Control Room6 The TV Studio is not one large, laser-lit playpen where all the creatives act their parts, the technicians in headsets signal “time,” and the suits search for hypebeasts in the studio audience to base a reality TV show on. It’s a structured two-room environment that must be orchestrated efficiently by a talented team of artists and operators for a successful production.

The first room is the studio floor, where the cameras and set are, and the talent performs in front of the cameras. The second room—less glamorous and equally-important as the studio floor—is where the technical and production magic happens.

These are the basic pieces of equipment you’ll encounter in any Control Room. Mastering them will open up the world of production for you.

Switcher
The three dedicated cameras in the studio are configured to record live to tape. There aren’t three feeds to sync up in an NLE and edit later; what we get is one feed—the recorded footage as scripted—saved to a DVD. Every cut, transition, camera angle, and effect is rendered as a file that gets submitted for broadcast.Control Room2

The switcher (the hardware at the lower left of the picture) is used to preview the camera angles and switch to the desired shot, making it the hot camera so what is shown as live footage is recorded to the DVD. It’s crucial that the switching be precise because there’s no opportunity to make any adjustments in your NLE: you determine your A-Roll and B-Roll in the storyboard or shot list and carry out the shots live.

The switcher also handles overlays. There is a handle for fading in and fading out to black manually, or fading graphics and titles in and out.

Robocam
One of the cameras on the studio floor is a robotic camera that is controlled remotely from within the Control Room. We used the Vinten MultiController II Autocam Controller, a joystick-based control system to set up shots on the robotic camera. This device can zoom in, zoom out, focus, pan, and tilt the camera.Control Room9

One of the strengths of the Vinten is the ability to save and call up shots. That means you can store a composition, or camera movement, and have the camera act out that movement for you with the press of a few buttons. For example, you can set the camera to pan left and zoom in to a medium close up, and save that movement using a series of hot keys (Shift, two numeric characters, and Save). Then, whenever you need the shot, you call up the shot with hot keys (the same two numeric characters and Jump) to execute the shot automatically.

VTR (Video Tape Recorder)
I was surprised that this equipment was responsible for only two basic functions: 1) timer, and 2) recorder. The timer is important because it lets you know how much time has passed and is left on your production. A 30-minute program slot isn’t to exceed 28 ½ minutes, so you use the VTR to see where you stand, ensuring that you don’t run under or over your time.

Control Room8 We don’t record to tape any longer (although there is the option to record on miniDV tape); we save digital files. The VTR operator starts the recorder and timer and then stops both, when cued.

Mixer
All audio inputs, and some audio effects, are controlled through the mixer. Each item has its own channel with a variety of controls, like reverb, equalizer, volume, and whether or not it is going to the mix.
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Music, from a CD or other connected sources, is also controlled from the mixer. The mixer is also used for the sound check, ensuring the talent’s volume stays neutral. Variances in volume are corrected by adjusting the levels so the signals don’t distort.

The mix is a crucial part of the production because audio is fully one half of your video. Viewers tend to forgive poor quality video when the audio is acceptable, however the inverse is not always true. Poor quality audio ruins an otherwise acceptable video.

Your studio may include other equipment, or might have less. Master these basics and you will have enough technical know-how to be an asset on any production.