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Studio Method vs. Field Production

What are the pros and cons of each method? Learning the professional video production skills and become a master !

Television Studios come equipped with multiple cameras and microphones. Lights are attached to the ceiling on a grid. There is a control room with switchers and controllers. You set it up once and leave everything in place ready to go.

Everything in a studio is controllable: the lights, the sound, the action. The action is rehearsed and then done once, using multiple cameras. In the control room, the director switches the cameras and sound sources as the action is happening.

In a well-arranged studio, everything exists for the sole purpose of staging action and getting it on tape.
Every major city has professional television studios available for rent by the day. A PBS station or other small outlet is your best bet to get a relatively low daily rate. Crews are included.

Field production means you're anywhere but a studio. Field production is always dependent upon the characteristics of your location. Your location might be a doctor's office, the bottom of a cave or a chicken coop. Then again, it might be a $10,000-a-plate political banquet or backstage at a rock concert.

Each situation calls for unique methods but you can always find similarities. Field production usually requires a lot of setting up and tearing down the equipment.

These days, the same equipment can be used for both methods. This can save the low-budget producer a lot of money. Luckily for us all, video equipment has become cheap enough to let you set-up a studio in a chicken coop!

Although you can put a studio in the field, for low-budget video production, field production usually means only one camera and one mic. There are exceptions to that of course.

The Super Bowl, the mother of all field productions, uses at least seventy cameras along with two huge trucks full of tape decks, lights, microphones, cables, switchers, signal controllers, graphics generators, you name it that extravaganza uses it. But you don't have to be the Super Bowl to take a TV studio out into the field today. Computers and wireless transmission are two huge leaps in technology that make video production easier.

If you are going to do one-camera technique in the field, here are some facts to help you learn how.

Hollywood movies evolved using one-camera technique. Most field productions, especially low-budget, are done with one-camera technique.

One-camera technique means the action is repeated over and over with the one camera in a new location every time.

For fancy field production, all the lights are moved and re-set up in between every camera location.

Then, all that footage is editing together to simulate the effect you would have gotten had the action been captured simultaneously by multiple cameras, just like what happens in a studio. In other words, field production has always intimidated studio production.


If your videoing some kind of reality situation, like what I did for years in TV news, the action is not repeated for the sake of multiple angles. (Excuse me, Mr. Crook, can you shoot the dude again? I was out of focus.)

In a live situation, the photographer runs her butt off grabbing every conceivable shot as the action happens naturally and then this is edited to simulate multiple cameras.

In a studio, lights are mounted on the ceiling. All the lights are plugged into a board and are controlled individually by sliders and dials on that board. In the field, lighting will either be natural or from portables with collapsible tripods. Portables can be used inside and out.

TIP: You can also get various cloths and reflectors to greatly enhance control over the sun. They're cheap and make a world of difference in the attractiveness of your finished image. The sun is not controllable, but your image is!

In a studio, the show is edited live through a machine known as a video switcher. This saves TONS of time!

Field productions are edited using a computer after they are shot. Good editing can make even a boring subject exciting but quality editing is time consuming. An editor who knows his stuff will plan on taking a minimum of one-hour to finish one-minute of edited story. Quick, down and dirty editing might go faster, but not much. An extremely intricate :30 commercial that gets bickered over a lot might be in editing two weeks. No wonder the budgets for video can quickly soar out of sight! Don't let that happen to you.

The higher the level of the production, the longer editing can take. Quality editing can save an otherwise poor production. Good editing is usually planned, and not just a reaction to fixing stuff that went wrong when shooting. Good editing is one of your most powerful story-telling techniques.

TV Production equipment has come such a long way since the early days it never ceases to amaze me. Now you can set up a studio anywhere out in the field, even a mountain top!

It's not uncommon for crews of two or three to set up multiple cameras and a video switcher for a graduation, wedding or banquet event. Portability is easy. Not having to edit what might be a three-hour event saves days of work and lots of money! The digital capacity of today's machines can put an amazing amount of power on your desktop.


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