Sports: Set-up and Pre-Production

BasketBallLayoutOur cameras need to be placed in the best locations to follow the athletes as well as capture the excitement of the moment.

Pre-production or production meetings are an integral part of the production process. Usually run by the producer, these meetings should include all students who are participting in the coverage of the event.

These meetings are designed to provide an overall vision of the production, receive feed-back from the participants, determine how they may be impacted by production decisions, and discuss deadlines.

The Show Format

Scripted pre-game shows allow a producer and director to create a detailed format that gives a shot-by-shot and second-by-second description of the entire show. These formats seem to have a life of their own, evolving through a number of versions. The formats generally specify:

Image source (videotape, graphic or on-camera)
Audio source (sound on tape, live ambience or live talent)
Description of image (talent who will be on camera, image content, and location)
Segment time
Total elapsed time

The program format lets each crew member know their responsibilities throughout the pre-game show, allowing them to anticipate the action, and reduces the number of instructions the producer and director need to give over the intercom. The format also helps RF camera operators and talent, who may need to move from one location to another.

Equipment Set-up

The equipment set-up (ESU) time varies from under a day for a small event to more than a week for a larger, more complicated event such as a tournament or play-off series. Other factors that determine the ESU is the complexity of the terrain (alpine event), whether the venue is precabled, and the size of the set-up crew. The ESU includes running all audio and video cables and the transport and set-up of cameras, monitors and all audio equipment.

During set-up, the crew should always keep the strike (tear down) in mind. Equipment and cables should be removed from the truck and placed such that it will be easy to put them away after the shoot.

Setting Up a Camera

* Set up the tripod or other type of camera support.
* Check that the pan/tilt head is firmly attached to the mount.
* Level the tripod and pan/tilt head.
* Check that the pan/tilt head is locked.
* Attach the camera to the head. There are three basic ways to attach the camera: screws, wedge plate or quick release plate.
* Adjust the center of gravity of the camera on the tripod.
* Check the friction adjustments for the pan and tilt. These should be set at your comfort level.
* Set the zoom controls at the right speed.
* Test the focus control to make sure that it is working.
* Attach the camera to the cable and power up the camera.
* Check the monitor and adjust the contrast and brightness.
* Check the back focus to ensure that the image stays in focus from long shots to close-ups.
* Attach the intercom headset and test to make sure that it is working.

If everything appears to be working on your end, wait for further instructions from the control room.

* Make sure the appropriate filter is set.
* Make sure that the camera is color balanced. This may include setting up the appropriate test chart and selecting the correct filter.
* When the camera is not in use, the front lens cap should be left on the camera.
* Familiarize yourself with the weather gear so you can put it on or take it off easily. If the weather looks as though it might get bad, put the weather gear on before the production begins. It is difficult to put weather gear on the camera during the production.

Cabling
 
Cables used in television broadcasting vary from simple coaxial configurations to very complex multi-core cables. The following is a list of things to keep in mind when cabling:

1. Run cables neatly and, if possible, parallel. Try to group them together so the cable run is obvious and well defined. Lay cables as close to the,production truck as possible so that the production crew will not trip or continuously walk on them.
2. When running camera cable, make sure that the correct end is toward the camera.
3. Cable connectors must be protected from the elements to ensure signal quality. If a cable  connector must be exposed to the elements, try to support the connector so it is hanging downward or, preferably, wrap it with plastic and tape it. However, only tape the plastic on the top end, allowing air to come in underneath to prevent condensation in and on the connector. Do not allow the ends of cables to lie where water may puddle in the event of rain or melting snow.
4. Label all cables at each end, for example, "Cam 1."
5. Report damaged cable to the instructor. It is far easier to solve problems in the cabling phase than try to troubleshoot the problem during a competition.
6. Excess cable should be placed on the ground in a figure eight pattern or the over-and-under method so that the cable will not kink or tangle. A knotted cable can cause significant stress and subsequently irreparable damage to the cable.
7. Do not run a cable around any object that requires a tight bending radius. An extremely tight bend could damage the cable.
8. Avoid running video and audio cables close, and parallel, to power cables since these cables may be subject to a buzz. Video and audio cables that must cross over power cables should do so at a 90-degree angle to minimize the impact of the power on the video and audio signals.
9. Do not suspend tightly stretched cables between two points for much of a distance. Cables must be supported to ensure the cable is not damaged due to tension. Cables should be pulled and supported by the cable, not the connectors.
 
Camera Meetings

Camera meetings are run by the director and are attended primarily by the camera operators. Other attendees include the camera assistants and maybe the associate director. These meetings, which last from 10 minutes to an hour, serve a variety of purposes. Primarily, the meeting allows the director to communicate his or her vision and also discuss with the camera operators how their shots fit into the overall production. The director describes the types of shots expected from each camera including framing details, cutting patterns, and specifically what the camera operators are to shoot. Often, directors create detailed shot sheets which describe the camera's anticipated shots. Some directors use video prints and/or photocopy the media guide so that camera operators can familiarize themselves with the key individuals they need to cover. Camera operators can then clip the sheets to their camera for easy visual access. In addition, the video prints show the type of shots and framing.
(See figures Setup 01 and Setup 02.)

The camera meeting is also an effective tool for building teamwork. Mark Wolfson, Executive Producer and Director of KRON-TV in charge of Oakland As baseball, says in Strangers in the Night, that the purpose of the meeting is to establish a relationship and an attitude with the crew. You need personal contact. The crew has to see that you're serious about what you're doing-without trying to imply that what we're doing is brain surgery.
 
Facilities Check

The facilities check or FAX is a check to see that all equipment is working correctly. Every facet of the production equipment should be tested, from intercoms to monitors. It is critical that the communication system, intercoms and two-way radios are working properly so the crew can hear who they need to hear and are able to respond. Other items that need to be checked during the FAX include:

1. Producer verifies camera feeds appear on the correct monitors on the monitor wall.
2. Camera operators verify that they can see the return.
3. The video operator verifies that the cameras have the correct color match.
4. The technical director ensures that each VTR operator receives the correct feed.
5. The Audio Director verify all audio and communication channels.
6. Verify with the transmission facilities that they are receiving the feed or stream.

Schedule

Production schedules vary depending on how familiar the crew is with the venue, how much equipment is already in place, whether the venue is already cabled, and the level of difficulty of the production. The level of difficulty is determined by the number of cameras and specialty cameras, the venue (cabling the side of a mountain or a small basketball court), and the complexity of the actual production format.

Productions take teamwork. Each member of the production crew is assigned a specific task. In many cases,one person may not be able to begin their task until another member of the crew has completed their portion of the set-up. At times, this means that some of the crew have to wait for hours until they can do their part. The production schedule helps the crew better plan, knowing exactly when each part of the production must be complete.
 
Rehearsals

Television rehearsals take many different forms. If the crew is shooting a scripted event, then theoretically, the order of events is known and the crew can practice the details of the production. Live events present a unique challenge in that anything can happen. The crew must rehearse for the unexpected. Generally, the pre-game and post-game shows are fairly scripted, allowing for some rehearsal. Rehearsals provide an opportunity for the director to make sure the camera operators are providing the required shots. It also gives RF talent a chance to determine if they have enough time to move from location to location if required.

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