Television Broadcasting, Production of

views updated


Television production, whether it is a sitcom episode, a feature-length movie, a corporate training video, an educational program, or a newscast, must complete four basic phases before it is realized. These phases are the conceptualization phase, the preproduction phase, the production phase, and the postproduction phase. Completion of these phases may take months or years depending on the type, length, and complexity of the production, and, in fact, some programs such as a daily newscast may only allow for a single day to follow these phases on a loose basis. However, a good, tight production will usually execute each these four phases to some degree.


The conceptualization phase of production is where the bulk of the creative work is completed. This phase begins with the generation of ideas. These ideas can be brainstormed by one or more creators, or in the case of a corporate video or other production that must meet certain objectives, several different people may be assigned to a specific area for which they will generate a creative concept. If needed, research via computer databases, interviews, or other sources may be performed to supplement the concepts that will be brought to the table for organization.

The second major part of the conceptualization phase is the organization of ideas. While there are many ways in which to organize concepts, some successful methods are worth mentioning. These are outlines, word trees, and the similar word webs. However the production group attempts this organization, it is helpful to at least think of the ideas as weaving together into an executable production process.

From here, two roads can be taken to turn the organized ideas into a scriptable proposal. The first option is the content avenue, which focuses solely on the content irrespective of the medium, in this case, television. A chosen person selects from the organized ideas the concept that best fits the desired program content. This content is then massaged into a workable script that is given to a television producer, who tries to make this content as compatible with the medium as possible. This avenue, though perhaps more accurate to the artist's vision, may ultimately fail when trying to translate a concept to the restrictive television screen. Distortion, crowding, and other problems may arise, thus diminishing the desired effect on the target audience. Therefore, the second option may elicit a better product.

This second option is the effect avenue, which takes into account the desired audience effect and molds the chosen concept accordingly. First, a concept coordinator chooses a concept from the pool of organized ideas. Next, the coordinator defines a desired audience effect or viewer experience, such as an emotion or a given amount of learning. The coordinator then tests the concept against the desired effect to see if the couple is compatible. If the coordinator determines that the concept has a successful chance at delivering the desired effect through the chosen medium, then the production chain continues. If the concept does not appear to be able to deliver given the medium, then the coordinator must go back to the pool of ideas and test another concept.

After an organized concept is chosen, it is time to write a program proposal. This is where a production team solidifies in writing its chosen title, objective, target audience, treatment, medium, and proposed budget. The title, of course, must be "catchy," but it must also serve as a good identifier of the proposed production. The objective may be simply to tell a story, or in the case of a corporate or educational video, it may be to teach a given set of topics. The target audience may be fairly general. However, every production has an optimal audience as defined by specific demographics (i.e., age, economic status, and gender), and, at times, by specific psychographics (i.e., likes and dislikes). The treatment answers the "what" and the "how" of the production, meaning the plot, the genre, and other identifying features. This can be answered via a brief descriptive of the proposed program or an illustrated storyboard of the various events or scenes. The medium is generally a type of technology such as television, radio, or print. However, medium can also be further specified into broadcast television, cable, satellite, and so forth. Finally, a proposed budget must be formulated. This budget will include above-the-line costs, which include creative personnel such as writers, directors, and artistic designers. The other part of the budget will consist of below-the-line costs such as the production crew, production equipment and rentals, and any other tangibles needed to produce the program. Once the budget is estimated, the proposal can be submitted for acceptance. Acceptance begins the second production phase.


Preproduction, which encompasses everything from the writing of the script to the gathering of props and costumes, begins with the gathering of personnel. These personnel may include writers, script editors, directors, art designers, costume designers, makeup artists, actors, production assistants, musicians, camera operators, audio operators, lighting directors, videotape operators, character generator or computer graphics operators, videotape editors, and other crew and support depending on the scope of the project. In other words, the number of people who are involved in preproduction of a given program can range from a small handful of people to a small army. Once the personnel are hired and money has changed hands, a writer is given the chosen concept and the desired effect and begins to work on a script. This script, which may experience several revisions depending on feedback by the producers and clients (if applicable), will then be given to a director, who will block the script, translating each scene into a workable audiovisual image. An art director will then take the blocked script and create a storyboard that illustrates each image and suggests locations, sets, graphics, costumes, or other aesthetic elements that will complete the director's vision. Once again, the producers and other interested parties will review this material. Once the overall vision for the project has been finalized, each image will be planned using several criteria.

The first criterion asks whether the program would best serve as a live production or as a recorded production. This decision will most likely dictate the fate of the other criteria, in that live productions by definition will require all shots to be executed in sequence, whereas recorded programs have the luxury of being edited.

The second criterion involves location. If the image is to be shot in a studio, then studio equipment and facilities will need to be acquired. If the image is to be shot in the field, then the producer must choose whether a single-camcorder setup is sufficient, or if a more sophisticated remote studio setup is necessary.

The third criterion involves camerawork. If a single camera is desired, then production will need to be stopped for each change in camera angle. If the more expensive multicamera effect is wanted, then multiple camera angles and shots can be recorded and manipulated simultaneously. This decision is partially affected by the earlier choice of location. For example, it may be desirable to use two cameras in a studio setting, whereas it may be more feasible to shoot single-camera style in the field. However, both camera options require efficient planning and direction of each shot and shot sequence.

The final criterion involves sequencing. Depending on the previous choices, the director may want to record shots in-sequence or out-of-sequence. For example, single-camera work is executed best when shots are planned out-of-sequence and according to which images share the same or similar backdrops. This, consequently, will require considerable editing during postproduction. Conversely, studio work lends itself well to in-sequence shooting, which requires little to no editing upon completion of the shooting.

Once each image is planned, a production schedule must be made that maximizes the use of time and money. Shots, therefore, are organized according to location as well as according to the featured actors. Equipment, props, scenery, costumes, makeup, and other electrical and mechanical necessities are also identified for each shot and location. Finally, the schedule is approved and the project goes into production.


The production phase is perhaps the most exciting and most exhausting phase for the entire crew. This phase begins with long rehearsals amidst the creation of the setting. Only when the producers and directors are satisfied, or when the production schedule demands it, rehearsals become shoots and each scene is recorded. During this time, the various shots are recorded, reviewed, revised, and/or re-recorded as the production crew try to capture a good product within the confines of the production schedule. Also during this time, each shot is carefully logged according to position on the videotape or film, date and time of recording, content of the footage, and any other necessary information that will enable the editors to locate and identify it during postproduction. Without this log, hundreds of hours may be wasted trying to find certain footage for key scenes or needed filler. Therefore, it is imperative that every shot be logged and every tape be labeled so that the post-production phase can be efficiently executed.


Postproduction involves the actual constructing of the envisioned program. It is the culmination of the long hours spent conceptualizing, planning, and recording the various program elements. Unfortunately, unless the program is a live program, postproduction usually takes longer than expected and therefore may stretch the estimated budget to its limits.

The main component of postproduction is the editing. Editors use either old-fashioned linear editing or nonlinear computer editing programs to put shots together in their designated order. However, not only do the editors follow the script, but they also take creative license in selecting the best shots, adding filler sequences, and even changing the sequence of certain scripted shots if deemed necessary. This means that they use the logs to find the desired footage to realize their own envisioned effect.

Meanwhile, graphic artists create any graphics, credits, or other computer-generated content. This content, along with any special audio tracks, is delivered to the editors, who incorporate the additions into the rough-cut. A review and revision process follows until the program is satisfactorily completed. The production is almost ready for release.

Other components of postproduction include publicity. This may mean the creation of advertisements, flyers, or other notices that attract the target audience to the program. This may also mean entering the project into a contest, a circuit, or other venue in which the project will be publicized and shown. Client feedback, if applicable, is also necessary to determine if the client's goals were obtained as well as if the client may be open to a future production contract. A final component of postproduction is record keeping. A record of personnel, production schedules, footage, and final cuts are good for reference both in planning and hiring for new projects and for winning new production contracts. In addition to creating a memorable project, the ultimate goal of a production should include the creation of a memorable résumé.

Production Differences for News Programming

News programming differs fundamentally from other production processes in several ways. For example, news programming is usually produced under the umbrella of a television station, which means that on-staff personnel are available to gather and compile the day's content. However, the production schedule of a news program spans just a single day, and its content depends on available news stories. The environment surrounding the production of news, therefore, can be quite hurried and intense.

Several news employees contribute to the surveillance and research of the local, regional, national, and international landscapes in order to find potential news stories. However, the assignment editors ultimately select the specific stories for the various reporters to pursue. As evident in the local news, many stories are written and read by news anchors with or without accompanying footage or graphics. Other news stories allow for the creation of a news package, in which a reporter will go into the field with a videographer and record stand-ups or narratives, interviews, and other footage over which the reporter will further narrate the story. This footage will then be brought back to the station and will be edited together into a succinct package. Final stories and packages will then be timed and arranged in order to create a twenty-two-minute newscast that runs twenty-two minutes and has designated breaks for commercial. Scripts are entered into a TelePrompTer from which the news anchors will read, graphics are rendered that will be used for names and other visuals, and the news director readies the crew for live broadcast. The culmination of this production, which can be altered at any time during the broadcast, is realized at the production phase, where the program is disseminated to the television audience.

In television news, some aspects of postproduction occur before production. Editing, for example, occurs when videotape editors put together news packages, and publicity occurs throughout the day whenever the station advertises its newscasts. However, the four phases of production are still present.

Other Considerations

In a simple world, all the producer needs to think about is the idea and the realization of that idea. However, several legal considerations need to be kept in mind when producing a program. For example, copyright clearance needs to be obtained if proprietary music, reproductions of paintings, or content from books or other items are to be used in the set, the script, or some other part of the production. Related to this are the rights of unionized personnel. Many creative and technical personnel, such as directors, actors, camera operators, and engineers, belong to unions or guilds that may dictate minimum salaries, fees, or working conditions in exchange for employment. Authorization may also be needed to hire nonunion personnel if the production is being originated from a unionized organization.

Regarding program content, there may be certain content requirements, depending on the categorization of the program. The Federal Communications Commission lists eight mutually exclusive groups of programs: agricultural (A); entertainment (E); instructional (I); news (N); public affairs (PA); religious (R); sports (S); and other (O). If a program is considered to be educational, it may have to comply with various children's programming regulations. Furthermore, a program originating from, created by, or in cooperation with a certain organization, such as an educational institution, may automatically fall under a certain category, such as education, despite the program content.

Finally, all program content must be suitable, both legally and socially, for its target audience. In the legal realm, matters such as libel or slander must be considered when profiling or commenting on the life of a real person. In addition, lawyers or other legal counsel may help tackle the murky issues of right of privacy, indecency, and obscenity in a media production. Social guidelines for acceptability, however, will change with time and culture. However, broadcast standards and practices departments, media professors, and other counseling sources are available to aid in the ultimate conception of the television production.

See also:Cable Television, Programming of; Film Industry, Production Processes of; Television Broadcasting; Television Broadcasting, Careers in; Television Broadcasting, History of; Television Broadcasting, Programming and; Television Broadcasting, Station Operations and; Television Broadcasting, Technology of.


Alten, Stanley R. (1994). Audio in Media, 4th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Browne, Steven E. (1993). Videotape Editing: A Postproduction Primer, 2nd edition. Boston: Focal Press.

Wurtzel, Alan. (1983). Television Production, 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Zettl, Herbert. (1990). Sight, Sound, Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics, 2nd edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Zettl, Herbert. (1992). Television Production Handbook, 5th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Francesca Dillman Carpentier