A picture of a broadcast switcher

Tucked in the corner of the room is a switcher with untouched buttons flashing colors like a music festival, electronic motors are humming, computer screens shining bright, the televisions look like a mosaic with different input signals, these are the control rooms that we call home. Similar to a secret club, there are a group of us that spend more time in a control room of controlled chaos than we’d care to admit. It may seem daunting to visitors, but for a broadcast director this is the dream. Below you will find four techniques that will help improve your newscast.

Take it block by block:

  • Whether you are doing a 30, 60, or 90 minute show remember its a marathon not a race! While it would be challenging for a director to remember every single double box, camera shot, mic, graphical element, live shot and the exact order they occur in would be impossible. Frankly nobody is asking for that! Luckily for us, a typical newscast will be broken down into blocks. To those directors that have a little seasoning,  this is common knowledge. For those that are new to this world a  standard newscast is broken up into “blocks” that will have commercial breaks that separate the blocks (the station has to make money somehow). The busiest, often hardest hitting block of your newscast will be commonly be referred to as the A block since it is the first block that your viewers will see. There are few worse feelings than having an on-air issue right off the bat, so as a director we should be doing everything in our power to prevent that. Run through and review each individual block. When you are advancing through the show start thinking about the block you are putting to air right now. It is much easier to identify potential pitfalls as well as find an opportunity that you might be able to make something look a little better. In this business, the devil is in the details and those details will improve your newscast.

Know Your Show:

  • Knowing your show like the back of your hand is one of the first things you should be doing when you look at your rundown. You might find yourself in a situation where you weren’t able to get a full run-through of your show. Or if you are in an automated control room and you could be directing a show that somebody else coded. None the-less it is on you, the director to execute the show as clean as possible. This technique is similar to thinking of your show in a block by block fashion in the sense that you will have a much deeper understanding of its potential problems or where things could be improved. It might be smooth sailing through the back to back VOs and the PKG, but those OTS shots that you will certainly need to adjust will be something you are mindful of. For example, we have 3 live shots this show, wow that sounds exciting! What Dejero did the first live shot take? Okay great, the second crew took a TVU unit, TVU 2 to be specific. What unit does the third live shot have? Aux 11 for the first live shot, Aux 12 for the second, and Aux 13 for the third live shot got it! How will this quad box look? Do you see where things can get confusing if you are not completely familiar with your show?  Knowing your show makes life behind the board much easier as a broadcast director.

Be Proactive Not Reactive:

  • Mistakes are going to occur at some point during your newscast, it is up to you on how much damage they cause. Oftentimes the problems that arise will be a piece of equipment that is completely out of your control. Aside from that, most other mistakes are usually avoidable. If you are trying to improve your newscast you should realize that, it may not be our job to produce  but we are the ones bringing the producers’ show to life. It will take a lot of pressure off you as well as make it a lot easier if you are able to identify pitfalls in the show ahead of time and get them taken care of. The time to realize something is not correct in your run down is not when the problem is in the next story. Ideally a run-through of your newscast prior to the show would identify most common issues such as: Camera conflicts, video problems, SOT/VO mistakes,  audio issues, Graphic typos, potential mic clips and so on. It seems simple but it is paramount that you take a proactive approach in every broadcast that you do.

Do Or Do Not There Is No Try:

  • The final and last technique is for the days when something bad does happen when you are behind the board live. When an on-air mistake occurs, a directors first reaction like many others might be to panic or think about how bad this looks. Remember it is your job to get out of the situation effectively and the most visually appealing way possible! You need to be able to assess the situation and take swift action, every second you spend accessing the situation will be another that your problem continues which requires you to be decisive and quick. 

A picture of the control room

 

While some days are Emmy worthy and others become bloopers here are some techniques that build off of one another and with implementation can help improve your newscast! If you find yourself plagued by microphone problems on air, check out the article I have about how to prevent mic clips!

How To Prevent Mic Clips