Technical Aspects of Broadcast Production

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Technical tools in broadcast and video production can influence a story as well as its viewers. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the importance of sound, camera angles, and staging in a production.

Painting a Picture

Imagine a friend was telling you a story about a movie they'd watched over the weekend. As they're rushing through the story, they describe a boat that sinks, how several people perished, and the sadness of the event.

While the story certainly sounds like it could be dramatic, it's nothing compared to actually watching the award-winning movie 'Titanic,' which tells in great detail the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, an event that killed more than 1,500 people. What made the fictionalized account of the real-life event even more impactful was the use of technical aspects of broadcast production used to draw the audience in.

Techniques you see used in popular movies are also used in television broadcast production. Concepts ranging from the use of sound and staging to various camera angles are seen in all types of broadcast production from television shows to documentaries to newscasts.

Proper use of broadcast tools can impact viewers in a number of ways:

  • Conveys and sparks emotion
  • Controls the audience's perspective
  • Creates drama, suspense, or comedic relief
  • Draws a viewer's eye to a particular person or image
  • Highlights important features
  • Guides the story
  • Creates feelings about characters or situations

Of course, no one consciously listens to scary music in a television show and says, ''That music is scary, so now I'm scared.'' The ability to use sound and other techniques, frequently paired rather than individually, to subconsciously impact viewers is a powerful tool. Let's take a look at a few specific technical aspects of production and examine their importance.

Sound

Years ago, sound wasn't as important in production as it is today. In fact, silent films were some of the first forays into visual productions. Later, once sound was introduced, the only distinctions were typically, 'Is the sound good or is it bad?' If you could hear what was being said, the sound was acceptable. Thanks to more advanced electronic capabilities in people's homes, the expectation for sound quality has increased many times over. Viewers expect not only good sound quality, but sophisticated techniques.

Types of audio could include voice tracks or voiceovers (pre-recorded narration), natural sounds, sound effects, music, and ambient (background) sounds.

The key to getting the sound portion of a production right is eliminating outside noise and using good equipment such as microphones. It's also important to optimize sound levels to get the best possible audio quality with the least amount of distraction and background noise.

Staging

Staging in broadcast production can refer to one of two things:

1. The way items or people are situated in a camera shot

2. The way cameras are placed or moved

The first can impact how the story is conveyed and understood by the viewer, as well as provide effective camera positioning. After all, if you're trying to convey an important conversation between two actors and the interaction is staged in front of a very distracting background, the importance of the conversation will likely be lost.

Camera staging itself concerns the placing and movement of cameras. In many productions, more than one camera is required for adequate production and to create varied and interesting angles.

Overall, staging helps to convey an action, influence the viewer to understand a scene in a certain way, and direct the audience's attention.

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