Anatomy of a Television Production by Thomas Hegewald
In 2012, I was approached by the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild (WMQG) committee members for added assistance in their 2014 Quilts on the Grand Show. In addition to special exhibits, vendors and displaying over 250 quilts, this show also features demonstrations or tutorials. Part of the project posed to me was providing audience members with a better view of tabletop demonstrations. The Guild also wanted to come away with a number of actual programs that could be posted on their website. Having produced a number of documentaries at WKTV, Wyoming/Kentwood’s public-access station, I recommended approaching them for use of their equipment.
A year passed before we picked up our conversation regarding this project.
Actual planning began in the spring of 2014 with an initial visit and tour of WKTV’s facilities. This tour also included a conversation with General Manager, Tom Norton, regarding the scope of the project. With the date already set for the quilt show, we reserved use of WKTV’s 35’ mobile truck along with additional equipment for our live production.
During the summer and into September, I met with a group of WMQG members for monthly production meetings. We worked through items such as: coordination of demonstrators, preparing them for being on-camera, creating a schedule, equipment needs and budgeting for expenses. We even had a site visit to the DeltaPlex Arena, meeting with one of WKTV’s Production Coordinators, Gene Gregory, to review the layout and power supply. I also began editing the opening graphic sequence, closing credits and titles. We assembled a crew who all had received training on the HD cameras at WKTV, while I refreshed my skills on switching and directing a live production. As a crew, we gained hands-on experience working the Candidate Forums that WKTV produced in September for the 2014 November elections.
On Friday, October 3, the DeltaPlex opened its doors to the first day of the Quilts on the Grand show. I was there, recording support video called “B-roll” with one of WKTV’s Canon XF300 HD cameras for possible inclusion in the opening sequence. In the afternoon, I downloaded the footage using one of WKTV’s edit suites.
The next day a few of us arrived shortly after 7:00 a.m. to assist with unloading the WKTV mobile truck of all the equipment required to shoot and record the show on location. The remainder of the crew showed at 8:00 a.m. to unpack and assemble the cameras, place the lights and run cables to connect audio with the cameras. We also set up 40” flat screen monitors to enhance viewing for the audience and speakers so that the demonstrators could be heard in the open hall. Once all of the equipment was in place, it was a matter of white-balancing the cameras (to make sure they record color properly), checking audio levels from the microphones and making sure communication between the truck and cameras was up and running.
The crew (from left to right) Thomas Hegewald, Gene Gregory, Gina Greenlee, Athina Morehouse, Sue Wortly, Karen Giles, Barb Bryson, Mike Bryson
The first demonstration was slated to begin at 10:00 with each one following on the hour (except for a lunch hour at noon). Each demonstrator was given time to prep and 30 minutes to present the project. As the demonstrators set up their table display, I briefed them on the television side of the production. Knowing that a false start or an awkward ending might rattle the demonstrators, I had decided beforehand to hold off asking them to time their presentation to the opening title sequence and end credits. We added those elements after the live shoot in post-production. Instead, we had a floor-director who would cue them to start and then give them a countdown at the end of their time to wrap up. As it turned out, a majority of the demonstrators wrapped up well before their allotted time slot. (Read Part Two on Tuesday, January 20, 2015).