In news and documentary work, the safest and most professional approach to handling controversial subject matter is to suppress your own views and biases and present both sides of the issue as fairly as possible.
• The news producer is the person who is most directly in charge of the newscast.
• Segment producers are in charge of specific stories or newscast segments.
• Some stations will have an executive producer who supervises the other producer(s).
• Two types of directors are involved in putting the newscast on the air. The first, the news director, is the top person in the News Department. Much further down the ladder of responsibility is the on-air director for the newscast.
• The ENG coordinator starts with the story assignments made by the assignment editor and works with reporters, ENG crews, editors, technicians, and the producer to see that the stories make it all the way through the technical, tactical, and news editorial labyrinths to “air.”
• Broadcast news comes from four basic sources: from news services such as the Associated Press; from media outlets such as newspapers, radio and TV stations; from press releases provided by a wide variety of corporations, agencies and special interest groups; and direct from a local reporter’s primary sources.
• The largest news organization, the Associated Press (AP) operates bureaus in 120 U.S. cities and in more than 130 foreign countries—reaching one-third of the world’s population.
• Today, stations have computerized newsrooms and the steady stream of news is electronically written onto a computer hard disk.
• ENG, one of the primary applications of video field production, was first made practical by the time-base corrector (TBC).
• News feeds are recorded from satellite feeds and reviewed by the local news producer. Stories selected for broadcast are normally saved to a video server, or assembled on one or two videotapes, and then “rolled into” the local news as needed. There are nine factors associated with newsworthiness: generally recognized significance, possible future impact, conflict, human interest, proximity, the number of people affected, timeliness, exceptional quality, and shock value.
• Interviews are commonly shot by the A-roll, B-roll method, where one videotape contains footage of the person being interviewed, including answers to questions, and the second roll (the B-roll) contains shots of the reporter asking the basic questions in the interview, the stand-up intro and extro to the piece, and cutaway and insert shots.
• More than most professions, ENG reporting contains major elements of risk.
• Film and video started out using their respective production approaches largely out of necessity. Film’s single-camera approach to production was based on technical and economic needs.
• The last 20 years have seen the chasm between video and film production greatly diminish. HDTV, which has made use of the best of film and video production techniques, is establishing a kind of middle ground between film and video production. Even production terminology and personnel titles, once distinctly different for the two media, are undergoing amalgamation.
• For those who prefer the film look, it can be technically duplicated in video—especially in HDTV—except for one thing. This one thing, which ends up being the most important, is not a technical difference, but an artistic one.
• At the heart of this artistic difference is a combination of two processes: lighting and editing. Unfortunately, most of the artistic potential of lighting and editing is limited in multi-camera productions. A scene that has to be lit, miced and shot from three or four divergent angles at the same time and then possibly edited in real time, will, to some degree, be compromised in the process.
• In contrast, the level of quality and sophistication that can be achieved by breaking a scene down into its major components and lighting, micing and rehearsing each segment before it is shot—and typically shot several times—is understandably superior. Instead of having one camera angle and take to choose from, film editors can normally choose from several takes and angles. With film, editing decisions are spread out over weeks or months—ample time to reflect, experiment and reconsider before final editing decisions are made.
• Shooting single-camera, film-style, has other advantages. Traditionally, far more time is available in film production. Since each take in a scene is done separately, it can be rehearsed and reshot until the director and talent are satisfied. Actors have to concentrate on only a few lines and a few moves at a time. They don’t have to memorize one or more entire scenes—sometimes on a daily basis.
• Editing decisions done live or live on tape are made on a second-by-second basis. Once a video edit is made in this type of production, there is seldom the opportunity to look back, rethink and revise. When production time and support are available, cameras can be isoed (isolated and recorded individually) during production. Even though this adds much flexibility to the editing process, production is still basically staged and shot in multi-camera video style.
• Although a few major television productions throughout the 1970s and early 1980s tried to duplicate single-camera, film-style production, it was not until HDTV production got underway in the late 1980s that the video production was able to compete on virtually an equal basis with film.
• Today many video productions are being shot single-camera, film-style, and personnel from both film and video production are having to rethink their respective approaches to production. Both video and film production are benefiting.
• Probably the greatest area of similarity between film and film-style video production is in what is called the cover shot in video and the master shot in film. After being used to establish the relationship between the scene and actors, the master shot is thereafter used (1) to show a major change in the scene’s center of interest, (2) to show major talent moves including the entrance or exit of actors, or (3) to remind viewers of a scenes geography.
• Some directors start out by shooting a scene, beginning to end, from the master shot perspective. Once they get a good take, they make lighting and audio adjustments and redo segments from the perspective of the important close-ups.
• The real power and artistic creativity in film-style production lies in the use of close-ups, inserts, and cutaway shots. Before these can be effectively done, however, the director must have a complete understanding of the script based not only on production requirements, but also on the subtle nuances of meaning intended by the writer.
• In reading the script, the director will need to carefully analyze the relationships between scenes. Since the script will probably not be shot in sequence, the director (and actors) will not be able to rely on any logical, time-based development of the story or characters. In order to ensure proper continuity, the director must also analyze the scenes that come before and after the scenes being shot. Even though these adjacent scenes may be shot weeks or months later, they will end up immediately before and after the scenes being taped.
• Audio pickup can be a special problem. Master shots can, of course, be miced with a boom. In setup shots, the audio may come from a line mic or even a hidden personal mic. Because of the proximity effect, the difference between these audio pickups may be quite noticeable when the segments are edited together. To solve this problem and reduce postproduction sound equalizing, many productions now routinely use personal wireless mics.
1. Public officials who know something about live ENG work often time their “news events” to happen during live newscasts. Assuming that the story was important enough to merit ENG tape at any other time, why do such officials prefer live coverage over taped coverage?
2. How does the expression “it’s not what you say but how you say it” apply to broadcast news?
3. List and discuss the primary criteria for newsworthiness.
4. What is the difference between hard and soft news?
5. What is the difference between a news director and an on-air director?
6. What is the duty of a news coordinator?
7. What are the differences between a news and a documentary piece?
8. What are some of the guidelines in handling controversial subject matter in news and documentary pieces?
9. What are the major sources of news?