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T356 - Fall 2012 Week 8


  • Today: Quiz on graphics & studio signal flow.
  • Timecode, visualization/blocking/treatments/scripts
  • Dramatic scene samples (if time allows)
  • Critiques! - All team production exercises from last week's news call for a 1-page critique. All remaining production assignments require a critique.
  • We'll select final PSAs and partners this week during lab. Finalized PSA materials are due next week. We'll schedule these in lab (half-hour blocks) next week. So as soon as we lock into the PSAs this week, you should find out if your client has a preferred time slot (everyone gets about 25 minutes).
  • Dramatic scene pitch, proposals, treatments, and floor plans are due next week. Everyone needs to turn one in! We'll vote for these in lab next week.

Be sure to do the readings: cybercollege 57 (time code) & 60 (video switcher and special effects)

Zettl chapters 17.1 (PDF) & 18 (PDF)


Timecode is an electronic numerical signal recorded or embedded into the signal, which allows playback devices to be synchronized and controlled with frame accuracy and also provides a unique address code for each frame or location on the tape or media stream. This allows us to access that specific frame or location on the tape or media stream precisely, again, and again with frame accuracy.

Most have been taught that video runs at about 30 frames per second. While we count it on a 30 frames per second basis, video actually runs a tad slower: at 29.97 frames per second. This 3/100ths of a second difference every second adds up and can cause timing issues the right type of timecode is not used or is misinterpreted.

Time code is formatted like a 24 hour clock HH:MM:SS:FF.

"Hours" range from 00 to 23, "minutes" range from 00 to 59, "seconds" range from 00 to 59, "frames" ranges from 00-29.

There are two ways to count or number timecode (which can usually be selected on the VTR, camcorder or other gear):

  • Non-drop frame. This is often referred to as "NDF"
  • Drop frame. This is often referred to as "DF"

Non-drop frame timecode: each new frame of video is assigned the next higher number (06:01:00:29 becomes 06:01:01:00)

The problem with basic non-drop timecode is that the frame numbers drift from the actual elapsed time of a program.

Imagine you've been asked to assemble a two-hour program for a TV station. You could set your timecode display to start at 0, then assemble your programming. When you got to 2 hours you'd be done, right? Wrong- unless you are using drop frame timecode.

Let's assume a 30 frame per second rate and look at 2 hours of programming:

We need 2 hours of programming:
2 hours x 60 minutes = We need 120 total minutes.
120 minutes x 60 seconds = We need 7,200 total seconds.
7200 seconds x 30 frames = We need 216,000 total frames.

But video actually runs at 29.97 frames per second. That's a 3/100ths of a second difference from 30 frames per second.

We really need to take our total seconds and multiply by 29.97 instead of 30.
So 7,200 x 29.97 =  215,784 total frames.

There's 216 frames difference - or about 7.2 seconds.

These problems are avoided if you use drop frame timecode.

Drop frame timecode is harder to calculate, but it provides a numbering system that is more accurate, timewise.

In drop frame time code, the frame numbers 0 and 1 are removed from each minute except for every tenth minute (starting from the first). That is, minute 00, 10, 20, 30 and so on, do not have any frame numbers dropped, but all other minutes do. (06;01;00;29 becomes 06;01;01;02)

You can tell when something is drop frame because the time code display has semicolons (;)

PS: There are several good shareware timecode calculators out out there. I used to use TC Calc and now use the iPhone app version.

Scott Simmons reviewed several iPhone timecode calculators in his blog.

Treatments/Program Proposals/Scripts/Blocking

First a quick review of the production process is in order. (Remember this from T206 & 283?) It has three stages:

1. Pre production (Must be thorough)
2. Production
3. Post production

The Producer is ultimately responsible for the production and making sure that everything gets done.

The Director gets the crew and talent to function as a team and tells then what to do.

The producer is in charge of almost all the activities that take place during the Pre production phase, the most important step in the production process. This includes developing an idea & treatment, writing a script, planning, getting talent, locations and crew etc.

The most important step: No program should start without an objective and a target audience.

  • Objective: After watching your program, what will viewers do?
  • Target audience: Who are you trying to reach?

Once you have these two you can work up a program proposal and a treatment.

  • The program proposal describes exactly what you are going to do and how much it will cost. (See Jim's program proposal information) While its style varies, it usually contains:
    • Title
    • Objective Example: After watching "Feeding the Needy," viewers will understand 3 things they can do to help feed needy children and feel motivated to take action in their community.
    • Target audience - Who specifically are you trying to reach? Non-fiction programming usually has a very specific target audience. Consider the different target audiences for these shows: "You Can Learn to Sail!", "What Every Single Parent Should Know", or "Strategies for Getting the Most Out of Your Home".
    • Description - What is your show about? (Do you have a log line?If so, you can lead off this section with it.) If you are describing a piece of fiction, this is the perfect place to describe the story in a paragraph or two.
    • Format - How long is it? Is is a documentary, a reality show, a talk show, etc.? Is it shot in a studio, on location, part of a series, funny or serious, or animated or told with sock puppets?
    • Venue - Where will this be shown? (Broadcast on TV, in a theater, at a trade show, during training sessions, at a conference, on the web, etc.)
      Production method/plan - Specify the production strategy, personnel, facility use,
    • Production method/plan (production strategy, personnel, facility use, etc)
    • Tentative budget (how much)
    • Attached or included Treatment
  • The treatment is a narrative description of the story told in the present tense. While treatments don't need to contain specific production information, they should show exactly how the story flows, and ideally should touch on every scene. Treatments for shorter programs can be included in a proposal. Treatments for long-form programs and movies (which can be 50 pages or more) are stand-alone documents. The treatment can be a key document used in selling or pitching a film.

The Pitch: How are TV shows & movies launched? With the pitch. A movie or TV executive is on the receiving end. Agents typically pitch ideas to executive producers. Writers usually don’t do it. Often the script isn’t even conceived yet.

Here's a clip from Altman's movie, "The Player".

Facilities request

This specifies the exact equipment that is needed. (Specific microphones, boom stands, cameras, dollies etc)

Imagine you were producing one of your demonstration videos, or a final project in Studio 6. You have the studio booked, but you have to figure out everything you need. In addition to the number of cameras, you'll need to plan for set construction, lighting set up time, engineers, tape operators, and even the blank tape.

Visualization, sequencing & blocking

Assuming you have a clear cut objective and a script- the next step is visualization.

Directing starts with visualizing key images. You must first imagine what something is going to look in order to have a chance of re-creating it with a video camera.

The director is ultimately in charge of visualization and sequencing.But he or she is often assisted by the Production Designer or Art Director. These people can help create the look and feel of a production. Costume and lighting are integral to creating mood. Visualization also includes sound.

Visualization - Starting Out

Don't start with a floor plan. Instead start by imagining what you want to see inside of the frame. Storyboarding is an excellent way to start.

Even if you don't think of yourself as an artist, you're capable of drawing basic storyboard figures. You can use stick figures with perspective boxes. You can also take pictures with your digital camera of people (or Barbie dolls, etc.) as stand-ins for the real thing.

Try starting by envisioning certain key scenes. (Remembering the basics of continuity, such as the 180 degree rule) Create storyboards of the scenes.

Once you've created your initial storyboards, consider where the camera and talent needs to be in order to get the shot. Also consider your possibilities and limitations. You have a finite number of cameras and a limited means of positioning them. You are now ready to create your initial floor plan.

Sequencing & blocking

After visualization is done you need to create a set the instructions for getting from one shot to the next. Determing the precise placement of talent, props and cameras is called blocking. In order to start blocking, you'll need your storyboards, floor plans and scripts. Refer to your storyboards and floor plan. Make instructions in the script for both talent and cameras. Make sure it's possible to get your shots. If not then you'll have to edit or change something.

Alfred Hitchcock created elaborate storyboards for his movies. (See example) Once this was complete he hardly bothered to look in the viewfinder. He trusted the cameraman to faithfully duplicate his image from the storyboard.

Once you've planned the blocking and sequencing for your scene, you'll need to refine it. You should always rehearse your scenes with talent (or stand-ins) focusing only on blocking. During rehearsals, take pictures from the various camera standpoints to make sure you're getting exactly what you need. (See the various types of rehearsals in the week 8 notes.)

On-line examples of Dramatic Scenes:

Review Dramatic Scene Exercise


Up to Jim Krause's T356 homepage