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Old April 3rd, 2005, 08:21 PM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Jackson, TN
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Shooting Reality TV Show... Need Advice

My partner and I are about to begin shooting (in May) a pilot episode for a reality TV series... We are going to be using 2 XL2s... boom mic and wireless lav, light kit and on cam light. Anyway, this is an ambitious project for us, but we are excited by the challenge. We are looking for advice in 2 areas: 1. For a reality show, what would be your ideal XL2 settings... 24fps or 30, 4x3 or 16x9... other settings that would work well for TV? Which lens would probably give the best results... I'm thinking the wide angle 3X might be the best choice since there's a good chance much of the shooting will be in smaller sized rooms... what would you do? Also I assume we will be shooting hours and hours of footage... Would a FireStore device work well instead of tapes? I've never used one... any disadvantages... kind of makes me nervous... are they reliable? I have used an XL1 for years but never the XL2, but I don't expect much of a learning curve. 2. Also any advice on audio and creative lighting techniques or any other advice on producing this type of show? I have worked in TV news before, but doing a show is new to me. Thanks!
Scott Lancaster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 3rd, 2005, 10:14 PM   #2
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Location: Raleigh, NC
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I've been editing a regional reality show here for the past 3 months, so I do have some opinions:

-Use tripod if possible. It can be difficult in a reality setting, but you will get much more professional looking shots. It's easy to say "it's reality, let's go guerilla," but it will make you cringe in the edit suite. If you have to go handheld, I would use a wide angle & the autostabilizer and try not to zoom around like crazy. Again, keep the production values high, if at all possible.

-Hmm, the question of 24p, 16x is a tough one. I LOVE the look of it, but personally, I think people are so used to seeing "reality" as 4x3 and 60i, that you will throw them off if you do anything else but that. I'd stick to 4x3 and 60i, if I were you.

-Don't even bother with a Firestore device. With 2 cameras and hour and hours of footage, I would guess you'd fill that sucker up too fast, anyways. Shoot tapes, but make sure you LABEL THEM WELL!

-Also, if doing multicam stuff, save the editor HOURS of work by:
-White balancing BOTH cameras the same before you begin every scene
-Try to keep both cameras rolling on continuous scenes. This way, you
only have to sync the tracks once. Try to start/stop cameras at same time (getting a walkie/talkie headset system is a good idea for reality shows...communication is a must)
-Use a SLATE before you begin rolling every scene. Much easier to sync.

-As far as lighting, go w/ soft lights, up high and out of shot as much as possible. You don't want to worry about shadows, so do just a basic soft light in the corners. Stay away from windows or you'll give a swinging camera fits...

-Audio: Pay attention to it! Again, you'll cringe in the edit later if you have to gain a clip (and it's noise) up 500% to hear it. I would lav every key player in the scene and have at least 1 boom operator. You can put 2 in the room, one with each camera, if necessary. Using a wireless based boom might be a huge help in this setting. (See the evolution series video on

-Overall advice: Stay super organized. From labeling tapes, to having enough people on crew, etc. It's very easy to let production values drop on these types of shows. Don't do it.

One last thing about content: it'd better be extremely interesting. Don't forget that if you're doing a show without a celeb, it needs to be that much more captivating for people to keep watching. You know how many people would watch The Apprentice if it was no-name businessman running that show? Not many...

Good luck!

Kevin Wild is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 4th, 2005, 07:22 AM   #3
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Some great points... thanks for the advice KW.
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