The TV Production Process

Written by frederick s. blackmon
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The TV Production Process
(Image Courtesy of Creative Collaborations, LLC (Copyright 2006))

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A television program can have many different production formats. Whether it be a situation comedy or a reality prank show, the TV production process begins with careful planning and a well-plotted schedule. The preproduction phase includes scripting the series, casting the actors, building sets and hiring a skilled production crew. Several key workers come into play. Producers acquire production funds and services. An accountant balances the financial expenditures of each episode. A production designer selects a visual theme that must endure for the show's entire tenure. Also, the marketing team begins to secure product placement spots and advertising partners.

Principal Photography

The next phase of TV production runs quite smoothly if the development team has allied carefully budgeting and planning. Before cameras start to roll, the company should have acquired a loyal and talented group of core directors. The actors should be well matched and given time to grow into their roles. Locations have been secured and the production funds are on a scheduled release. The term principal photography refers to the production phase when the main footage and sound is recorded. Most principal photography takes place at a studio soundstage but can also be filmed on location. The shoot dates can take place along rigorous 12-hour schedules under diverse conditions. Episodes are shot in groups called blocks, according to the availability of resources and the confines of the production schedule. Large set pieces are stored at the studio soundstage for frequent usage. With slight variations, a set can be altered to look many different ways. For example, a bear's cave can double as a sewer tunnel and a dark graveyard can also be a florid garden using contrasting lighting techniques. The same group of extras can be used throughout the series with subtle variations in clothing and make-up. For these reasons, principal photography is the most expensive phase of the production. The process can be unpredictable. Many television directors feel that it is wise to shoot the "meat and potatoes" first. This means that the more expensive production elements should be filmed first, before the budget can be reallocated.


Once the first block of episodes have been recorded, the post-production phase begins. This is the stage when recorded footage is edited and sequenced, additional dialogue is recorded in the studio and special effects are layered into the episode. This last step includes titles and graphics. Post-production also gives the development team an opportunity to screen episodes to their target demographic. This can help gauge the public response to characters, storyline and overall pacing. The TV production process is both intricate and complicated, and each step depends on the success of the other. Many skilled individuals must lend their talent and work to the production process before the show ever reaches the home audience.

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