The Television Studio and Control Centers (Television Production Guide)

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The television studio and control centers are built so that they afford maximum control of all production elements. In this section, we will highlight three major production facilities: I. The studio itself including its physical requirements and its major installations.

2. The control room, with its systems and devices for controlling the studio activities, switching, audio, and lighting.

3. Master control and its principal functions of program input, program storage, and program retrieval.

4. The studio support areas, including property and scene storage, and makeup and dressing rooms.

You should realize that the studio should not become an involuntary prison for television production, simply because it is available. The highly mobile cameras and recording facilities make it less and less the only, or even the major, place for production. Why bring the City Hall into the studio when you can go to City Hall? Nevertheless, the studio does, and will for some time to come, represent an essential television production environment for many types of production.

Telecasts can originate anywhere, indoors and outdoors, as long as there is enough room for one camera and its associated equipment, power facilities to drive the camera chain and audio equipment, and enough light so that the camera can see. With the development of highly portable cameras and recording facilities, television is no longer bound by the traditional confines of the studio. In tandem with satellite transmission, it now has literally the whole world as its stage.

Television's newfound and important freedom from the studio, however, does not render the studio obsolete by any means. The major reason for the continued existence of television studios is that, if properly designed, they can afford maximum control of every production element with the least effort. Since the two basic functions of the television studio and its associated facilities are optimal use of the television equipment and maximum control of the various production elements, we must be concerned with three major production centers: (1) the origination center, the television studio, (2) the control center, the studio control room and master control room, and (3) studio support areas.


Acoustic Treatment

Application of sound-deadening material to the walls of a television (or sound) studio to create an environment for optimal sound pickup (usually by rendering the studio less "live"). Audio-Follows-Video An appliance that automatically switches the accompanying audio along with the video source.

Control Room

A room adjacent to the studio in which the director, the T.D. (technical director), the audio engineer, and sometimes the lighting technician perform their various production functions.

Double Headset

A telephone headset (earphones) that carries program sound in one earphone and the P.L. information in the other. Also called split-intercom.

House Number

The in-house system of identification; each piece of recorded program must be identified by a certain code number. This is called the house number, since the numbers differ from station to station (house to house). Intercom Abbreviation for intercommunication system. The system uses telephone headsets to facilitate voice communication among all production and engineering personnel involved in the production of a show.

Interruptible Feedback--Also called the I.F.B. system. Same as Program Interrupt.

Line Monitor--Also called master monitor. The monitor that shows only the line-out pictures, the pictures that go on the air, or on videotape.

Log--The major operational document. Issued daily, the log carries such information as program source or origin, scheduled program time, program duration, video and audio information, code identification (house number, for example), the title of the program, the program type, and additional special information.

Master Control--Nerve center for all telecasts.

Controls the program input, storage, and retrieval for on-the-air telecasts.

Also oversees technical quality of all program material.

Monitor 1. Television receiver used in the studio and control rooms. 2.

Loudspeaker that carries the program sound.

P.A. Public address loudspeaker system. Same as Studio Talkback.

P.L. Abbreviation for Private Line, or Phone Line.

Same as Intercom.

Preview Monitor 1. A monitor that shows the director the picture he intends to use as the next shot. 2. Any monitor that shows a video source, except for the line (master) and off-the-air monitors.

Program Interrupt Also called the P.I. system. A system that feeds program sound to a tiny earphone worn by the performer. It can be interrupted with P.L. information at any time.

Program Monitor Speaker, or Program Speaker A loudspeaker in the control room that carries the program sound. Its volume can be controlled without affecting the actual lineout program feed.

Program Storage The physical storage of recorded program material (film or videotape). Studio Monitor A monitor located in the studio showing the program in progress.

Studio Talkback A public address loudspeaker system from the control room to the studio. Also called S.A. (studio address) or P.A. system.

Switcher 1. Engineer or production person who is doing the video switching (usually the T.D., the technical director). 2. A panel with rows of buttons that allows the selection and assembly of various video sources through a variety of transition devices.

Telecine The place from which the film islands operate. The word comes from television and cinematography. Occasionally, the telecine room is used for film storage and some minor film-editing jobs.

Videotape Room The place where all large videotape recorders are kept. Often serves also as videotape storage and editing room.


The Television Studio

The television studio should be designed in such a way that it provides for the proper coordination of all major production elements-cameras, lighting, sound, scenery, action of performers.

Most decisively, however, the studio is designed around the workings of the camera, that is, to give the cameras great maneuverability with little or no interference from other production equipment. We will briefly look at (1) the physical layout of the typical studio, and (2) the major studio installations.

Physical Layout

Most studios are rectangular with varying amounts of floor space. Although the zoom lens has drastically reduced the actual movement of the cameras, the size of the room still affects production complexity and flexibility to a great extent.

Size The larger the studio, the more complex the productions can become, and the more flexible the productions will be. If, for example, you use a studio for a traditional news program only, you can get by with an amazingly small space.

The sets, the cameras, and even the newscasters will have their assigned positions and rarely, if ever, move from them. Lighting and audio facilities, once set up, will remain unchanged from show to show. Simple interviews and panel shows need not much more space.

More complex productions, however, such as musical groups or orchestras, dramas, dance, or audience-participation shows need larger studios.

A symphony orchestra, multiple sets, or a room-filling audience obviously does not fit into a tiny studio. It is always easier to produce a simple show in a large studio than a complex show in a small one. Generally, a 40 X 60 foot studio will be sufficient for most production requirements of a medium-sized station. (See 8.1.) Floor The floor itself should be level and even so that cameras can travel on it smoothly and freely. Also, it should be hard enough to withstand the moving about of heavy equipment, scenery, and heavy set properties.

Most studios have concrete floors that are polished, or covered with linoleum, tile, or a hard plastic spray.

8.1 Large Production Studio (Studio 1, San Francisco State University).

Ceiling Height Adequate ceiling height is one of the most important design factors in a television studio. If the ceiling is too low, the cameras will overshoot the scenery, revealing the overhead lights and boom microphones. Since the average television scenery is 10 feet high, a minimum ceiling height of 12 feet is essential for normal, professional operation. A higher ceiling (25 to 30 feet) is much better, since it allows some working and cooling space above the lighting grid or movable battens. You will find that a low ceiling is the most serious problem in a room that is to be converted into a television studio. In a high-ceilinged studio, you can always drop in a false ceiling, if it is to be seen on camera as part of the set. But there is no way of pushing up one that is too low. If you work in a low-ceilinged studio, try to mount the lighting instruments as close to the ceiling as possible. Make sure that you then have enough vents in it to divert the intense heat of the lights.

Acoustic treatment All walls and the ceiling are usually acoustically treated. Generous layers of rock wool, held in place by wire mesh, have proved to be the most practical sound-deadening material. In a classroom conversion, however, you might try using empty egg cartons for acoustical wall treatment. If snugly arranged, they not only prove highly effective as sound deadeners but are also quite attractive to look at.

There should be no windows in the studio, since the outside light would make controlled lighting difficult, if not impossible. Also, the windows would admit unwanted sounds from the outside.

Air Conditioning

The lack of windows, however, makes it necessary to install an efficient air conditioning system. Besides keeping the studio at a tolerable temperature, the air conditioning must operate as quietly as possible. If it produces even the slightest hissing and rumbling or excessive air movement when it is operating, you will find yourself shutting it off every time you do an important show. And since all shows are important during production, your air conditioning will be turned off more than it is turned on, much to the detriment of man and machine.


Another important point in the design and use of a television studio is the size and construction of its doors. You need heavy, soundproof doors that are large enough to accommodate large pieces of scenery, furniture, and set or commercial properties, such as grand pianos, appliances, and automobiles. There is nothing more frustrating for production personnel than to have to squeeze scenery and props, and people, through undersized studio doors, or to have the doors transmit outside sounds, like somebody coughing or laughing, in the middle of the show.

All access doors to the studio should have some warning mechanism that alerts people about to enter the studio that rehearsals or on-the-air shows are in progress. These devices may range from "Stand-by" and "On the Air" signs above the studio doors to revolving and flashing red lights similar to those on police cars.

Major Installations While any fairly large room with a high enough ceiling can serve as a studio in case of need, there are certain basic installations that are essential for effective studio operations. These are (1) the intercommunication system, (2) studio monitors, (3) program speakers, (4) wall outlets, and (5) the lighting patchboard. In some studios, the dimmer control board is also located in the studio, although you will find that many stations prefer to have it in the control room.

Intercommunication System The intercommunication system, or for short "intercom," is one of the most important, though often neglected, studio installations. It allows all production and engineering personnel actively engaged in the production of a show to be in constant voice contact with one another. For example, without the intercom system, the director would have no way of telling the floor manager in the studio what cues to give to which performers, or the camera operators what shots to take. Other production personnel-the audio engineer, boom operators, technical directors, videotape operator--rely equally on the intercom for the split-second coordination of their tasks.

In most small stations, the telephone intercommunication, or P.L. (private or phone line) system is used. All production and engineering personnel that need to be in voice contact with one another wear standard telephone headsets with one small earphone and a small microphone for talkback.

(See 8.2.) Each major production area has one or several intercom outlets for plugging in the headsets. For example, each camera generally has two intercom outlets: one for the camera operator, and the other for the floor manager or another member of the floor crew. If possible, though, the members of the floor crew should avoid connecting their earphones to the camera; it not only limits their operation radius but also interferes with the camera's flexibility. Usually, the floor personnel connect their earphones to separate intercom wall outlets through long, flexible, lightweight cables. But difficulties can arise with this arrangement, too, if the cable gets in the way of moving cameras and microphone booms or becomes tangled up in one of the many pieces of scenery on the studio floor.

Larger studios employ, therefore, a wireless intercom system for the floor personnel. They wear a small earplug, instead of the cumbersome head-set, and carry a small pocket receiver that picks up signals sent into the studio by a transmitter.

Unfortunately, the floor personnel cannot talk back to the control room with this system. At least the floor manager, who definitely needs two-way communication, should wear a talkback telephone headset.

8.2 Intercom Headset: The most vital link in television production is the intercommunication system.

All production and engineering personnel that need to be in voice contact wear telephone headsets with a small earphone and a microphone for talkback.

Sometimes it is necessary to supply program sound and control-room signals simultaneously to such production personnel as the microphone boom operator or studio musicians (usually the band or orchestra leader) who have to gear their actions to both the program sound and the director's cues. In this case, a double headset is used in which one of the two earphones carries the intercommunication signals and the other the program sound. Although you may not need this split-intercom system very often, it should nevertheless be available to you.

In most television operations, production and engineering crews use the same intercommunication channel, which means that everybody can be heard by everybody else. Most intercom systems, however, have provisions for separating the lines for different functions. For example, while the technical director confers with the video engineer on one intercom channel, the director may, at the same time, give instructions to his floor crew.

More often, the separate channels are used to switch into or out of the intercom systems of other studios or remote production centers.

In shows with highly flexible formats, or where important program changes are likely to occur, such as in newscasts or special events telecasts, a special intercommunication system is used to connect the control room (director, producer) directly with the performers. This system is called the P.I., program interrupt system, or the I.F.B, interruptible feedback system. Here the performer wears a small earpiece that carries the program sound unless the director, or any other member of the production team connected with the system, interrupts the program sound with special instructions. For example, the field reporter in Washington who is describing on camera the details of the arrival of foreign dignitaries hears himself until the director cuts in and tells him to "throw it back to New York"-that is, to tell the viewers that he is returning the program to the origination center in New York. But while the director is giving these instructions, the viewer still hears the field reporter's description of the event. Relaying such messages through an off-camera floor manager would be much too slow and inaccurate in as tight a show as a live special events telecast. Needless to say, such a system works only with a highly experienced announcer.

There are numerous occasions when the program interrupt system has unfortunately acted also as a performer interrupt device because the inexperienced performer could no longer maintain his commentary while listening to the director's instructions.

The studio talkback, or S.A. (for studio address), system is used by the control-room personnel, principally the director, to give special instructions to people in the studio not connected with the telephone intercom system. The talkback system is a great aid to the director, who, especially in the beginning stages of a rehearsal, needs to talk to everybody in the studio at once. Also, if most of the personnel happen to be off the intercom system, as is frequently the case during a short break, the director can use the talkback system to call them back to work.

Some directors use the talkback almost exclusively rather than calling on the floor manager to relay their instructions to the performers. If you have to work with a large cast, this is an effective way of giving directions. A floor manager would have to yell, or repeat the instructions several times in order to reach everybody. However, if you work with a fairly small cast, total dependence on the talkback system is not always desirable. If you happen to be impatient to get things moving in the studio, the talkback system communicates your nervousness directly to the performers, along with your instructions, and in an amplified way at that. A sensitive floor manager, on the other hand, can relay your messages more calmly and provide the human contact so badly needed in tense rehearsal situations. Also, the floor manager can often correct minor blocking difficulties much more easily from the floor than you can from the isolated control room. On the other hand, an occasional firm and direct instruction through the talkback can work wonders with a slightly tired or inattentive floor crew or group of performers.

Considering the importance of the intercommunication system, you should include it in your routine program facilities checks. If you discover faulty earphones or an imperfect intercom line, report it to the maintenance crew and have it fixed. A faulty intercom can be more detrimental to a production than a defective camera.

8.3 Studio Monitor: In case of excessive light spill in the studio, you can build a simple cardboard hood for the monitor that will shield the screen from the light and make the picture more visible.

Studio Monitors

If camera and floor personnel, and occasionally the performers, can see the shots the director has selected, they will be greatly helped in anticipating their future tasks. You need, therefore, at least two mobile studio monitors in the average-sized television studio. For example, if the director has selected camera l's closeup of a book cover, camera 2, after seeing this on the studio monitor, can go to a two-shot of the interviewer and the guest, or to another shot that does not needlessly duplicate camera l's closeup. The floor personnel will see on the monitor how to position themselves relative to the performer without getting into the camera's shots.

And, if the boom operator does not have a monitor on the boom dolly, he or she can see by the studio monitor where to position the mike so that it will not be in the shot. Sometimes the performer must see the monitor, especially if he has to narrate over a short film clip or videotape, or gear his narration in any other way to the video.

But be careful about letting an inexperienced performer, or especially an eager guest, see the studio monitor unnecessarily. Some of these people, members of the studio audience in particular, may become so fascinated by their screen image that they forget all about the actual show. If you include the studio audience in your show, try to turn off the audience monitors whenever someone in the audience is on camera, unless you feel that the embarrassed smiles, gestures of mock horror, or waves to mom at home are essential to the program, or indicative of the true nature of human beings.

Since the studio and audience monitors are generally at a considerable distance from the persons who are supposed to watch them, they should have a fairly large screen. The coaxial cable and the power cable should be long enough so that the monitor can be pushed into every performance area in the studio.

Sometimes the bright studio lighting will wash out, or at least reduce the visibility of, the monitor picture. A simple cardboard hood, or better a permanently attached metal shield, will help to reduce the light spilling onto the screen. (See 8.3.) In small studios, you can suspend a single monitor from the lighting grid with a pantograph, which enables you to lower and raise the monitor according to need.

Program Monitor Speakers

The program speakers (for short) fulfill a function for audio similar to what the studio monitors do for video.

Whenever necessary, they can feed into the studio the program sound, or any other necessary sound-dance music, telephone rings, or other sound effects that call for synchronization with the studio action. When the program speakers are on, the studio microphones are generally cut off, unless you put the studio speaker controls on the audio board in the override position. In that case, the studio speakers operate at low volume without cutting off the studio microphones. When using override, make sure to test out the volume limits of the program speakers in order to avoid feedback.

If your studio has a special audience area, the program speakers are fed by the line-out only, and are usually left on during the entire show, provided that they do not present a feedback problem.

Wall Outlets

As insignificant as they may seem at first, the number and position of wall outlets are important factors in studio production. Separate camera and microphone outlets in at least two opposite corners of the studio can, for example, immensely aid in setup and on-the-air production operations. If you have all camera and microphone outlets concentrated in one studio location, you will be forced to string exceedingly long and cumbersome cables around the various sets in order to get the equipment into the desired shooting and pickup positions. A second and even a third outlet box in a different studio location can eliminate such time-consuming and awkward cable routing. (See 8.4.) Besides outlets for cameras and microphone cables, you will need several distribution boxes for studio monitor video lines as well as many standard A.C. utility outlets staggered along all four walls for easy accessibility. You will need a few high-amperage utility outlets for rear screen projectors or high-power lighting equipment.

The intercom outlets should, of course, also be distributed along all studio walls and perhaps from the lighting grid in order to avoid overly long cables.

All wall outlets should be clearly marked, especially since most of them are apt to be hidden behind the cyclorama or pieces of scenery placed against the studio walls.

Lighting Patchboard

If you have a dimmer control for your lighting, the lighting patchboard is generally located in the studio, where you can spot the various lighting instruments and patch them into their respective dimmers without having to run in and out of the room. The usual way of patching is for one member of the lighting crew to call out the numbers of the lighting instruments needed, and for another member to patch them into the designated dimmers. With both people in the studio, this job becomes relatively fast and easy.

If the dimmer board is also in the studio, it is usually located in the corner that has the least studio traffic. The advantage of having it there is that it situates the dimmer-board operator right where the production takes place and where he can see at least some of the lighting instruments used. The disadvantages, however, make its location in the studio less desirable. They are (1) most of the time, the scenery and set properties prevent you from seeing most of the lighting instruments anyway; (2) wherever you may put the dimmer board, it will surely be in the way of someone at any given time; (3) unless the dimmer board is very well shielded, its electronics are liable to interfere severely with the cameras or audio pickup.

8.4 Camera Wall Outlets.

8.5 Control-Room Monitors: The many monitors in the control room represent the video choices for the director. He or she cannot choose an image for on-the-air use that does not first appear on any one of the monitors in front of him. The monitors show-images as supplied by live studio cameras, telecine cameras, the various VTR machines, special effects and character generators, remote inputs.

Then, there are the preview, line, and off-the-air monitors that show the on-the-air choices.

The Television Control Room

The control room is generally located in a separate room adjacent to the studio. You will find some control rooms that have visual access to the studio through soundproof, double-glass windows, and others that are completely windowless. For strictly professional operation, the window is not essential. Most of the older control rooms with windows have so many monitors or other equipment blocking the window from the control-room side, and cycloramas or scenery from the studio side, that the window is, for all practical purposes, useless anyway.

Still, some case can be made for the retention of the window, especially in places where television production is taught. First, unless you are an experienced director, the control monitors alone will not always be able to show you the complete studio traffic pattern. The picture the camera takes and relays to the control-room monitors cannot always tell you how far the camera is from the studio wall or a piece of scenery, for example.

Or you may call for a dolly-back of a camera whose dolly path is blocked by the boom or another camera. A look through the control-room window will alert you to such studio traffic problems at a glance. Second, while you are learning television production, the control-room window allows you to see how the various production elements in the studio work together. The coordination of the various production elements is an extremely important aspect of television production that is difficult to comprehend when the control-room activities and the studio activities have to be watched separately. Third, assuming that the window affords a good view of the studio, the audio engineer and the lighting control board operator will be greatly aided in anticipating the director's cues if they can see what is going on in the studio.

We will now take a look at the control room itself. Most of them have four distinct controlling areas: (1) the program control, (2) the switcher, (3) the audio control, and (4) the light control.

Sometimes, the audio and light controls are located elsewhere, but the video controls are placed in the control room.

Program Control

The television director and his associates are in charge of the program control. The director must be able to preview all video sources, such as pictures from all studio cameras, telecine cameras, videotape machines, and remote sources; listen to the program sound; converse with all members of the production and engineering crews; watch the time for various specific purposes; and see what pictures finally get on the air. Accordingly, the program control area is equipped with (1) video monitors, (2) speaker for program sound, (3) intercom system, and (4) clock and stopwatches.

Video Monitors

Even a simple control room holds an amazingly large number of video monitors. There is a monitor for each of the studio cameras; if you can work four cameras at once in your studio, you will need four preview monitors in the control room. There is a monitor for each film island (consisting of two film projectors, and one slide projector). If you have two film islands, you will have two additional monitors. Ideally, there should be a separate monitor for each videotape machine (although sometimes one switch-able monitor will serve several machines). So, if you have three VTR machines, you will have three additional monitors. If you have a videotape cassette machine for short commercials or videotape inserts, you will need another monitor. And there is usually a separate monitor for the character generator (the machine that generates titles electronically), or other electronic effects. Now you need a special preview monitor that displays the upcoming picture (or special effects, if no separate monitor is used) before it is punched up (put on the air), and the line or master monitor that shows you the picture that is fed to the lineout and that appears finally on the television set of the home viewer or on the videotape, if the program is recorded. Finally, there is the off-the-air monitor, a regular television set that receives off the air what you are telecasting. If you do a remote, or if you are connected with a network, you need at least one more monitor so that you can preview what the remote source or the network is feeding. Now, let's tally them up.

Camera preview

Film island

VTR Videotape cassette

Character generator

Preview Line Air Remote Total

4 2 3 1 1 1 1 1 1

15 monitors

These monitors are stacked up in a variety of configurations in front of the director. Usually, the line monitor (or master, or program monitor, as it is also called) and the preview monitor are large-sized, while the other preview monitors are relatively small. Except for the preview, line, and off-the-air monitors, which are in color, all other monitors are black-and-white. (If at all possible, you should have color monitors for at least the camera preview monitors, since color certainly plays an important part in picture composition.)

Speaker for Program Sound

As a director you usually have your own speaker for program sound. A volume control permits you to turn the sound up or down without influencing the audio engineer's monitor speaker.

8.6 Digital Stopwatch: The digital stopwatch is an extremely helpful production tool. In the up, or forward position, it indicates the elapsed running time in hours, minutes, and seconds. You can set the watch for any given time, stop and start it at any given point, and reset it to zero. In the down, or reverse position, the watch shows time remaining. If you have three minutes left in your show, the stopwatch will show 3:00 on the dial. When it shows 0:- 00:00, you should be off the air.

Intercommunication System

We have already described the various intercom systems. The program control area contains outlets for several earphones and a selector switch, or switches, for the various intercommunication channels. There is also a microphone for the director's talkback and the appropriate on-off switch. Also, the program control area has at least one regular telephone.

Clock and Stopwatches

Time is the essential organizing element in television production. Programs are aired according to a second-by-second time schedule, the log. In commercial television, time is sold for large sums of money. The two essential timing tools for the television director are the clock and the stopwatch. The clock will indicate the spot when a certain program should start or finish. All television clocks in the country, and in the world, are precisely synchronized with one another as to minutes and seconds. The hour hands show local time. The stopwatch is used for timing the many inserts, such as 20-second commercial spots within a news program, and for timing programs that are videotaped. Most program controls have a digital stopwatch that can run forward and backward. For example, if you want to know how much time you have left in a given program, you set your digital stopwatch for reverse and start it at the beginning of the program, at 27:30 min., for example. The clock will run backwards until it reaches 00:00 min., at which point your program must have ended. Or, if you want to run the stopwatch forward, you start at 00:00 min. and end at 27:30 min. (See 8.6.) Although the ordinary television stopwatch is more limited in its accomplishments, it is still an indispensable timing tool.

8.7 Program Control Area (Studio 1, San Francisco State University): The total program control area contains the various preview monitors, with line (master) and off-the-air monitors, intercommunication controls, audio monitor speaker controls, and an assortment of clocks and stopwatches.

8.8 Program Switcher (Studio 1, San Francisco State University): The switcher selects on-the-air images according to the director's choices. It consists of four operational controls: (1) the preview controls, (2) the mix controls, (3) the effects controls, and (4) the program controls.

The Switcher

The switcher, a large panel with many buttons, is located right next to the director so that he can manipulate the buttons himself or communicate his decisions directly to a technician sitting beside him. (See 8.8 and 10.8.) The switcher can perform three major tasks: (1) selection of an appropriate video source from several inputs, (2) transition between two video sources, and (3) creation of special effects. Most switchers have further provisions for remote start and stop of videotape recorders and cassettes, film and slide projectors.

All switchers have four basic areas of operational control: (1) preview, (2) mix, (3) effects, and (4) program.

The preview controls make it possible to display on the director's preview (or preset) monitor a particular picture or some special effect, such as a program title over the opening shot of a football field, without having it go on the air.

Through the mixing controls, you can select any one of the video inputs, such as live camera pictures, film, slides, videotape, and remote, and route it to the preview controls, or to the program line, where it is sent through master control directly to the transmitter, or recorded on videotape. But whenever a video source is "punched up" and sent to program line-out, we say the source is "on the air." The mixing controls also permit a variety of transitions, such as the cut, the instantaneous change from one image to another; the dissolve, a going from one image to the next with the two images temporarily overlapping, sometimes called "mix"; or a fade, with one picture fading out and the other fading in.

With the effects controls (which may consist of separate rows of buttons, or of the same as the mixing controls, providing the switcher has a "mode" selector between mix and effects), you can create special electronic effects, such as wipes, keys, or mattes. We will talk more extensively about the switcher and its operation in Section 10.

The program controls bypass all preview controls and put the selected video source directly on the air.

The switching is usually done by the T.D., the technical director, who is responsible for all technical aspects of production and who customarily assigns himself to the switching position. Sometimes the switching is done by another production engineer, who is simply called "switcher." In some stations, the director is doing his own switching, although this arrangement has more disadvantages than advantages. The advantages are that the director, when switching an exceptionally fast show, can cut at the precise instant, without having to relay his messages to a second party. Also, and this is an important consideration in small stations, the elimination of the switching position will save manpower and, ultimately, money.

However, even the simpler shows employ electronic effects that require complex switching operations. If the director-who has to watch all the monitors, listen to the audio, give cues to production and engineering personnel, read the script, and keep track of at least two different times-is additionally burdened with operating the switcher, you are inviting trouble. The make-good on missed commercials and frequent retakes in videotaping may turn out to be much more expensive than the employment of a separate person who operates the switcher.

8.9 Audio Control: The audio control area contains the audio control board, through which the various sound inputs are selected, amplified, mixed, and distributed to the line-out, reel-to-reel tape machines, or at least the controls for them, tape cartridge machines, turntables, speakers and intercom controls, and patching facilities. In essence, the audio control area in the television control room represents a small radio station.

8.10 Lighting Control: The lighting control board consists of the dimmers and their preset controls, through which a variety of lights can be adjusted for their intensity either individually or in unison, depending on how they are patched.

The Audio Control

The audio-control facilities can be considered a small radio station attached to the television control room. Sometimes a sliding glass door connects the audio control area with the rest of the control room. The reason for this separation is that the audio engineer must be able to work undisturbed from the seeming confusion and inevitable noise of the control room, which handles primarily video functions. The audio engineer listens to the director's cues either through his intercom telephone headset or a small intercom speaker in his booth. Often, you will find that the audio engineer has the door to the control room open, so that he is in physical contact with the rest of the operation. Many audio controls have, therefore, done away with this separation.

The audio control booth houses the audio control board and the patch panel, two turntables, audio-tape recorders and cartridge machines, cue and program speakers, a clock, and of course a line, or master, monitor. (See 8.9.) One audio engineer usually takes care of all audio control operations during a show.

The Lighting Control

As pointed out previously, the actual lighting control board, the dimmer board, is placed in the control room to great advantage: (1) it puts the lighting control operator near the rest of the control activities, which makes for efficient communications; (2) it removes the lighting control board from the always crowded studio floor; (3) it establishes lighting control as one of the essential control activities not only before, but also during, the telecast.

The lighting control section contains the actual dimmer control board, the preset board, and, if the operator has no clear view of the director's monitors, at least a line monitor. The lighting control operator is tied into the general intercom system by telephone headset. (See 8.10.) Some control rooms also house the CCU's (camera control units) and serve as the working station of the video control engineer, or shader.

In some black-and-white operations, the T.D. occasionally takes care of the shading as well as the switching, but with color, shading has become a more complex and critical job. Many stations have, therefore, separated camera shading from the control room and put the CCU's into another room, most frequently master control.

Master Control

Master control is the nerve center of a television station. Every second of programming you see on your home television screen has gone through the master control room of the station to which you are tuned. Master control acts as a clearinghouse for all program material. It receives program feeds from various sources-productions from its own studios, network feeds, remote lines, and videotapes and films that are mailed to the station--and telecasts them at a specified time. The major responsibility of master control is to see that the right programming material (including commercials and public service announcements) is put on the air at the right time. Additionally, master control is responsible for the technical quality of the programs. This means that it has to check all program material that goes on the air as to technical standards as set by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). All production activities of a station are greatly influenced by what master control can and cannot do. We will, therefore, briefly describe (1) program input, (2) program storage, and (3) program retrieval.

8.11 Master Control: (a) Broadcast Communication Arts Department, San Francisco State University; (b) KPIX, San Francisco. Master control is the nerve center of a television station. It oversees program input, since every bit of incoming material is eventually routed to master control; it stores it if necessary (except for live telecasts), and retrieves the appropriate program material for every second of the station's telecasting day. Additionally, master control is responsible for the technical quality of all program material being aired.

Program Input

As mentioned before, the program material may come into master control directly from its own studios, from remote lines (network, remote origination by own station, or someone else), or by mail in the form of videotape and film.

Except for the station-originated live programming (newscasts, special events), or network feeds sent through master control directly to the transmitter for immediate broadcasting, all programming is reproduced via videotape, film, or slides. The videotapes are reproduced from high-quality videotape recorders and videotape cassette machines, which are all housed in the videotape room (figure 8.12), or located directly in master control. The films and slides are reproduced by various film islands, each of which consists of one or two projectors, one or two slide projectors, a multiplexer, and a television film, or telecine, camera. We will describe the film island in more detail in Section 9. The film reproduction equipment is housed in a room, or master control room area, called telecine (figure 8.13). If the CCU's are located in master control, the shading is an additional master control activity.

The location of the CCU's in or near master control is quite advantageous, since a single video control engineer, or shader, can shade (adjust electronically) cameras from different studios simultaneously. Also, with all CCU's in one location, the test equipment does not have to be moved from one studio control room to another.

(See 8.14.)

Program Storage

All program material that is recorded on videotape, film, or slides is stored in storage bins located in the videotape room or in master control itself. Each tape, film, or slide is given a station code, or house number, for fast identification and retrieval. Although computer retrieval has introduced some commonality in terms, there is still no agreement among stations as to identification procedures and codes. Just use a code that works well for your operation. In designing a code, however, make sure that your symbols are unambiguous and easily identifiable. To use the letter C for "color" at one time, and for "commercial" at another is a sure way of creating confusion, if not serious programming mistakes. Once programs are stored in a central program data bank, perhaps far away from the station, identification codes will have to be standardized to assure fast and accurate program retrieval.

8.12 VTR Room: The VTR room contains the VTR machines. All videotape editing is done in the VTR room, unless you work with a complex computer-assisted off-line system (see Section 10). Often, the videotape is also stored here.

8.13 Telecine Room: Telecine contains the film islands, consisting of film projectors, slide projectors, multiplexers, and television film, or telecine, cameras (see Section 9). Often, the film is also stored here.

Film editing, however, is usually done in special editing rooms.

8.14 Camera Control Units (CCU's for twelve monochrome cameras in master control, San Francisco State University): The CCU's control the picture quality for each camera. The CCU operator, called video operator or shader, can operate several CCU's at the same time. Keeping all CCU's in a central location makes it possible to patch various cameras in a specific order into or from other studios, without interfering with their respective control-room activity.

8.15 Program Log: As you can see, the log shows (1) the program origin, or source, (2) the scheduled event time, (3) the duration of the program, (4) specific video information, (5) specific audio information, (6) identification codes, (7) the title of the program, (8) the type of the program, or class, and (9) any pertinent special information. The log, issued daily, is the most important production and programming document; its actual format and arrangement varies from station to station. The major criteria for log format are easy readability and consistency.

Program Retrieval

Program retrieval means the selection, ordering, and puffing on the air of any program material. Although the term "retrieval" implies the finding and putting on the air of recorded material, we will include live programming as well. In the context of master control operations, there is actually little difference between retrieving a show occurring live in a studio, a network feed, or a program that has been stored on videotape.

In discussing program retrieval, we will focus on (1) the log, (2) the master control switcher, and (3) computer-controlled automation system.

The Log

The television log is the most important program and production document. It tells everybody concerned what program material is supposed to be on the air at every second of the program day. The television log is issued daily, usually one or two days in advance. It is distributed either in printed form, or displayed on CRT (cathode ray tube) screens, monitors that display written information. (See 8.15 and 8.16.) The log will give you, in general, this information:

1. Program source, or origin: Network, local, which studio, or, if coded, the event number.

2. Scheduled time: What dock time is the program scheduled to start? When does the next program start?

3. Duration, or length: How long does the program run? 10 seconds? 57:30 minutes?

4. Video: How does the video portion originate? Live, film, videotape, slide? Which videotape recorder? Which videotape cassette?

5. Audio: Where does the audio originate? Studio, remote, network, announce booth, videotape, film?

6. Code: What is the house identification number? What other codes are needed for identification? Some commercials have product codes of their own, which must be included in the log.

7. What is the name of the program or commercial?

8. Program type: Is the commercial a local spot? Public service announcement? Does it fall under news, entertainment, religious? (The FCC has specific program categories, which you should use for type and source identification; see Section 14 for more complete information.)

9. Special information: This log category can contain any information that is necessary for the accurate program retrieval and airing.

8.16 CRT Display of Log Information: If you have the assistance of a computer, the log, besides being available in a hard-copy printout, can be displayed on any of the CRT computer terminals at the push of a button. You can feed the computer last-minute log corrections and it will change, remember, and initiate the new roll cues for the various machines at the new times, and immediately produce an updated hard copy.

Master Control Switcher The master control switching area looks like the combined program control and switching area of the studio control room. Master control has preview monitors for all live studio cameras and for all videotape machines, videotape cassette machines, film islands, network and other remote feeds, plus at least one off-the-air monitor. The switcher itself looks similar to the studio switcher, except that it fulfills different functions. While one of the main purposes of the studio switcher is to switch among cameras and between cameras and recorded sources, the master control switcher facilitates the switching between various program sources, such as studio, VTR reel-to-reel machines, videotape cassettes, film islands, and network or other remote inputs. An essential feature of the master control switcher is the remote start and stop of the program reproduction equipment, such as videotape recorders, film and slide projectors, and videotape cassette machines. The master control switcher also handles the program distribution, whether it is a simple house distribution to the client's booth or various offices, to the network if you originate a network feed, or to the transmitter. In educational institutions, master control also handles the closed-circuit distribution of programming to the several viewing stations on campus.

Most master control switchers have an audio-follow-video, or AFV, system, which means that each video input has its corresponding audio input. When the video is switched from one source to another, the audio changes with the video automatically. Large production switchers have a similar facility. (See 8.17b.)

8.17 (a) Master Control Monitor Bank; (b) Master Control Switcher; (c) Master Control Audio Section: The heart of master control is the switching station.

From here, the various program inputs are distributed to the various points of destination. A live newscast, for example, is distributed directly to the transmitter for the on-the-air telecast. A discussion show might be fed into one of the videotape recorders. A network feed may be recorded on another videotape recorder for a delayed playback. The monitors display the major video inputs. The audio is usually switched with the video, but there is an audio control section for special audio needs. If the master control operation is computer-assisted, the various command stations are also located here at the switcher.

Computer-Controlled Automation System

The daily programming tasks have become so complicated that sometimes even the most skilled master control engineers can no longer retrieve and switch the multitude of program material without error. Just watch a station break and try to figure out how many pieces of equipment had to be activated and how many changeovers between sources accomplished by the master control crew within the short period of a few minutes. No wonder that computer-assisted master control systems find more and more acceptance even in small station operations.

Depending on the given sophistication of the system used, the computer can (1) facilitate all data entries for the daily log; (2) facilitate any last-minute log changes; (3) display the daily updated log at the CRT terminals (looks like a typewriter-television set combination) throughout the station; (4) activate the machine assignment system, which will match the videotapes or films loaded into the machines with the ones specified in the log, "flashing" possible errors; (5) automatically preroll and stop the machines assigned, or activate the slide projector; (6) automatically switch video and audio of entire program sequences; (7) preroll and record incoming feeds from network or other remote sources; and (8) print a log of the programming that actually occurred during the broadcast day (which is a requirement of the FCC). Besides the traffic department, which compiles and issues the log with the aid of the computer, the accounting department can use the computer at the same time for accurate accounting and billing.

And, since even the computer does not entirely trust itself, there is an override button that can be pushed to return the whole system to manual operation in case of emergency.

Studio Support Areas

The studio support areas include space for property storage, scene storage, and possibly scene construction, and makeup and dressing rooms. If you produce a large number of vastly different programs, from daily newscasts to highly complex television dramas, you need large prop and scenery storage areas. If your production is fairly limited, your support areas can be relatively simple. University and college television operations can make use of the usually extensive theater prop and scenery facilities, assuming that the two departments get along well with each other.

In any case, the most important part of any storage area is its retrieval efficiency. If you have to search for hours in order to find a few props with which to decorate your office set, even the most extensive prop collection is worth very little. A small, well-organized property collection that allows easy retrieval of props is obviously more valuable to you than a large, disorganized one.

If possible, makeup rooms, or a makeup room, should be close to the studio. Each makeup room should have good mirrors and even lighting that is of approximately the same color temperature as the studio lighting (incandescent, rather than fluorescent, lights). The Film editing room is sometimes included in the general production support areas. At other times, the news department considers all film editing as part of their exclusive production domain. Many stations process their own films. The film-processing lab, then, becomes part of the general production support area. However, neither film editing nor film processing has a direct relation to studio production activities.


While a telecast can originate indoors or out, the television studio affords maximum control to the production. It has three major areas: (1) the production origination center, the studio itself, (2) the production control center, situated in both the studio and master control rooms, and (3) the studio support areas.

The important aspects of the physical layout of the studio are the available floor space, the smoothness of the floor, adequate ceiling height for the lighting instruments, acoustic treatment of the walls, air-conditioning system, and large access doors.

The major studio installations include the intercommunication systems with the P.L. (phone line) and the S.A. (studio talkback) systems, studio video monitors, program monitor speakers, various utility, video, and audio wall outlets, and the lighting patchboard.

The television control room generally has four distinct controlling areas: (1) the program control, (2) the switcher, (3) the audio control, and (4) the light control. Sometimes, the light control is located elsewhere, but the video controls are placed in the control room.

The program control area contains a number of video monitors, speakers for program sound, intercom systems, and a clock and stopwatches.

The switcher is a large panel with buttons that can perform three major tasks: (1) select an appropriate video source from several inputs, (2) accomplish transitions between two video sources, and (3) create special effects. Some switchers (audio-follow-video) also switch the audio portion simultaneously with the appropriate picture.

The audio control area is a small radio station attached to the television control room. It controls all aspects of television sound.

The lighting control area contains the dimmer board and the preset facilities.

Master control is the nerve center of a television station. Its major responsibility is to see that the right programming material is put on the air at the right time, and that the video and sound signals come up to an agreed-upon technical standard. In general, master control takes care of program input, program storage, and program retrieval. These functions are all prescribed by a daily television log, which indicates the essential input, storage, and retrieval information.

The studio support areas include property storage, scene storage and possibly scene construction, makeup and dressing rooms, and film editing and processing rooms. All of these areas should be built so that they will permit you maximum control of all production elements.

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Updated: Saturday, 2020-10-10 8:10 PST