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First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed

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aaronstockton
First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 9, 2007 at 9:40:27 pm

I was hired a few months ago to be the videographer at a small advertising company. I have about 10 years experience with video. Mostly my job here has been to create local small market TV spots and in-house videos for local companies. I have only worked with Mini-DV and don't know about many formats beyond that.

The company I work for has committed to a job in which I will be required to produce from beginning to end several episodes of a brand new show for nationwide cable broadcast. I had no say in the matter and, in fact, I was just informed about this project this week. I have never done this before and don't know where to even begin.

I have a strong feeling that the equipment we have is inadequate for this type of work. I will list what I have below. I'm confident enough with my storytelling, shooting, and editing abilities that I think I can manage that end with a fair level of competency. But I really struggle with formats and equipment...the technical gunk.

Here's what I have at my disposal.

One - Sony PD-170 Camera (Mini-DV/DVCAM)
One - Sony PDX-10 Camera (Mini-DV/DVCAM)
Two - Sony UWP-C1 Wireless Mic's
One - Sony DSR-11 Deck (Mini-DV/DVCAM)
One - Mac Pro OS X (10.4.9) 2 x 3 GHz Dual-Core Xeon 750 GB Hard Drive
Final Cut Pro Studio 1

My boss asked if it was possible to do everything Mini-DV and have a local TV station transfer to BETA for broadcast. Is that possible? What kind of quality do I sacrifice by doing that? I don't have a budget yet, but I imagine it's very small or nothing. And I'm almost positive I will not be able to hire anyone to help with production.

Also, two quick broadcast editing questions:

1. When color correcting for broadcast, do I just need to make sure that everything stays between 0 and 100?

2. When mixing audio for broadcast, what level should I peak at? -12db, 0db, -1db?

Thank you all so much for any help/suggestions you can provide.

Sincerely,
Aaron "In Way Over My Head" Stockton


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HowDoYouDoThat
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 10, 2007 at 9:58:05 pm

Aaron:

I throw my two cents in. See below.

The company I work for has committed to a job in which I will be required to produce from beginning to end several episodes of a brand new show for nationwide cable broadcast. I had no say in the matter and, in fact, I was just informed about this project this week. I have never done this before and don't know where to even begin. Who is going to produce? WHo will direct? Who is going to write? Is the show on location? In studio? Is there talent? How many episodes? How long is each epsiode? Will they be strictly broadcast or also be webcast? Will there be graphics, music, announcer, etrc.

I have a strong feeling that the equipment we have is inadequate for this type of work. I will list what I have below. I'm confident enough with my storytelling, shooting, and editing abilities that I think I can manage that end with a fair level of competency. But I really struggle with formats and equipment...the technical gunk. Before you get involved in technical gunk, you REALLY need to find out what your doing? Also, are you talking MSNBC, CNBC, etc or regional cable?

Here's what I have at my disposal.

One - Sony PD-170 Camera (Mini-DV/DVCAM)
One - Sony PDX-10 Camera (Mini-DV/DVCAM)
Two - Sony UWP-C1 Wireless Mic's
One - Sony DSR-11 Deck (Mini-DV/DVCAM)
One - Mac Pro OS X (10.4.9) 2 x 3 GHz Dual-Core Xeon 750 GB Hard Drive
Final Cut Pro Studio 1

First off, I see no mixer, no lights, no grip equipment. Hard drive seems way too small for what you are contemplating. Even discussing equipment without a working knowledge of project is kind of useless at this point.

My boss asked if it was possible to do everything Mini-DV and have a local TV station transfer to BETA for broadcast. Is that possible? What kind of quality do I sacrifice by doing that? I don't have a budget yet, but I imagine it's very small or nothing. And I'm almost positive I will not be able to hire anyone to help with production. Going from MiniDV to Beta isn't the best scenario IMO.

Also, two quick broadcast editing questions:

1. When color correcting for broadcast, do I just need to make sure that everything stays between 0 and 100? If you mean blacks at 7.5 and peaks at 100 ire, yes! For braodcast you'll need a waveform/vector to ensure your keeping everything in spec. Chroma, phase, clips, etc.

2. When mixing audio for broadcast, what level should I peak at? -12db, 0db, -1db?
Always set tone at 0db and keep peaks there as well. Of course when recording to MiniDV you always want to make sure there is plenty of headroom as well. What we to is record bars and tone to 0 db then back off to -3db for recording audio. But again, were putting the cart before the horse when you don't know what the project even entails.

You might want to tell the boos you will need to bring in an outside company who can bring this all together. Sacrificing quality and reputation in the name of profit isn't the right way to go in my opinion.

Good luck.


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aaronstockton
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 12, 2007 at 2:25:58 pm

Thank you for your response. Believe me, I feel the exact same way you do about my doing this. Unfortunately, my voice is rarely heard around here, and I have a mortgage to pay, so I have to deal with it the best way I know how.

I'm not really at liberty to talk about the project itself. What I can tell you is that we are working with talent that already has their own national cable show. We have been their advertising agency for a number of years. Their show has always been produced by a company that specializes in that type of production. However, they want to do their own spin-off show on a much cheaper budget. Naturally, they have the unrealistic expectation that the shows that I will create will be just as good as they are getting with the other company.

To answer some of your questions: my boss will produce and direct (he has zero experience); the talent has written their own script, nay! outline, nay! notes on a napkin; the show will be shot entirely on location; there is talent; we presently will be doing three shows, but I know they'll want more eventually; the shows will most likely be broadcast and sold on DVD, probably no webcasting; I will build the graphics; I've been looking at music rights for using Top 40 type music but I haven't had much luck there.

I understand your concerns on the equipment. I too am concerned that we don't have what we need, and I have voiced these concerns repeatedly. Of course, my hands are tied. Here's what I can tell you. We have done everything in a very "run and gun" style with our other projects for this client. We don't use lights, we use wireless mics that go directly to tape (no mixer), and I basically handle all of the equipment myself. Obviously, not an ideal setup.

Unfortunately, as I said before, we won't be able to bring in an outside company for this. I will be expected to solve these matters on my own without a lot of help. I certainly appreciate your responses. Any additional suggestions will be taken to heart.

Thanks!


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SRoughan
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 12, 2007 at 2:32:44 pm

Unfortunately, as I said before, we won't be able to bring in an outside company for this. I will be expected to solve these matters on my own without a lot of help.

Oh man. Good luck.


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Jeffrey B.
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 13, 2007 at 4:46:22 am

Sounds rough. Good luck.

DV is a decent acquisition format if you take the proper care to have high production value.

For post-production, edit in uncompressed. Once you capture, do NOT go back to DV at all, even for final output to tape. DV compression will ruin your graphics and color correction. If you can get it to a Beta tape from there, I think you'll be okay for broadcast.



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aaronstockton
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 13, 2007 at 2:36:35 pm

That's actually really good to hear. So to clarify, you think it would be okay for me to shoot in DV as long as when I output the final video I go straight to Beta. When you say I would need to edit uncompressed, what timeline settings would you suggest? I am working in FCP. Thanks for the help.


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Kevin Hamm
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 18, 2007 at 5:05:26 pm

I do a weekly show for the local college athletics covering (shocker) sports, which basically means football at this point. We (me and a student athlete that runs the second camera) film the bits on Sunday at noon and it's on air Sunday at 10:30 pm. I'm the editor. I'm the graphic designer. I'm the everything-behind-the-scenes for this.

Is it ideal? No. Workable? Oh yeah. Fun? Like you wouldn't believe. So... some suggestions and advice for you.

First, stop the panic. While people run around worrying about what they don't have, let's cover what you do have first:

Cameras - you've got 2 of them. I'm presuming that you actually do have some lighting, but even if you don't, you can get good shots from normal lighting if you adjust the settings. How do I know? Our lightkit took an unscheduled trip one weekend, and I was left to use bar lighting and sunlight-thru-windows with well place reflect... er, white posterboard and a mirror.

Talent - they already do this gig, they have an idea how it goes, and they know what they want. They've given you notes on a napkin, but that's still a start.

Self-Talent - take that story editing skill and extend it a bit by taking the notes from that napkin and creating the outline you seek. I presume that it's a 30 minute show, so you're going to have a RT 28:30 when finished, and have 8 to 9.5 minutes of commercials. (speaking of which, how those are added is a concern for you to discover, but is easy to deal with in editing).

Timing - this is critical for a hosted show. People tend to talk at length. Too much length. So, find out the number of commercials, normalize them to 30 seconds each, and then break the rest of the time down into logical bits that give a nice float to the show. Longer towards the beginning to help establish the subject, shorter at the end to allow for cuts and breaks to build suspense and keep interest. No section is going to be much over 5 minutes anyway. You can easily handle this.

DV - yeah, ok, the DV gamut isn't as wide as the full NTSC. You know who notices? TV Geeks. Unless you do something horribly wrong in filming and have exceedingly flat video, you'll be fine. A trick in FCP that I use is to add the Desaturate filter to the track and drag the setting to -50 or so if I have a flat look to begin with. I don't know why the Desaturate function has a negative value, but it does, and it's not the same as using the any of the saturation controls anywhere else in the program. it truly is a gem thing to try.

And here's a great secret about a lot of cable systems. Anything that comes to them, no matter if it's from HugeMultiNationalMediaConglomorate-via-DigiBeta or from MomWithHandiCam-via-Hi-8 they will import it and store it as an .avi using Windows Media and settings that work with their players, which, guess what, don't support the full NTSC gamut either. So DV is usually fine to deliver the final.

And yes, it goes to cable as well (shown on Wednesdays). And guess what? They take the DV and put it over to Beta (not digiBeta, just Beta) and I still have a better looking show than most of what they get from bigger houses with more money, staff and (supposedly) better equipment.

I use FCP Studio 1 (need studio 2, it will help a lot with some bits I'll cover in a minute) on a powermac G5 with 1GB ram and way too many external drives attached to it because we have lots of small clients. I have 2 sony cams, a deck, and me.

Use all the tools in your arsenal. Editing in FCP is great, but do your lowerthirds and titles using Motion or LiveType. Do them now, build them and get them out of the way and approved so that you can drag and drop them in and be done with them when editing a show on deadline. This is one area where FCPS2 will make a huge difference because Motion projects can be created as templates with drop zones and text fields so multiple instances of the same template can be used directly in FCP, rather than a new motion project for each variation.

Organize. Organize. Organize. You can't be too organized. I'm a huge failure when it comes to this, but everyone else keeps telling me I have to do it. And as you can see from the advice that everyone else gives, it's important to do what they say. HA!

Organize for yourself. If someone else needs to know how your system works, document it. But don't adopt something from a system you read about if you don't think it will work. Don't be afraid to change things up if you find out that the systems need changing, but do it however is best for you.

Some people will disagree with me but since I do this every week and it works, I know you'll be fine. In fact, I took over the show last year, and we went from 13-15 days for the director/editor to 7 hour days. Not because she was a bad director, far from it. She didn't have the time to chill and figure out the shortcuts to make it easy on her. She still covers on weekends when I'm away, but she doesn't work 16 hours that sunday, she works 8. And that's not bad at all.

So, relax a bit. Chill, and enjoy the challenge. You've got a HUGE opportunity here, enjoy it.



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aaronstockton
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:53:06 pm

I really appreciate your post. Thank you for putting my mind at ease. I'm just going to have to trust the equipment I have and let my storytelling skills be the 'money-maker.' I'm an extremely organized person, so that will certainly be helpful. Thank you for your advice.


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Kevin Hamm
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:03:48 pm

You're welcome!

Yesterday was another show for me, and there is one other thing I meant to tell you about - commercials. If you end up selling this show to advertisers and then having to add in the commercials yourself, be sure to import them and normalize them to exactly 30 seconds in length, and whatever audio levels you are told to use - I set mine to hover at -12db so I have room for peaks, but most everything is between -12 and -18db. That way, when you need to drop them into your show's timeline, you know that it's the right levels, the right end tags, the right everything, and your timeline is clean and random edits don't mess with your commercials. Advertisers hate that; who knew?!?

Have fun, and if you need or want more of my vast wilderness of insanity information, I'd be glad to help. Just let me know.

kev~!


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David Smith
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Nov 19, 2007 at 2:29:19 am

[HowDoYouDoThat] "Always set tone at 0db and keep peaks there as well. Of course when recording to MiniDV you always want to make sure there is plenty of headroom as well. What we to is record bars and tone to 0 db then back off to -3db"

That's not what any audio person I work with does for digital formats like DV, Digi-beta, DVCPro, HD-Cam etc. Tone is set to -18 or sometimes -20. That's where peaks are run as well. When transferring to an analog format, that tone is placed at 0db.

Regards,
David


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Doece25
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Dec 6, 2007 at 5:03:04 pm

I work in the QC department of a post house in DC, when it comes to audio peaks for broadcast programming, we flag anything above -10dB (have yet to see any spec from a US broadcaster that says any different), with tone being set at -20dB. Something to keep in mind when you go to mix.


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Jeremy Hicks
Re: First Broadcast TV Production Help Needed
on Dec 10, 2008 at 9:34:31 pm

I stumbled upon this, now a year later. I'm dying to know how this turned out for you. Is there anything you can say about the project now?


-jeremy-



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