Although there are many well-established methods of preparing and recording television productions, the method that you should choose depends on many factors.
Not only on the type of show, but whether it is to be live or recorded, the facilities, and the amount of time and the size of the budget available for the production. There are differences between the way local productions and network productions work in the studio. However, in this article, the information is condensed to provide an overview of the subject.
Every production benefits from a rehearsal before being recorded or going out live. But what do you do when the talent is going to arrive at the last minute, or even while you are live? If it is a live show with long prerecorded and edited packages, such as a magazine program, it may be possible to quickly review what will be happening. Otherwise, you must accept that the action will have to be live or recorded "raw."
Fortunately, many television productions fit into familiar routine formats. Consequently, even when it is not possible to rehearse the action beforehand, you can still prepare a setup that will work successfully when the talent does arrive. Interviews, for example, have regular plans so that you can quickly line up the appropriate chair positions and move the cameras into their positions. Crew members can be used as stand-ins while the lighting and sound arrangements are being checked. When the talent appears, you can quickly review the camera shots and adjust voice levels, makeup, and lighting.
When the unrehearsed action is less defined-such as a late-arriving band-you have to rely on cameras arranged strategically in front and cross-shooting positions. Instead of cameras grabbing shots of whatever is near them, you can allocate cover shots (long shots) to one camera, and have another concentrate on close-ups of the instruments, while another shoots close-ups of individuals or small groups. Before the production begins, always explain to the performers the floor area limits within which they must work or their action may uncontrollably spread into areas that cannot be covered by the lighting or cameras.
Production treatment is largely a matter of recognizing effective shots as they are offered by the cameras-taking care to dwell on any special features, such as action detail of hands playing a piano or grouping shots of a chorus.
If you are renting cameras and/or even a studio, time is expensive, leaving few opportunities to experiment, try out variations, or work out half-formed ideas. It is imperative that you practice as many elements of the production as possible before the actual camera rehearsal. The director and talent can discuss the various production options, making sure that the ideas work. This can be done in any room that has enough space to work through the material.
Certainly, when it comes to the complexities of larger productions, preparatory work needs to be completed long before the camera rehearsals. It is essential to practice dialogue and action, coordinate performances, and discuss the camera angles. Drama and comedy shows are often rehearsed a week or two before the shoot date. Another rehearsal may even take place hours before the actual shoot time. This practice reduces the cost of the production by avoiding the need for a rental space.
A pre-rehearsal for a typical drama production usually begins with a read-through (also known as a briefing or line rehearsal). The director goes over the script, indicating specific points about style and presentation that will help familiarize the cast with their parts. They read their lines from the script, becoming more accustomed to the dialogue, the other actors, and their characterizations.
The rehearsal room's floor is often tape-outlined with a full-size layout of the studio set. Doors, windows, stairways, and so on are usually outlined. Stock rehearsal furniture substitutes for the actual studio items, and action props (telephone, tableware, etc.) are usually provided. Rehearsing in this mockup, actors become accustomed to the scale and features of their surroundings, with vertical poles or chairs marking the main limits of each setting.
The director arranges the action, the actors' positions, and their groupings to suit the camera production plan. Rehearsing a scene at a time, the cast is able to learn their lines and practice their performance until it flows naturally and the show runs smoothly, finally ready for the actual camera rehearsal. The durations of segments are checked and adjusted. (In calculating the overall timing, allowances are made for the time taken by later inserts such as prerecorded sequences.)
Before the studio rehearsal, the stage crew, supervised by the set designer, erects and dresses the set. Lamps are rigged and adjusted under the guidance of the lighting director. Camera and sound equipment are then positioned. The performers arrive, seeing the set possibly for the first time. The studio rehearsal is ready to begin.
Directors organize their studio rehearsals in several ways, according to the complexity ofthe production, available time, and the performer's experience.
Following are some of the options.
Dry Blocking (walk-through)
Actors perform, familiarizing themselves with the studio settings, and so on, while the studio crew watch, learning the format, action, and production treatment. The director is usually in the studio. The camera crew usually leaves their cameras alone and just looks at their script.
Camera Blocking (stumble-thgough)
This is the initial camera rehearsal, coordinating all technical operations, discovering and correcting problems. The goal is to make sure that the corrections worked and that the timing is appropriate.
Dress Rehearsal (dress run)
The goal of the dress rehearsal is to time the wardrobe and makeup changes. Notes about issues are taken and then shared with everyone at the end of the rehearsal.
Next month in Part Two: Rehearsal Procedures