Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Week in the Television Studio

This week has been a pretty busy one for me. I was trying something new.

As you might come to expect from me, it was not where you would expect to find a blind man.

I have spent this week learning to be  a television camera operator.

William Elliott in headphones behind his camera as the crew prepare to record the 9th episode of "Members Only" for CMAC Television in downtown Fresno CA.
On Set as the show  prepares

When we began on Tuesday, we, myself and eleven other television production newbies were promised that by the end of Thursday we would have our first TV programme recorded and in post production. That was scary stuff to hear as non of us knew our fades from our takes.

The first day was spent learning just how to pull out the cameras, we used three, large bulky TV studio cameras.  Just positioning them is an art in itself. Then we learned to focus them on what the director wanted, learned to pan and tilt as well as how to zoom without leaving the viewer seasick. That is not easy you know.

Then we learned how to put everything away. Did you know there is a right way to coil a camera cable, and a wrong way too? Well we learned the right way to coil our cables for certain.

Yesterday was spent learning all the various positions from Talent, the person in front of the camera, to Director, the person who calls the shots. "Ready Camera two", "roll sound" "fade up sound", "open  mikes." "Take camera two."  We each took a turn at every place, I was excused Talent as I could not see the autocue ( the electronic display which talent use to read their lines.) I just could not see the autocue in all the bright lights.

I did thoughget to try everything else. I enjoyed being a camera operator most, also being the director, it did give me a bit of a power trip. Issuing orders.

Then at the end of the day we were issued with our script for today. A regular show on CMAC Fresno called "Members Only" A thirty minute show talking about other CMAC Fresno productions.

My place in the show was to operate camera two.

We began about ninety  minutes  before the show. The director and non floor crew made their plans for shots. Camera crews on all three cameras made the set up, then positioned our cameras, set up focus  and locked our cameras down to make sure we didn't accidently moved our cameras out of position or focus. Then mostly waited for the Host and guests to arrive at about 3:15pm. They did their mike checks, our floor director called us  to stand by. The music and video rolled and we were recording.

Through my headset I listened to the director and his crew outside the set calling time and shots while monitoring my camera and watching the programme unveil on a large monitor in the studio. At the half way point some of the crew swapped out to go outside to see the production crew. I was one who swapped out.

I had expected to find the director and his crew frantic with activity, but they were calmly  switching camera shot, bringing in music, calling up graphics. I was impressed with my colleagues. Hard to believe that three days ago they were newbies just like me. Here they looked like seasoned proffesionals.

At the end of thirty minutes the call went out to "Fade to black/ Close mikes. Stop recording and Clear."

The show was over. After we all went back to clean the set. Put away the equipment and settle down. We were told. We had done a great job. The show was timed perfectly, there were no errors and we had created a great show.

Our first show is now definitely under our belt. We were signed off to be able to enter proposals for our own shows, we can do studio work for others within CMAC and we can also move on to take up other challenges.

The link below is the CMAC YouTube link to see the "Members Only" program which we produced in our Stage Production Class. I hoe that you will enjoy watching it.

I will be back in the TV station next week for two classes. A Field Production class for two days and a Feature Film Boot Camp.

During the Boot Camp the crew meet for a script reading on Friday. Are told locations and taken through  a story board. Then on Saturday in the space of five hours they film, edit and present for broadcast a complete short five minute movie. That will be a challenge for yours truly but if this week is anything to go by it will be fun too.

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