Posts Tagged ‘production’

TV: Developing the idea

Posted: October 10, 2014 by Alan Hardcastle in CMP 14_16
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You have a week to develop your idea, make a visual trailer and prepare your pitch. Easy!

Where do Ideas come from? Well, there is no such thing as originality. Look around you, at existing ideas. It is always good to start from an existing idea and add a twist, and develop it. It could be changing it for an audience, or adding a genre, or simply revamping an old idea.

The BBC has a great way of developing ideas. They make it as a radio show first, then when they can prove it works, they put it on TV. BBC 2 or 3 usually, and then if it works really well, it moves to BBC1. See: Little Britain, The Day Today, Absolute Power, The Mighty Boosh and (arguably) Have I got News For You and QI, which both have their original versions still running on Radio 4.

Having a reference is vital – why make a show that the audience doesn’t want? Combine audience viewing figures with an element of originality. For example: X Factor and Pop Idol are modern versions of New Faces and other talent shows, just with a public voting system. This voting element is so popular a lot of shows try to add this in.

So, look at what has existed before, what exists now, what the Target Audience is interested in (Culturally, socially etc) and then you can look at what twist you can put on it. What does your audience relate too?

Once you have ideas, interrogate them. Pull them apart to make sure they work and are viable. Look at:

a) treatment – How you are treating the idea. It could be the script as a short story, it could be the shape of the series, the types of questions or tasks for contestants – it all depends on the kind of idea you are working on.

b) suggested cast – who would you like in it? Not necessarily who will be in it – you can name check the type of person to appear in it.

c) target audience – who is it for? The better you do this, the more likely it will appeal to other markets. For example, Dr Who was a Children’s show. It worked so well adults watched it.

d) budget, funding – How much will it cost to make? And is this realistic based on what you will get to make it? Be aware of the balance between talent, effects, locations, sets and the cheapest way to make a show – contestants.

e) production schedule with launch date and contingency plans – when are you making this? How long will it take to shoot, and what will you do if it goes wrong? If you need locations, be aware of the weather – Please note that Game of Thrones is filmed in the Autumn and then post production is winter.

f ) legal and/or ethical issues – Very contextual. Could be watershed issues, could be privacy – be aware of of the possible implications of your ideas (harm to contestants, harm to the viewers etc…)

g) scheduling time – what time it is on has a massive bearing on what you can show. See Above..!

And all this is just to nail down your idea. Once you have the idea, make the trailer (Script, storyboard, ideas for sets, titles & Fonts etc) as a way to show visually what you want to achieve.

And remember, we plan to make the pilot after half term. So, No Pressure.


Quick Cinemagraph Test

Posted: September 29, 2014 by Alan Hardcastle in FDA 13_15, General
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So, A few tests we did today with cinemagraphs. These were done really quickly – about 40 minutes – but give you an idea of what can be done.
This first one was constructed with a still shot and video footage;


And this was done with stills taken from the video.


Now you need to develop a TV Studio Idea and go into production. So, what does that mean…?

First, it means coming up with an idea. There are two ways of doing this – Business and Art.

Business means looking at the market. What is out there? What is popular? Are there any gaps in the market? Then you can look at the audience – Who is watching TV? What are they watching? Who is watching the popular stuff, and why?

Art means – making it, and hoping there is an audience. This is much harder to get funded as we can’t prove to investors, advertisers, broadcaster etc. that we will have an audience. But hey, it worked for QI (see Making of QI on the Media Drive)

You need to have an idea to start with. Whether this comes form your Market research, audience research or just off the top of your head based on what you think people will like, you will need to develop it.

You need to be clear of the shape of the programme – what will it contain? What happens? How will it work? What will it look like? Why will people watch? How will this be shown? What is the Format? What is the style?

This information needs to be collected into a Proposal – a clear statement of intent. Once you have this, everything else (the production research) becomes relatively straight forward. If you have considered you idea correctly, you can generate a  script, add timings, shot lists, design the set and do floor plans, light it, risk assess, identify equipment needed, assign roles, rehearse (making notes on the script) and then film it.

All the way through planning, you can go back to your market and audience research to solve any other problems you may identify while planning.

As we go through the session today, we will address everything we need to consider and link it to the planning documents we need to do. It is important that all planning tasks have someone assigned to them – be clear what you role in planning is, and make sure you keep notes of this. That way, if something needs to change, you know who to ask. This is called making minutes. It also makes it easier for us to mark – and if it is easier to mark, we will mark it quicker and more likely mark you higher…

Easy. As long as you have a clear idea of what you want it to look like in the first place!

That Pre Production Paperwork in full

Posted: November 2, 2011 by Alan Hardcastle in FdA 11_13
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The whole point of pre production is to plan what you need to do – If the paperwork serves no purpose, it is pretty much useless. All of these bits of paper are useful to help you plan what you are doing at some time, but not in every production – for example, I wouldn’t bother location scouting for a studio show.

The palnnign for a Multi Camrea is different to teh planning for  a single camera, but all production needs to be thoguht about, so please don’t dismiss any of these out of hand.

Storyboards – a visual representation of each shot you need in your show. You consider and sketch each camera angle you are planning to use, which will help blocking, lighting, set design and continuity.

Script Breakdown Sheet – The 1stAD should break down every scene of the script to extract what is needed, where it takes place, day or night etc. – essentially, everything needed to shoot the scene. (Jones,  p603)

Shotlist – A list of all teh shots you need to shoot, based on Storyboards & Script breakdown sheet. Becomes a check sheet for the shoot.

Call Sheet – This is handed out to all cast and crew the day before the shoot day it represents. It is created by the 2nd AD and deals with the cast’s pick-up, arrival and on-set times and any other relevant departmental information. (Jones p598)

Continuity/Edit Notes – Filled out by the Continuity person and should state all and every detail about the shots, usually as a sheet per shot and can include photographs and diagrams.  These are later handed to the Editor as a guideline for putting the rough assembly together. Essential fro single camera productions. (Jones p600)

Locations Checklist – Produced by the Locations Manager, this is a list of things that must be done in advance of the production moving to a location. It also provides useful information for the 2nd AD for the Call Sheets. (Jones p604)

Movement Order – Produced by the Location Manager as travel directions. It should also include train times, whenever possible. Usually attached to Call Sheet for the day it refers to. This is an example only and could include photocopied maps with highlighted routes. (Jones p605)  

Production Checklist – Created by the Production Office as a checklist prior to principal photography and for putting the budget together. (Jones p599)

Daily Progress Report – Completed by the 1stAD and usually sent to the Production Office if the shoot is away from the office. Forwarded to Financiers and the Completion Bond Company if required. It shows exactly how much has been shot on what day, how long it took and who was involved. (Jones p602)

Sound Report – Filled out by the Sound Recordist traditionally for the Lab – has come back into fashion with the use of DSLR and separate sound recording. Copies also sent to the Editor. Details takes, technical problems and other illustrative information. (Jones p607)

Petty Cash Expense Report – Must be handed out any time petty cash receipt is issued. This is to keep track of how much money each department is using and how much you have left. It also reminds crew members that they are accountable for any money spent on behalf of the production. (Jones p601)

And all compliment the self explanatory Risk AssessmentCrew List and Cast List forms.





Posted: November 2, 2011 by Alan Hardcastle in FdA 11_13
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So, you have your idea. As a first go, you should be keeping it simple. No car chases and convoluted plot twists involving multiple locations – this is all about using the studio as effectively as possible.

First thing you need is to turn that synopsis into a script.

Formatting a script can be quite convoluted. The basic thing to ask yourself is “how is it being produced?” This will influence the layout and how you write.

You need to write for the format of the production – so, if it is single camera, you can have lots of cuts, tell the story in close up and and have complex setups that need to camera to get into every nook and cranny to let the audience know what’s happening, because the nature of the single camera production is to get the right performance for the story.

If it is a multicam production, you tend to be capturing the performance that happens – live events, as live studio productions etc. There tends to be little room for subtleties, ECU or detail shots, just what happens.

The layouts reflect this. With a single camera, you need to focus on what we are seeing – describing the actions of the characters. Giving them good, realistic dialogue etc. The job of the camera is then to capture what is needed to communicate that visually. The first difference noted on a multi-cam script will be the big gap on the left hand side so that notes can be made for the individual cameras, as we now have multiple viewpoints to plan for.

The format can be explored easily via programmes like celtx, which can also help you plan the production. Otherwise, there are a variety of word templates you can use which allow you to set the elements using styles.

Next up, is your Storyboard. This is where you start sketching how the audience is going to see the final piece. Here is a section from “The DV Rebels Guide” about storyboarding. And a blank storyboard or two to get you started.

While this deals mainly with action / drama type scenes, you can use the same technique for as live studio shows. The kind of camera angles you are using will have a huge influence on how you audience perceive the final product – so think about them and plan how you are using them.

This only leaves the artistic design to consider – Set, Costume etc – do you need some woodworking friends to help you? Do you needs things made? It can be hard to source props, costume, sets etc, so even before your script is finished you will need to send people off to find these things!

And that’s before we start on cast…




Posted: October 30, 2011 by Alan Hardcastle in CMP 14_16, CMP 15_17, CMP 16_18, FdA 11_13
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Pitching is one of those things that is impossible to describe how to do. It is only really measurable by a positive outcome – you sell you idea to the person with the money.

There are basic guidelines, as you will see in the two documents attached to this post. There is advice. But the only way to learn is by experience.

Some people have had amazing success just by talking. Others by dressing up in rabbit costumes. Ridley Scott famously doubled his budget just by having some damn nice storyboards.

How Long? How Much?

Posted: October 1, 2011 by Alan Hardcastle in CMP 10_12
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Ok, we are making short films. Adverts.30 seconds. That’s it.

So how long is it taking us to make these films? I want you to time all the tasks in the process. How long is it taking you to research each company you look at? and be careful here – some research packs have taken a week to get back to the folder, yet I know the researcher has sat still for a long time – or even just printed out web pages.

I want to know in hours how long the whole process has taken – confirming who what they have been nominated for, looking at what the company has given us, finding the web site, reading it, extracting what is important & relates to the awards, putting together the checklist, rough script, shot list & questions, phoning them, talking to them, running through the shots we want, negotiating access to those areas, running through the questions, rewriting the questions, rough script and shotlist based on what the company have said they want.

Then the logistics – this is essentially just sorting out who is going to get the footage. This should not take too long, but can be quite complex when there are 5 groups going out with 3 cameras in 1 minibus.

Then there is travel – how long does it actually take you to get to the company? How long are you filming on site? The average seems to be about 2 hours, which is a long time for a 30 second films… Then there is the journey back.

Then digitising – real time for DV, quicker for digital. But you ned to log the footage – where is the good stuff? Have we found the best shots, the best soundbites? We only have 30 seconds, but it needs to be a dense, action packed 30 seconds. It has to sell. This takes some serious editing.

By my estimation, 3 hours filming per film, 4 hours researching & talking, and (depending on how well the shoot was logged) either 7 or 14 hours editing. So, lets say 21 hours per film. Most of you will take a lot longer. But why is this important?

A job like this is payed by a fee. You would estimate how long it would take you to do all these jobs, in hours, and then multiply by an hourly fee. Lets say, £25 per hour. So, I make it each film (before we get to the master edit, and without expenses) as being worth about £525 each. (NB – this is based on one person, so with a 4 person crew going out takes it closer to £900). So, talk to someone who you know owns a business and see if they would be willing to pay £525 for a 30 second piece. If they say no, look at how big their business is – then ask yourself why…

I have had companies complain at a release fee of £100. But how would you bring the cost down? Well, you do it quicker. Drivers and crew who don’t muck about. Get in and film exactly what you need, based on good solid research. Maybe 2 hours to explore the subject, and come out with a good solid shotlist and questions that cover everything. It is worth spending more time on the research, because it is the filming and edit that will consume the most time. If you know what you want before you go, it is so much easier to assemble what you need at the end of the day.

So, as part of you blog – tell me how long you have been spending on each task. Multiply that, in hours, by £25. Then tell me if the work you have is worth that amount of money.

More Haste, Less Speed

Posted: September 29, 2011 by Alan Hardcastle in CMP 10_12
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Haste – a necessity for hurrying; urgency

Speed – The state of being in rapid motion; rapidity.

We are about to enter the last week of filming. We should have all the names to visit by tomorrow afternoon. We are running out of time.

Is the project possible? Of course it is. However, the stress is beginning to show. People are starting to panic. And people panic in different ways.

Some run around screaming. Some sit and work really hard. Some just stare into space. Only one of these reactions actually helps…

Often, the first thing to stop is communication. People don’t talk. They assume someone else is doing the job. Communication is a two way process; You cannot communicate if the other person isn’t listening.

The most important thing to getting this done is to know what you need to do. You have a choice, either plug away for an hour trying to figure out what is happening, or think about it for 45 minutes, and then do it in 5 because you know what you are doing.

This is the difference between speed and haste. Haste is the point where something needs to be done with some urgency; take a medical procedure for example. It is urgent, but if you rush it there will be dire consequences. Haste is a need for acting quickly, not actually rushing in.  Speed is the object in motion – there is no cognition, just a physical measurement of how fast something is happening. If you rush, you are using speed and no accuracy  –  the phrase “Rush Job” refers to something that has been done shoddily.

The trick is to use haste. Do not rush, do not panic. Look at the job. do what is necessary to complete the job. No more, no less. Do it in good time. If there is a mistake, correct it. We need attention to detail just as much as we need timeliness.

So, follow the plan. If you don’t have the plan, find it. Talk to the team – and there are 40 of us – and focus on the goal. All films, edited, by 10th October.

If the plan changes, the plan changes.