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COURSE NAME: "TV Studio Lab"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2016

INSTRUCTOR: Brian Thomson
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TH 3:00 PM 6:15 PM

Many contemporary television sitcoms, news programs, variety shows, and events are shot with a multitude of cameras and are often cut and mixed live for instantaneous broadcast. This course prepares students for work as part of a multi-cam production team by giving them hands-on experience developing content for multi-cam production, prepping broadcast-ready assets, coordinating and executing live shoots, and live-streaming content on a variety of online platforms.

The course is based around three class projects. We investigate how multi-camera techniques have developed in a dramatic context by developing and producing a short episodic program. We then introduce the tools and techniques of live production by creating a short variety program before jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire of our final project: covering a live event.



By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • understand how and why multi-camera production took root in the television industry 
  • identify its relative strengths and weaknesses as both an art form and a business practice
  • develop material suitable for multi-camera production techniques
  • prepare audio and visual assets for use in live production scenarios
  • work on a multi-cam production team as a camera operator, audio mixer, vision mixer, or director

Episodic script 10
Episodic Project 20
Variety script and breakdown 10
Variety Project 20
Event project 20
Attendance and participation20% for attendance? Yes: a three-camera broadcast crew requires an absolute minimum of three camera operators, a sound mixer/recordist, and a vision mixer. And that’s without a director. Or onscreen talent. Your presence is required. Every absence is 10% off your final grade. Miss three classes and you fail for the semester.20

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Every absence is 10% off your final grade. Miss three classes and you will fail for the semester.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week One - Episodic Multicam

Students work from a Community screenplay excerpt to shoot a short scene and use the multi-cam features in FCPX to edit it.

Homework: There will be a screening of three episodes from the program for which students will produce a spec script the following week. Enrollment demographics will determine the program.


Week Two - Writers’ Room (Episodic)

Students work together to break a story and outline a 21-minute episodic program.

Homework: Students work in pairs to produce scripts for the program. (Graded assignment)


Week Three - Pre-production

Following a table read, students form small groups to break down the script and schedule the shoot, block the scenes, scout locations, and produce a lighting plan. Towards the end of the class there will be a short exercise in recording multi-channel audio.

Homework: Rehearsal


Week Four - Episodic Shoot 

Students shoot the program they have prepared.

Homework: Edit the episode in pairs. (Graded assignment) 


Week Five - Deconstructing The Daily Show

Following a screening of an episode of The Daily Show, students will break down the elements required to produce the program: musical cues, sound effects, graphic elements (images, green screen footage/backgrounds, titles, lower thirds, bumpers, etc.), video feeds, and camera movement. We will discuss how to prepare these elements for use in a live broadcast.

Homework: Prepare a 5-minute pitch presentation for a half-hour variety format. 


Week Six - Introducing the ATEM

This class will focus on how to set up and use the Blackmagic Design ATEM live switcher and the associated hardware and software. We’ll look at vision mixing best practices, setting up cameras for live switching, compositing with upstream/downstream keyers, and using media players.   


Week Seven - Writers’ Room (Variety)

Students pitch their variety program concepts and select one to produce in class. Together we will develop three segments. 

Homework: Work in pairs to finish scripted segments and break down assets required for the shoot. (Graded assignment)


Week Eight - Prepping assets/run-through

Class focuses on ensuring that audio, video, and graphic assets are broadcast-ready (and broadcast-legal). During the run-through students will practice using the switcher, coordinating camera movements and angles, mixing audio, and compositing elements.

Homework: Complete pre-production for variety program.


Week Nine - Variety Shoot

Students shoot the program they have prepared. (Graded assignment)


Week Ten - Deconstructing live events

Following a screening of several live events- sporting fixtures, drama, political coverage, etc.- the class will break down the aesthetic choices and technical challenges involved in covering live events. 


Week Eleven - Production Meeting

Students choose one of several local events to cover via multi-cam livestream. Together we assess the challenges posed by the location, onscreen talent, assets required, permissions and clearances, etc.


Week Twelve - Live Production Workshop

This class will cover the technologies and protocols involved in live streaming events to an internet audience. Students will finalise roles for the production as well as finish prepping any additional assets required for the shoot. 


Week Thirteen - Live Event Shoot (Time and location TBD)

Students shoot the event they have prepped. (Graded assignment)


Week Fourteen - Wrap-up

We will screen all of the work that the students have produced during the semester and critique the concepts and execution from aesthetic and technical perspectives. We will conclude by considering how emerging technologies that are making it easier for the general public to broadcast/livestream pose challenges to and present opportunities for the industry.