Building a Video Production Lab - High School - Part Four

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In this section we review the equipment requirements of a Studio type lab common in many schools. This is the tpye of set up you would commonly use to do a school news cast that resembles the ones seen on TV at six and ten o'clock on your local channels.
Multi Camera Studio. Multi camera studios are the most expensive to set up and maintain in terms of the equipment. A multi camera studio centers around the camera systems and these camera systems determine what equipment support them. A multi camera studio of starts with two or more cameras. Three is usually the minimum that most schools start with though in most working news studio four or more cameras are used. The outputs of each of the cameras are routed to a switcher different cameras are selected to view as the production requires. The output of that switcher is them routed to a device to record the production to be show to the audience at a later time. Recording for later play back is called live to tape, or sending the program directly to the audience who views the production live as it is happening is called live to air. Like the cameras, microphones are routed to a mixer and mixed with the video for recording or air. If during the production any content or imagery is going to be shown that is not being captured on the cameras, playback devices are required and some productions may require several. A news cast may require a playback device for playing the opening credit sequence and a device for playing back pre-recorded news story packages and another for commercials. Additional play back devices may be necessary for graphics and music. Professional environments usually separate all three since portions being shown may change from news cast to news cast or even with in the news cast as time allotments change for each section. Lighting for a muti-camera is more intensive since the set must appear lit from any of the different camera angles. Additionally the lighting is mounted hanging from the ceiling as opposed to mounting on stands to permit the cameras to move freely about the studio during productions. Moving cameras and lights on stands do not mix well and lead to tripping or falling over stands or knocking stands and lights over. Since a multi camera live production requires communication among all of the crew, intercom systems are necessary so the crew can communicate and take direction with out speaking out loud which may interfere with a the audio from the talent. Also the director and operation staff is located in a separate room from the main studio floor to keep their working conversation from interfering with the on air talent. Each of the cameras and playback devices must be routed to a monitor so their framing, movement and content can be monitored before they are routed to air or to the recording. Specialty shots such as weather chroma key shots require equipment to composite the weather person and their maps.
And additional requirement of a multi camera studio is when switching between the three cameras. Each camera must match exposure, contrast, hue exactly otherwise the switch will look amateurish and unprofessional. Cameras designed for live camera switching consist of a camera head that captures the image and a separate controller unit to control the settings of the camera. The controllers called CCUs or camera control units are located in the control room where a operator will adjust the cameras to match. Asking a camera operator to adjust their camera in the middle of a shoot is too much to ask if they are also having to perform duties for framing, movement and focus. Usually a more technically advanced "engineer" is the one who "shades" the cameras with the CCUs. Only certain cameras are designed to be used with CCUs. These camera systems are generally more expensive than regular camcorders. These cameras are designed for studio use and are more suited to this environment. Adapting regular cameras for studio use lead to many compromises and often produce a less than professional result and can be less reliable in operation since they are being used in ways they were never designed for.
In future installments we will discuss roll the room plays in creating a studio and some tips on creating a useful and efficient studio space.


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