Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"And We're Clear": RTV Finishes Year 1

It's reflection time with lots of questions to ask myself and hopefully find answers before the next school year. A few people want to know the nitty gritty of the daily operations of our newscast, so here it is.

Our daily newscast to our student body has come along way. We've had some pretty awesome opportunities to work with industry professionals, and do the buzzword stuff that people call 'real world' learning. Heck, a student even got to interview the Premier of Alberta a few weeks ago!

I've still got tons to learn myself. Next year we are making our first foray into HD video with DSLR's for reporting and shooting. That in itself is a huge logistical challenge for editing on machines that are slowing down.

So this post is going to concentrate on what went well and how we accomplished it. I'll save the hard thoughts for next time.

Here's a break down of a typical news day:

8:42- Bell goes and students come in. I have a daily "run down" of the day's newscast of the board. We have a quick production meeting to add the anchors and find out what packages are going to air.

- Stage crew and camera operators set up cameras and connect them to our Tricaster. This is a must have for production in a box solution and the education price is dynamite!
- Students not in the studio crew are working on their news stories (a camera operator and reporter). They need to submit a story pitch sheet to me before they go out and film.
- Graphics operator works with the weather person to generate the weather graphics
- 2 script writers take the school announcements from a Google Doc that is editable by teachers and start generating the script.
- Anchors work on their own stories or special projects for our district show as needed.
- Director and technical director (tricaster operator) work to connect the cameras and make adjustments to the video feeds as needs, work on getting graphics for the lower thirds, etc.

9:10- Weather is on. We've done weather in front of the green screen and also in front of our large printed mural backdrop. This mural cost around $2000 but it was well worth it. It looks great and if I ever get kicked out of the theatre at our school due to scheduling conflicts, I can mount it on any wall. It's huge at 20' x 10' tall!
- Weather is prerecorded with the current temp (within 1 hour) and a three day forecast. When people watch our news it looks like they send it to the weather person, but it's already in the Tricaster's DDR (digital disk recorder).

Note: The DDR contains our theme songs, finished packages, jpeg graphics, and a lot of other files that need to be played in a newscast.

9:20- Director calls for the script. The script writers print 4 copies to be distributed to the director, technical director, myself and the anchors to do a read through.
- The technical director takes the graphics generated for that day in photoshop and puts them into the tricaster's graphics. We use a simple lower third with a
- Studio Lights and sound for mics are checked by the sound operator

9:30- Anchors are called to the studio
- Script writers become teleprompter operators with the program Prompt Dog
- Audio check for mics and first couple read throughs happen

9:45- final checks on mics and cameras
- Director calls for "quiet on the set"
- The newscast begins!

Here's a sample.

We usually have 3 takes to get it right. The students get immediate feedback for things like audio levels, mics not working, spelling errors or continuity and errors with cameras.

10:00- Tear down by the studio crew

10:09- Our teacher advisory bell goes and we start a 4 minute countdown for students to get settled. The news is streamed via Ustream for now. We hope to do internal streaming for next year.

10:20- The sound booth is closed and we are done for another day!

Students who are reporters and anchors are supposed to do a news story per week. Does that always happen? Usually not. For next year they will be asked to do 1 every two weeks, but they will have to be more in depth, or do two quick streeter style stories in that time.

That's a day at RTV. Next post is going to be what we will be changing for next year. I have a survey of the students for them to provide feedback on what worked and what sucked. A lot of the feedback I will get will talk about the distribution of labour among the class. A few are doing a lot more than the rest. This is something I'll need to change for sure.

See you next time!