and talked over the medium requirements with the director.

In case the process message requires an unusually precise and thorough understanding of all production members (as in the football show mentioned earlier in this section), you should schedule subsequent meetings with the entire production personnel (camera operators, audio engineers, videotape editors, floor personnel) so that the director can communicate the specific production concepts and medium requirements. Such meetings are not a waste of time. The more the entire production staff understands the total concept of the show, the less work you will have during actual production (see Section 15). In this script conference, or shortly thereafter, you should work out two important production details: scheduling and facilities request.

11. Scheduling: Check with the production manager (who, in turn will be in touch with the engineering supervisor) about studio availability for rehearsal and taping sessions (or live on-the-air presentation). Check with the director about rehearsal schedules. Make sure that time schedules are distributed to all production and engineering personnel. If a schedule change becomes necessary, let everybody connected with your production know immediately, including any production people who work outside your station. Double-check all schedule items. Have your assistant call the people about the schedule and send them a reminder by mail. Then call again.

12. Facilities Request: The person who fills out the final facilities request form varies from station to station. In small station operations, it is often the producer. The facilities request usually contains information as to date and time of rehearsal or taping sessions, or on-the-air performances; title of production, names of producer and director (and sometimes talent); and all technical facilities, such as cameras, microphones, lights, sets, graphics, costumes, makeup, VTR's, and special production needs. It also lists the studio and control room needed and, if you work closed-circuit, the distribution facility (14.12). The facilities request, like the script, is an essential communications device. Be as accurate as you possibly can when preparing it. Later changes only invite costly errors.

The facilities request should generally have the floor plan and lighting plot attached. Make sure that the graphics (slides, crawl) are ordered well in advance (unless you use a character generator). The art department has many other things to do, and generally adheres strictly to deadlines.

Since several key departments must receive the same information, carbon copies are necessary. Usually, they are different colors, each of which is assigned permanently to a specific department; for example, the yellow copy may go to engineering, the blue to the art department, the pink to the originator of the facilities request, and so on. The departments that generally get copies of the facilities request are (1) production, (2) engineering, (3) film editing, (4) traffic, and (5) art.

If you have a computer facility, the facilities request could become part of the computer program.

13. Budget: The facilities request will give you the exact data you need for the below-the-line budget. You are now ready to prepare the final budget for the show.

The sample includes above-the-line production expenses although, as pointed out before, they are automatically absorbed by salaries to station personnel.

In order to prevent any misunderstanding on how much a specific service or item costs, no actual figures are supplied here (14.13). Check with the union headquarters about their minimum fees (most services in larger cities are above the stated minimum rates). A performer who works for scale (minimum union rate)

is sometimes hard to find. Every station has a rate card for its below-the-line production costs, such as studio rentals for a minimum number of hours, daily rates (which then are somewhat less than the hourly rate), and the equipment and production personnel supplied.

14.12 Facilities Request Form.

14.13 Sample Budget: Note that in small and medium-sized stations the producer, director, associate producer and director, writer, secretary, and art director are part of the regularly employed production staff. As salaried personnel, they do not require special above-the-line budget considerations. The services of casting director, costume designer, and orchestra leader are required for large-scale productions only. (Budget adapted from ABC program estimates. Courtesy of ABC Television.)

14. Log Information: As a producer, it is your responsibility to give the traffic department, which prepares the log, all the necessary information, such as rehearsal dates and times (if they involve equipment), commercial inserts, if any, and major facilities used.

Generally, a copy of the facilities request goes directly to traffic. But double-check, nevertheless, on whether they have all the vital information. If the log is made up by computer, you can easily check at any one of the keyboard terminals as to whether the complete information has reached traffic, and, ultimately, the computer.

15. Publicity and Promotion: The best show is worthless if nobody knows about it. While the preproduction activities are in full swing, meet with the publicity and promotions departments (usually combined in one department, especially in smaller stations). The function of these departments is to minimize the gap between the potential and the actual television audience. In other words, it is the job of publicity and promotion to inform all set owners of upcoming shows and to stimulate them to tune to those programs. The higher the number of actual television viewers in relation to set owners, the higher the rating figure will be.

Although the quality and success of your show are not necessarily expressed by high ratings, it is still desirable to reach as many viewers in your desired audience as possible. Be sure, therefore, to inform your publicity and promotion people of exact data concerning your show.

16. Rehearsals and Performance: From now on, the director of the show takes over. She, or he, will conduct the necessary rehearsals and direct the final videotape or on-the-air performance. Try to stay out of her way as much as possible. If you have suggestions concerning the show, take notes during the rehearsal and then discuss them with the director during the break. During the actual performance, don't interfere at all, unless something totally unexpected happens that needs your immediate decision.

Make a special effort to receive all your guests properly. It doesn't benefit the image of your station if VIP's are left wandering around the hallways, trying to find the right studio.

17. Feedback and Evaluation: The rehearsals (if any) will give you the opportunity to evaluate the initial show concept and make changes when necessary. Also, listen to the suggestions of other people, without becoming dependent upon them. If the show solicits feedback ("please call such-and-such a number"), see to it that the feedback facilities are indeed working. There is nothing more annoying to the viewer than to find that his well-intentioned efforts to communicate with the station are ignored. Keep accurate records of all feedback received. Don't forget to write thank-you notes to the people who have made special contributions to the program.

Complete all required reports (such as music clearances and AFTRA forms) unless the director takes care of such matters. Pay all bills promptly.

As we said in the beginning, producing means coordinating many people, activities, and things.

Triple-check everything. Don't leave anything to chance. Yet, even the most skillful producer will not be able to come up with a successful program if he does not have an important idea to start with. If you really care about helping people to live better and happier lives, if you are indeed sensitive to your surroundings, then you will find significant program ideas in abundance.


Producing means to see to it that a worthwhile idea gets to be a worthwhile television show. Significant aspects of production are (1) systems design for production, (2) above-the-line production, (3) below-the-line production, (4) special production aspects, and (5) a sample production process.

The systems approach to production stresses the effect-to-cause approach, including (1) need assessment, (2) viewer involvement, (3) medium requirements, and (4) feedback and evaluation. The clear statement of the process message is one of the most important aspects of the effect-to-cause approach.

The above-the-line production involves nontechnical personnel, such as producer, director, talent, and writer, and the expenditures connected with their work.

The below-the-line production consists of coordinating and financing of the engineering and production personnel who are actually operating equipment during the production, as well as the necessary production equipment and facilities.

The engineering personnel includes T.D., camera operators, lighting technicians, video and audio engineers; the production personnel includes, among others, floor manager, floor personnel, graphic artists. The facilities include all standard studio and remote equipment, such as camera, lighting, audio, telecine, and VTR. Special production aspects include (1) definitions of program types, (2) copyright and clearances, (3) union affiliations, and (4) code and legal aspects.

The production process shows major steps of decision making and a possible flow of activities, including need assessment, formulation of program idea and research, stating objectives for process message, audience definition, time slot, tentative budget, show approval, production conference, scheduling, facilities request, budget, log information, publicity and promotion, rehearsal and performance, and feedback and evaluation.

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Updated: Tuesday, 2020-10-13 8:36 PST