Turbulence in the Control Room
By Mark Burnette
Communication. If theres one thing that defines the
difference between a smooth-running show verses a frustrating,
hair-tugging show (hey, my photo doesnt reflect that
at all okay, so I used to have as much hair as my son),
that one crucial factor is a producers communication
with the director.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, after directing more than
10,000 newscasts spanning nearly three decades, you come to
realize we could all take a few lessons from Dr. Phil on the
Communication on a broadcast should begin when the producer
organizes their rundown. Every producers rundown should
reflect what he or she actually wants to see on air. I had
one producer place still store in the video column.
A wasted 20 minutes of going back and forth between the producer,
writer and pre-pro director passed before I figured out the
producer was actually asking for rolling video with a sidebar
thunder clip and changing live chyrons.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the best producer-director
combos Ive been witness to and member of dont
need to talk very much at all while the show is on the air
because of clear communication and preparation. Still, what
would life be without the exception to the rule, namely breaking
news. Oh yes, contrary to popular belief, most directors love
breaking news. Thats when we get to throw out the rundown,
have some good ol exciting adrenalin rush through our
veins to stimulate hair growth back in our scalp after years
of Electromagnetic Field abuse from the tiny room filled with
television screens and electronic equipment, get down to basics
and do what we love
So when breaking news is not happening, heres a tip
especially for new producers on how to make your life and
that of your directors more copasetic: please learn
when to talk to the director. When the director is listening
for a live reporters roll cue to a package, thats
not the time to grab his arm and tell him the weather guy
is getting 2:30 in the next segment. If you add a story a
mere 30 seconds before the newscast starts, its okay
if one anchor reads an extra story. You dont have to
swap the reads on the next 10 stories.
Most reporters fall into one of two categories when they
are doing live shots. Reporter A thrives on the
adrenalin rush they feel when appearing in front of the camera
30 seconds before their live shot hits. Reporter B
is in front of the camera five minutes before the live shot
hits. We love Reporter B because and this
may shock many reporters out there we really want you
to look and sound good. Five minutes gives us time to make
sure the camera is white-balanced, the video level is set
and the microphone is not over-modulated.
Conversely, adrenalin-lovin Reporter A
usually winds up looking terrible in their package intro.
Little or no time off air translates into a director scrambling
during the reporters package to get the camera looking
good and the audio airable. Hey, at least the live tag will
look good for Reporter A.
Thats all for this week, keep the blue side up.
About the Author
Mark Burnette has been a Director at KRON-TV in San Francisco
since 1996. Prior to KRON, he worked at KPIX, WTVJ, WIS, WXEX,
WFBC, WITN, and WNCT. He is a FAA licensed Commercial Pilot
and Certified Flight Instructor. He can be reached at email@example.com.