Live television can be defined as the broadcast of real events as it happens in the present time. Usually, live television includes news broadcasting, breakfast television shows and special events including sports. This post discusses the history of live television, challenges faced by the production of live television and its benefits to the viewers. It also expands to determining the true live nature of live television and the editing processes that it goes through.
An insight into the history of live television can enable the further development of its definition. In the thesis written by (Wright, 2007), he refers to the life of an American television director named Don Medford and his career in television including his transition from live television in New York at NBC during the 1940’s to the involvement of Hollywood dramas at Fox and Universal Studios in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s in order to present a historical description on the evolution of live television. (Strucken, 1990) as cited in (Wright, 2007) provides an older New York Times assessment of the live television format explaining its aspect of reaching a vast amount of viewers through various mechanisms, while ensuring that the content is presented immediately without any interruptions or inconsistencies. Live television is considered comparable to theatre like performance with truthful value features being accessible from the living room.
(Wright, 2007) highlights the long progression of live television by stating incidents where live television production has broadcasted mistakes in the past. During Medford’s career in live television production, he has encountered numerous mistakes. Once during the production, the actors misinterpreted the live storyline. Medford attempted to overcome this by cutting into commercials. This was still not the solution as the commercial was also performed in real time, which caused the announcer to perform his dedicated role of presenting the commercial’s background narrative speech. The unexpected task flow resulted in the audio engineer failing to switch on the microphone, which meant that the audience was not able to hear the narration associated with the commercial. To add to this problem, the audio engineer forgot to turn off the actors’ microphones hence what the audience heard were the inappropriate language that was spoken by a confused actor criticising his career’s destiny. The show did continue however, only after Medford was able to solve all those issues. This scenario indicates how easy it is for mistakes to be made and how quickly they can escalate. With the live broadcasting, there is nothing that prevents these mistakes from immediately reaching a large number of viewers. Additionally, the presence of such awkward mistakes through the history of live television should allow present day live television to have the opportunity to put more effort into preventing historical mistakes from repeating themselves. Yet once again, the live nature of this format of broadcasting means the likeliness of on air mistakes from happening are significantly high.
(Wright, 2007) demonstrates the way in which television is produced in order to identify the differences between live television and film production. He states that the filming of live television has to be done by multiple cameras capturing videos from multiple scenes by switching simultaneously between each other while being undergone through editing in real time for live broadcasting. This process was considered unproductive for recorded film production; single camera shooting and post-production editing was deemed appropriate. The production and editing process of live television is discussed further on this post.
(Bolin, 2009) analysed the concept of liveness that is involved with live television in his thesis. He identifies that the definition of “liveness” of a television program does not always mean that the show is broadcasted in real time. He believes that even though many shows are broadcasted live, there also exist some shows, which are on recorded media but presented though they are live television programs hence referred to as “live-on-tape” programs. To present an impression of liveness, these programs contain events, which occur in real time including their duration. Events lack time leaps to ensure that they are synchronised with the linear clock time and unfold in real time even though the events are shot from multiple camera angles including the presentation of illustrations which are made to occur as it they were happening in present time. These give the viewer the impression of a live program according to (Bolin, 2009).
The broadcasting of live events often contains pre-recorded footage, which can trick the viewer into believing that what they are being presented with is real time footage. (Bolin, 2009) provides an instance where such a situation can occur by referring to a new broadcast program. Such a show can be presented live but also contain pre-recorded footage such as particular interviews, special events or even sports/games that has already been taken place. This means that the program’s actual live aspects were only its bare bone presentation and narration. The rest of the content was pre-recorded. (Bolin, 2009) also presents another example of the falsely simulated live nature that revolves around live television. He states that the game show format of programs contain components such as gift or price awards to the show’s guests are presentations which usually get pre-recorded even if the actual game show itself was broadcasted live. (Bolin, 2009) also states that during the Sydney Olympic Games, due to the time difference between Australia and the United States, the broadcasting of the game was recorded and presented to US viewers during an appropriate US time. This presentation gave US viewers the impression that the events were telecasted in the morning from their time while being filmed at real time in Australia thus given a false impression of liveness. These discussed examples prove that true live television is often rare and the combination of live and pre-recorded content presented is the most common form of this so called “live” television.
Furthermore, (Lawson, 2003) on his article suggests that the messages conveyed via true live television provide a natural experience when comparing to recorded content – which he refers to as dull and tasteless. (Lawson, 2003) believes that live television is mostly effective when it delivers political content, which can be identified as the actual unbiased message transmitted. However, recorded political messages can be edited by a board of people making it loose its intended original message or show only a single dimension of the story. (Lawson, 2003) praises the ability of live television to present the “adrenalin” of the show’s participants yet at the same time acknowledges that it can have the potential to be dull and boring if it is not setup correctly – such as if a talk show guest drifts into a never ending monologue tangent which is far from the main point of discussion.
(Bolin, 2009) believes that the primary editing process used by the live television can be expanded into three forms. “Simultaneous Live Editing” which is a process that is least likely to be post edited when compared to live-on-tape formats. Simultaneous editing involves editing the content as it happens during the broadcast. There has to be proper planning practices that need to be put in place so that the editing process can effectively keep up with the show’s progress. The next editing technique involves the use of multiple cameras to shoot the event in a range of angles and capture different levels of movements, which are impossible to film with a single camera. Generally, the number of cameras placed increases with the size of the event that is being broadcasted. This is referred to as “Multi-Camera Settings.” The final editing technique (Bolin, 2009) mentions is known as “Multistage Settings.” This editing process uses a combination of several stages. A stage is dedicated for the host of the program including the guests of the show. Another stage is used to house the audience. The host’s stage faces the audience. This method is primarily used for talk shows. Depending on the characteristics of the show, additional stages can be added like a stage dedicated for performing if requested by the show.
Bolin, G. 2009, Television Textuality: Textual Forms in Live Television Programming. Nordicom Review, vol. 30(1): 37-53.Accessed 7 October 2012, <http://www.nordicom.gu.se/common/publ_pdf/279_bolin.pdf>
Lawson, M. 2003, Television: The merits of broadcasting live, as opposed to the safety of pre-recording, have long been weighed by programme- makers. But the Iraq war has made this a crucial issue, London (UK), United Kingdom, London (UK). Accessed 7 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/docview/245937460/139A012324E6AB1E75/3?accountid=13552>
Wright, J.D. 2007, Midnight Medford: A case study of dramatic television direction, from live to film, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Accessed 7 October 2012, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/docview/304809941/139A012324E6AB1E75/15?accountid=13552>