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Setting Up a Video Production Studio

If you want to make a lot of videos, setting up a simple video studio might be the most cost effective way to go about it.

Making video in a studio is easier, faster, and therefore a lot less expensive than making video using field production method.

Why? A studio is more permanent, so you don't have to take the time to set-up and tear down the equipment every time. More importantly, a studio production is edited live, which saves HOURS of post-production editing time.

Here is some advice and a list of the equipment you would need to set up a basic TV production studio.

A typical TV studio has three cameras on tripods with dollys (wheels) for easy maneuverability. With a good director and decent camera operators, three cameras could be made to look like one-hundred, so you do not really need more than three.

All three cameras are hooked into a machine called a video switcher. (Today you can get computers that operate like video switchers and also include graphics generators, but for the purpose of this article, I will just use the term video switcher.)

The video switcher is used to switch between cameras and edit your production live. This is the main reason why studio production is so much faster than field production. In field production, you use one camera and edit it later. Post production editing is extremely time consuming. At a professional level, edit time is estimated at one hour per finished MINUTE. That's sixty hours of edit time for a sixty-minute show. On the other hand, an hour-long studio program is finished at the end of the hour-long taping session.

Any and all equipment that creates anything visual is hooked into the switcher, not just the cameras. So if you have a graphics generator, a video tape machine or DVD player, or a special effects generator it also gets plugged into the switcher.

The director then adds and removes whatever video elements she wants, when she wants, using the switcher. Think of it as functioning like a router. This method is also called instantaneous editing.

A DVD player or videotape player is used to run video clips during the show. Next time you are watching the news and they switch from the anchor person to video of the crime scene, that crime scene video is a pre-edited video being played on a separate player.

Audio is handled much the same way as video. You have an audio switcher, which is usually called an audio mixer or audio board. All microphones, all music/sound effects generators, all audio sources of any kind are plugged into the audio mixer. The audio engineer mixes, adds and removes whichever audio source is appropriate at the appropriate time.
The output of both the video switcher and the audio mixer are then plugged into whatever device you are using to record your finished show.

If you've ever noticed the shots of the control room they use frequently in news programs before a commercial, it has an entire wall of monitors. That's not just to look cool. Each video source needs its own monitor so the director can see what the video source looks like before he punches it up.

A video studio usually has lights mounted on the ceiling, hanging off a metal grid. If you are setting up in a house this might not be feasible. However you can get small, simple ceiling mounts that do not require a grid. Or you can use lights on a stand, same as you would out in the field. They take up a bit of room, but sometimes it is the only way.
If you do have a ceiling grid, make sure you have electrical outlets on the ceiling too. You do not want light cables snaking all over the floor.

The control room, which is where the video and audio switchers are located, should be as sound-proof as possible. The people working in the control room need to have the freedom to talk to each other without being picked up on the microphones being used in the studio.

For control room to studio communication, a head-set system is used. Everybody wears one so the people in the control room can speak to the crew in the studio. The studio crew usually has to come up with some kind of "puff code" or "tap code" so they can answer back without actually making any real noise.

In summary, here is a list of the standard equipment needed for a TV production studio:

* Multiple cameras
* Tripods with dollys for each camera
* Multiple microphones
* Video switcher
* Audio switcher
* Graphics generator
* Lights
* Light mounts
* CD player
* DVD player (or videotape player)
* Cables
* Head set communication system
* Monitors for each video source

Once you have your studio set up, you can crank out polished, professional looking videos quite easily. If you are planning on making LOTS of videos, going to the trouble and expense of setting up a studio can definitely pay off in the long run.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips
Lorraine Grula

 


Lighting For Video - Using Compact Fluorescent Lights

Quality Lighting is one of the basic cornerstones of quality video production. Any picture, video images included, are really nothing BUT light, so how your light looks will largely determine how your shot looks.

One of the newest ways to light your video production is to use the new, energy-efficient bulbs known as compact fluorescent lights. I believe there are many reasons why compact flo will soon become the bulb of choice in video making.

Compact Fluorescent lights (compact flo as they are nicknamed) are becoming popular as the new "green" way to light your home. You can find the bulbs almost everywhere now. Even before home use of compact fluorescent bulbs became popular, compact flo were being used more and more in video production. They have several distinct advantages over traditional video lights. The advantages add up to saving money and having an easier time during production.

Traditional video lights are usually tungsten halogen. They get HOTTER than a firecracker. You can easily burn your fingers on them. I even burned a hole in the wallpaper once when I bounced the light just a little too close to the wall. Oops.

Compact Fluorescent lights on the other hand do not get hot at all. They stay very cool and are much easier on the eyes. That feature, in and of itself, makes me want to buy some. Sitting under tungsten halogen lights is so hot as to be dreadfully uncomfortable. anyone sitting close to them will be sweating up a storm unless the room is very cool.

Plus, if you look directly at the burning light bulb, tungsten halogen are so bright they leave spots. These kind of bulbs heat up the entire room FAST. That leads to having to crank up the air conditioner, assuming it is not a noisy one. If it is noisy, then it stays off so you get better sound and everyone just roasts. No fun! Tungsten halogen produce almost as much heat as they do light!

In addition to staying cool, compact flo lights also use less electricity than any other kind of light bulb. (They don't waste any energy producing unwanted heat!) That's one of the biggest things that make them a "green alternative." Compact fluorescent light bulbs crank out an amazing amount of light for the wattage used compared to other kinds of light bulbs. You can get by with using about half the wattage you might normally need.

The light given off by compact fluorescent is nice, soft and diffused. The ones I have used are all colored balanced in the blue range, similar to sunlight. Standard fluorescent bulbs give off a green light so that is a big difference there. Compact flo would fit right in with sunlight and not mess up the white balancing of your camera like an orange tungsten halogen would.

Every compact flo light bulb I have ever seen is already diffused for you by the addition of white paint to the inside of the glass. That does not mean you never need to add supplemental diffusion but right out of the box you have some nice diffusion.

All-in-all, I think compact fluorescent lights are a fantastic addition to the world of video production equipment. I bet that guy whose wall I burned a hole in would agree.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips. For more information on lighting and other video production topics, please visit my blog.

Lorraine Grula
Internet Video Gal

 


Video Scriptwriting: Making it Easy

The script is the heart of your video production. So what makes a good video script?

Concise, conversational and easy-to-read.

Video script writing is the exact opposite from technical writing or academic writing. Those forms of writing use complex sentences, ten-dollar words and are usually very wordy. That is NOT what you want with a video script.

First, keep in mind that a video script is meant to be read aloud. Viewers will HEAR it rather than READ it. Therein lies the major difference. It's called writing for the ear instead of writing for the eye.

On a practical level, it is also writing for your narrator. No narrator, not even the really good ones, can sound good stumbling through endless tongue twisters. Convoluted, run-on sentences are not only a nightmare to read; they are also hard for the audience to understand even if the narrator does manage to spit it out.

So forget everything you learned from those stodgy English teachers. (My best friend is an English teacher; that is not a criticism.) It's ok for video scripts to be full of sentence fragments because that is how people actually talk. If it makes sense when heard, then that is what you want. Just try reading an academic paper out loud. It would sound terrible and put everybody to sleep.

Which brings me to a very important point. The single best way to evaluate a video script is to read it aloud.  Reading it out loud will make any error stick out like a sore thumb.

If possible, have someone listen to you as you read and see how well they understand what you are saying.    Do not worry about using short, choppy sentences if that is what SOUNDS good. Inflection, tone of voice and pacing will have a lot to do with how well the script is understood and those things do not come through on paper.

Back when I taught TV production, I told my high school students to pretend they were speaking to a friend. If you wanted to tell a friend this story, what would you say? Write that down. Then, go back and modify it. Cut out the fat. Make sure the meat is prominent. Make sure the words you have chosen are descriptive, colorful, yet easily pronounced and understood.

Good writing is usually a process of rewriting. No one writes a masterpiece on their first draft. The first draft is just a starting point. Go back over it, multiple times if necessary, and make changes as you go.

Taking this approach actually makes writing easier because it takes the pressure off. If you are sitting there starring at a blank screen, thinking you have to come up with something elegant and brilliant, chances are your brain will lock up. If, on the other hand, you know you are going to improve it later, you will feel comfortable just getting down the gist of what you want to say.

Video script writing is a style unto itself. Remember too that whatever video images you use also convey meaning. Ideally, the video and the spoken narration work in tandem. So if your narrator say, "Political leaders spoke to the public," and you show a hot air balloon deflating, then you have added considerable meaning without relying on words. That's one of the things that makes video production so much fun! I shouldn't make so much fun of politicians. On second thought, yes I should!

Thanks for reading.
Lorraine Grula

 




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