Module Questions

Why are studios used to make programmes when tape is so cheap and available?

Studios offer alot of advantages whether live or recorded, however their advantages are mos important for live shows. Studios offer the advantage of a life audience and a gallery. The gallery is especially important due to the need to edit the programme when there is no time for post-production editing, with the only editing being used for TVs. The gallery acts as a live editing centre, picking which cameras to chose, choosing when the VTs are played and changing the sound levels when appropriate.

The presence of an established studio set also gives the show a feeling of being live and ‘real’. Top Gear uses this effect to make the show appear to be somekind of live motor show  (and in many ways, it is) with the audience huddled around to presenters in a circle as if the crowed as gathered spontaneously, while The One Show and This Morning create a kind of ‘lounge’, bringing guests in for a friendly chat. This use of the audience and live guests is particularly important for magazine show, as the audience interaction represents the viewer’s following or ‘readership’ in a magazine sense.

What are magazine programmes? Why do audiences like them?

Magazine shows normally offer what their paper counterparts offer; professional opinion, guests, reviews and other ‘items’ on a specialist subject or for a particular target audience. They differ from other television shows in the way that they are often light-hearted and lean towards entertainment. For example, ‘The Daily Politics’ and ‘Newsnight’  are both about politics and current affairs, but ‘The Daily Politics’ is a Magazine Show because it involves a pair of presenters casking a sometimes light-hearted view on the recent political events, a VT showing said events in a humours metaphor, celebrity guests giving their view on politics despite otherwise having nothing to do with the political system, and a competition for the audience to win “the acclaimed and highly sort after Daily Politics mug”. Where as Newsnight gives serious reports about current affairs and their interviewees are restricted to politicians and other people who are involved with a given issue.

Audience like Magazine shows because they offer a variety of entertaining yet authoritative views about a subject that they are are interested in, or a more general entertainment format like The One Show; all the while not taking themselves too seriously.–The-Success-of-Top-Gear’s-Honest-Approach-to-TV&AID=2209

What are the limitations of magazine shows? How can they be improved to ensure they continue?

Magazine shows can be limited in a number of ways; their specialised subject (if indeed they have one at all), their presenters and their dependence on new material. Their specialised subject can’t be too specialised or at risk of going out of fashion as they may risk becoming the television equivalent of those vague publications quoted on ‘Have I Got News For You’. And a more realistic thread to magazine shows is their dependence on trusted faces and a never ending flow of material to report on. That’s why shows like Top Gear and The Daily Politics are so successful; people will always be interested in cars of various sorts and politics, with political news and new car designs always coming out, more so with political news. If there were no more new car designs, Top Gear won’t have any more cars to review; which would force them to go even further down the ‘crazy challenges’ route of item content. And image if the BBC randomly decided to replace all or even just one of the presenters of Top Gear with new ones; it would break the social triangle* that the loyal audience has gotten used to.

*Clarkson is the slightly dominant opinionated one, Hammond is the relatively young one and May is “Captain Slow”.

The BBC finds this social triangle to be so vital to the show that  they planned to postponed the next series of Top Gear because of Richard Hammond’s car crash.

Consider other sources of distribution for magazines type shows?

With the rise and rise of the internet, it is the only natural path for the magazine show and indeed most shows to go, with BBC running and improving its iPlayer service where where their magazine shows are already available for streaming or download.


Final Reflection

During this final run-though and assessment we had to perfect the skills that we had learnt over the past weeks, as we had a limited number of ‘takes’ with the limited time. I tested the wireless lapel microphones that were suspected to be defective, but they indeed were defective. The sound from these microphones would excessively clip or have a static effect when raised to any audible level, drowning out the studio sound. Because of this, I used to back-up plan of using the boom mic placed on the floor (we don’t have a pole operator) next to the effected presenter, allowing all of the presenters to have a microphone to themselves. The fact that the boom microphone was stationary did not matter so much, considering that our presenter Natalie Morley was sat at the sofa for the majority of the production. The two guests were given wired lapel mics,

I think that the final take was the best, as everyone conducted their roles to a high standard, with the only notable fault being the 2nd camera occasionally flickering. This almost perfect final take could’ve been a coincidence or because everyone knew that it was the final take and thus had the added pressure of knowing that we couldn’t afford to make more mistakes. I say this because despite our other practice sessions we still had some problems on the day. This was also the first time that I used music via the CD player, getting used to fitting it into my usual operations.

As our production progressed throughout the weeks, the practice runs became more and more representative of the final assessment, with the guests performing on a practice run and the VTs being created, increasing the tasks for me on the sound board and for the group as a whole.

Due to the increasing amount of microphone channels being used and the number of VT items our show had, the use of the ‘Solo’ button was employed after a discussion with our Director and Producer. I would normally use the ‘Mute’ buttons or the faders to silence the studio sound while a VT was running, but this would become complicated with the large amount of sound channels, the Solo button was useful for isolating the sound so that only the VT sound would play while the VTs were running. This was very useful because it enabled me to press just one button rather than the 5 to 8 mute buttons. However, at least on the day this did have the disadvantage of the sound volume control being limited during the VTs.

As mentioned above, the assessment day was the first day that I operated the CD player in the gallery; the CD player itself was simple to operate, only needing to press the reliant track number and turning up the 1st Stereo fader. However, being the first time using it in conjunction with the rest of the magazine show sound was awkward at first, as while the music was on the running order it wasn’t fully established exactly when the music will play and if it fades in or starts suddenly. This was soon established with our Director, as well as making the music fade out after the intro VT.

Running Order

Our show’s Running Order, as created by our Producer and Director (Jake Humbles and David Toms)

(Click to Enlarge)

“2nd Reflection”

The production of our show is really coming along, with guests being decided and booked, our team getting to know their roles and the other items being finalised.

The theme of our show is a cross between Top Gear and The One Show. Conforming to Top Gear, our show has a male target audience and extensive VTs that involve challenges. Though having said that, Top Gear also has a significant amount of female viewers. As to to not alienate the female views, we have a female presenter who is just as “manly” as the male presenters, drinking a beer as she walks in and speaking assertively to her male colleagues. Having a female presenter along with more diverse VTs is also important because our show also follows ‘The One Show’ which has one male and one female presenter, along with a guest and a very diverse array of subjects. Conforming with The One Show, we plan to involve one of our guests in one of our topical studio discussions (discos) despite that guest having little or nothing to do with the topic.  I think that this is useful for conveying the casual ‘lounge’ style of The One Show that our show aspires to. The item where a guest is asked questions about something that they’re not normally involved in is actually quite common with magazine shows; The Daily Politics regularly has a VT where a celebrity that otherwise has nothing to do with politics voices his/her opinion on a political subject, and Top Gear’s ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ is rarely a driver by profession.

Going with the ‘bachelor’s pad’ style, we were going to have a games reviewer to review various recent games as an item. I also planned to book the  successful games designer Michal Marcinkowski to have an interview with our presenters via Skype (as he lives in Poland), with the visuals being clips of his games and the development of new ones, speaking about his career and how independent games developers can still survive commercially in today’s market of big-budget games. Michal Marcinkowski did agree to my offer of an interview in the show, but I had to cancel this interview as my team later decided that the interview will be too serious (not ‘chatty’) to conform with our show’s theme, as well as having concerns about the practicality of having a live or recorded interview over Skype. The games reviewer item was also dropped.

Our guests are the comedian Michael Smith and the magician Gareth Twynham aka ‘The Amazing G’. Michael’s style of humour and planned beer drinking on set conforms well to our show’s style, being casual yet entertaining. The Amazing G appears to be good for our show in the way that it’s a broad form of entertainment and doesn’t look too stereotypical albeit with some traditional tricks and balloon animals.

The VT ideas are supposed to be primarily challenges or reviews, conforming with Top Gear. The introduction of “Man Points” are supposed to be like ‘Brownie Points’ or the ‘Man Card’, an uncounted social scorecard.

113MC Task 3

(As uploaded to Moogle earlier in the day)

Youtube link:

113MC- 1st Reflection

Being responsible for both the studio and gallery sound, I must ensure that all of the microphones are working and in the correct positions if I am to gain the desired results from the sound board in the gallery. In the past I have recorded the sound for live events, but this production is different in the way that the sound is for the gallery (and more specifically the recording tape) rather than for an audience. During the live events the microphones for the band members or dances would be supplied and fitted by the music or drama department, with the sound board in the gallery adjusting the sound levels of the speakers. My job was to film the event with two or three cameras and use a microphone ‘stereo pair’ set to record the sound that the audience hears in the drama hall.

For this assignment, I am responsible for the microphones that the presenters and guests are directly speaking into. As this is a magazine show rather than a music event, it would be best to give the presenters and guests wireless ‘Lapel’ microphones. With these  microphones the presenters will be able to walk around and have their arms free for holding cards and other tasks, rather than holding the microphone like a sinker. The discrete nature of the Lapel microphone also enables the presenters to appear more naturalistic, chatting on the sofa as if it’s a normal social occasion.

A boom microphone is also being used for our group’s studio production. This should be useful because it is very reliable as a general purpose microphone, as well as having the advantage of being out of camera shot. Another reason why we are using the boom mic is because it is connected to the mains and Phantom Power. This means that if any of our wireless microphones have a fault, we will always have a backup source of sound. Due to the lack of working wireless microphones, we may use wired lapel mics. However these may drag against the floor and are more viable, which is another reason why the boom mic my be useful if the wireless mics don’t give enough working sources on the day of filming. However, the disadvantage of the boom mic is that its volume changes as the presenters and guests get closer to it. We don’t have a boom pole (or ‘fishing rod’) operator, so the only way to adjust the sound if needed would be via the sound board.

Once I have given the presenters and guests their microphones, a sound test before the production goes on air is needed to ensure that the volume  levels and other adjustments to the sound signal are set correctly.

Learning to be a Sound Mixer/Technicain

For my 113MC task I have been chosen as the team’s ‘Sound Mixer’. At first I would have preferred to be the Vision Mixer as it has been my previous role in college studio productions as well as being in similar roles in my voluntary work. However, I have grown to appreciate the placement of ‘Sound Mixer’ due to it being similar in ways to the Vision Mixer desk. While the sound mixer is obviously different as it is to do with the production’s audio operation rather than visual operation, it is similar in the way that it involves the precise operation of a gallery-based board; bristling with dials and faders to operate during the live production.

The Soundcraft Spirit E12, the sound mixing desk which I will be using during the 113MC module

The other reason why I’m pleased to be the Sound Mixer is that it presents the opportunity to learn a new skill, broadening my professional skills for later life. As my previous experience in the media has mostly revolved around visual media and post-production work, I have never had the opportunity to control a sound mixing board, other than viewing a demonstration by the technician who I done voluntary work for at college. The sound mixing desk also gives the opportunity to research the electronics behind line-in levels and ‘gain’. Editing sound during my many years of post-production experience has been very useful, but it just isn’t the same as the opportunity to operate a live sound-mixing board.

While this position is primarily in the gallery, it also involves work in the studio; ensuring that the wireless microphones have sufficiently charged batteries, checking that their wavelength corresponded to their relevant transmitters (which they were not when I first tested them) and connecting the transmitters to the XLR sockets.

I have found the ‘main meter’ which shows the mix output to be invaluable during our team’s production rehearsals, particularly considering that the sound which the gallery staff hears isn’t necessarily the same volume as what is being recorded. This is due to the gallery speakers having their own volume dials on both the sound board and the speakers themselves. Monitoring the main meter’s coloured LED lights is important during the production rehearsals to ensure that the recording volume isn’t too high or low, altering the relevant dials or faders.

As the 113MC module progresses I hope to learn even more about the sound desk, especially during the specialised skills session which may be given. The introduction of working VT-inserts will mean that I’ll be switching between the VT sound and studio sound when appropriate.