Lights, Camera, Action! What Makes TV?

What is truly one of America’s favorite pastimes? That’s right, watching television. Since the invention of the television almost a century ago, people have been obsessed with TV, but who can blame them?! There are thousands of programs available at any given moment, and the invention of the Internet continues to make television programs more accessible to audiences. But does anyone ever stop to think about the process and planning that goes into making “Criminal Minds” and “The Bachelor?” Here we will explain how a basic television system works and the various jobs people do to produce a show.

Creating television involves systems of equipment and people that come together to make a program. Herbert Zettl defines a system as, “a collection of elements that work together to achieve a specific purpose.” The basic television system

figure 1.1 Zettl

includes one or more cameras that convert images into a video signal, microphones that convert sounds into an audio file, and the television sets with speakers that convert the signals into the sound and pictures of television programs. Each of these components have their own functions that come together to create the TV we all know and love.

Along with the studio equipment, TV would not be possible without the skilled team of people behind the technology. Not only are there people operating the camera and microphones, but there are people that manage lighting, floor managers, switchboard operators, technical director, and directors. Floor managers serve as the liaison between the world of the set where the subject is being filmed and the studio where directors, technical directors, lighting, and sound are working. Technical directors execute the needs of the director. They switch which camera feed is being transmitted, add in special effects, and what is being broadcast to the public. The director’s job is to mentally plan out the sequence of shots and direct the camera personnel where and how to position the camera. The director has to work with the camera personnel and the technical director to create appropriate visuals for the program.

Together the people on screen and behind the screen come together to create fantastic television. The system of TV sounds simple, but without a knowledgeable crew, the technology can’t function. What really makes good TV is quality equipment and hard-work, passionate professionals.

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