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On Location

While field production could cover a wide range of scenarios, University Place "shoots" for WOSU generally fall into two types: a recording of a process or event in its natural space or a presentation or discussion in a lecture hall or auditorium. The first scenario would call for the services of a staff videographer and grip in addition to a producer. To cover a lecture or a public forum, WOSU has streamlined production with a small crew and kept costs down using a portable video switcher.

WPSU's Common Ground Lobby Talks contained some roll-ins from on location to illustrate the topics, but field production was not the primary focus of the series. Conversations has had two field productions, both arranged because the high-quality guests (Annie Leonard and Sir Ken Robinson) were accessible only at  another college campus (Juniata College) where they had been paid to speak. Similarly, PreK-12 learning object production limited shooting on location to labs or the PSU campus. Most of the production effort was spent writing contextual content, connecting to teachers, and creating graphics to support learning concepts, in order to stay on budget and create academically robust products.

Most of the lectures and events WPT tapes for University Place take place around the UW-Madison campus as well as the city of Madison, in lectures halls, classrooms, meeting rooms, art galleries, book stores, etc.   WPT has purchased production equipment dedicated to University Place tapings. The equipment includes:

SONY Anycast Portable Video Switcher

SONY Anycast portable video switcher

The Anycast was purchased to keep the crew small, streamline production and keep costs down. The Anycast runs a version of Linux OS and provides 6 video inputs of varying sources (SD, HD, S-video, or composite).   With the ability to switch an event live, including title screen graphics and PowerPoint slides, the crew walks out of the event with a finished program.

The Anycast was selected because it was the only switcher of its type that could convert between SD and HD by just switching out cards.   University Place lectures and events are recorded in 4 x 3 SD because the WPT's Wisconsin Channel, where University Place programs are broadcast, is an SD channel.

Three HDV cameras
Three Canon XH G1 HDV cameras

Record deck
Sony HVRM15U deck

2 wireless mic systems: 1 wireless, 1 handheld
1 shotgun mic

With Photoshop, for composition of graphics in the field.

on location photo

For basic lectures a two person crew with the Anycast package is generally sufficient.    One camera is locked down for a wide shot, and the second camera and camera operator follow the presenter in a medium shot.

The overarching intent of recording WPT University Place lectures is to give the home viewer a "fly-on-the-wall" experience, a feel of being in the room with the participants. That being said, there needs to be a balance between capturing good content and creating good television. The baseline necessities are:

  • Good audio, most often fed from a house PA system;
  • Decent lighting, preferably with a preset that can be controlled can controlled;
  • A feed directly from a PowerPoint computer (no "shooting the screen")

Presenters are asked four questions before taping begins:

  1. Do you have a cell phone in your pocket? (If so, ask presenter to remove it; cell phones interfere with wireless mics.)
  2. Are you a "podium person" or a "wanderer"? (Depending on the lighting situation, the presenter could end up in a black hole.)
  3. Are you a "laser person"? (Since we take a direct feed from the PowerPoint computer, using a laser on the screen is invisible to the TV audience. Using the cursor on the computer is a better solution.)
  4. Is there a defined ending to your PowerPoint? (Since we do not generally shoot the Q&A section, it is useful for our purposes for the in-room audience to give the speaker a round of applause at the end of the presentation. We cut to a wide shot with a copyright super and fade to black.)

For WPT's University Place field tapings, program content is developed by presenters, not by WPT producers.   This includes preparation of video clips, PowerPoint slides, and other visuals or multimedia.   The result is a wide variety of quality levels and aesthetic considerations in visuals.

Presenter PowerPoints can pose particular problems. Variations in aspect ratios and lack of knowledge of safe title can be a problem. In addition, sometimes presenters pack too much information into each screen rendering text illegible when viewed on a television screen.   During panel discussions slides may need to be displayed so both the audience and members of panel can see the information.

Questions from the audience are also an important part of many public presentations.   Because of the complexity of recoding audience questions WPT chooses to not record Q&A unless the venue is providing a handheld or stand mic for questions.

Because of the wide variety of venues, WPT has created a reference guide of frequently used venues for University Place taping crews. The guide includes technical information about a facility, tips for setting up equipment at this location, logistic information about where to park and how to get into a room, and venue contact information: (WPT Taping Venue Reference Guide - pdf)