Home Introduction to radio and television BASIC EQUIPMENT USED IN BROADCASTING

BASIC EQUIPMENT USED IN BROADCASTING

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

Equipment are those facilities installed in the stations for recording of programmes and live broadcast. These equipment, according to Idebi, (2008:59) include the microphone, mixing console, player, reel-to-reel tape and computers. There are also the camera, lighting equipment, monitor, speaker, cable, connector and studio accessories. There are many more, such as chairs and tables and props used by artistes. However, we shall be concerned with the technical equipment that are a necessity without which production cannot take place. These equipment are usually housed in the studio and are put to use whenever the need arises.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of the unit, you should be able to:

  1. list broadcast equipment, including the camera and tapes 
  2.  explain the difference between one type of microphone and another 
  3. explain what the console is.

3.0 MAIN CONTENT

3.1 Definition of Equipment

The room that houses the equipment necessary for production for a broadcaster’s finished production is popularly called the production studio. By definition, equipment are all those materials installed in the studio for the production of programmes, starting from furniture to digital equipment.

The equipment needed for programme production in the broadcast industry include, the camera, tapes, consoles, microphones, audio visual players or recorders, multi-track recording and signal processing equipment, monitor speakers, cable connectors and accessories, and furniture (Reese, Gross and Gross, 2006:viii). If any of these is absent, then production may not take place because one of the equipment will be needed at one stage of production or another.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 1

  1. Why is it necessary to have virtually all the production equipment housed in the studio? 

3.2 The Camera and the Tape

The camera is one of the most important equipment for broadcast programme production without which production cannot hold. Popularly known as the video cameras, they range from lightweight hand-held versions to large heavy-duty units. Some are more automated than others. While earlier cameras were built as completely integrated units, many of today’s modular designs allow you to choose features to suit your particular shooting condition (Millerson 1993:24).

Television or video cameras are of varying types, and their differences essentially rest with the type of pick-up tube used. However, the cameras are in two broad categories, namely monochrome or black-and-white and coloured. The monochrome camera has only one pick-up tube to which lights from the camera lens are directed. The modern colour camera has three tubes, one tube for each of the primary colours, red, green and blue.

Warritay (1986:13) states that light passing through the colour camera lens is split by a glass prism into the primary colours and directed to the pick-up tubes which are also called chrominance channels because they process the primary colours. It is the chrominance channels that produce colour pictures.

Colour cameras usually need more light to take pictures than monochrome cameras because the colour cameras tend to have three times the number of tubes than the black-and-white cameras. The tape is also a vital equipment to production. The camera on itself cannot produce pictures that we watch on our screens. It is the tape that captures and records images and sound, and stores them for later use. In most cases, writers seem to forget or omit this very important equipment when taking a look at production equipment.

The new technology has brought in innovations such as the compact disc player which is an improvement over the reel-to-reel tapes. The new system (CD) gives clear sound and picture, and neat signals during recording and transmission (Idebi, 2008:61). The reel-to-reel tapes are now completely outdated but are kept by some stations only as antiquities.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 2

  1. What is the principal difference between the monochromic camera and the colour camera? 

3.3 Lighting

Studio lighting or lighting generally serves two main purposes: to enable the camera to see and take clear pictures, and to provide a viewer with important visual information about an event such as space area, time of day and even mood of an event. According to Warritay (1986:43), there are basically three types of lighting; Base lighting, Model lighting and Effects lighting.

Base lighting – This is general studio lighting with the use of fill light. The lighting is soft not harsh. It is not directed to any particular place and, therefore, does not create much shadow. However, the illumination is enough for a television camera to transmit acceptable pictures. The Image Orthicon (black-and-white) camera, the Plumbicon (colour) camera and the Videocon (portable) camera require different intensities of base light.

Model lighting – This lighting is usually directed towards a specific scene or performers. It combines three basic lights, namely: key light, fill light and back light. The key light is directional, very strong and illuminates the subject, but one disadvantage is that it creates shadows. The fill light reduces the harshness of the shadows; the back light on the other hand outlines the subject and separates him or her from the background.

Effects lighting – The amount of the light can be varied, depending on the production requirement. The key to back light may also be varied with the back light having higher intensity than the key light. Also, the colour of the hair and dress of the artist should be considered in determining the intensity of the back light. For instance, an artist with dark hair in a dark dress will require a higher intensity of the back light than an artist in a light dress with fair or grey hair. According to Millerson (1993:76), the effect of lighting changes with the lights, direction relative to a camera viewpoint, and with the position of the subject. Lighting treatment should be designed to allow for camera and sound boom maneuvers and avoid camera shadows. Clearly, successful lighting can only come from imaginative, anticipatory and systematic planning.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 3

Why is lighting important, especially in television production?

3.4 The Microphone

The microphone is also an important equipment needed by broadcasters in the discharge of their daily duties. Microphones are of several types but they perform one function that of magnifying the voice of the artist as far as programme production is concerned.

  1. Omni-directional microphone – This type of microphone usually has a long cable which can be extended over a considerable space within a given area. It can easily be used for outside broadcast. 
  2.  Uni-directional microphone- This type of microphone can be used in one direction. It can only handle about two persons and not more than that and the persons must be positioned in the same direction. 
  3. Bi-directional microphone –This kind of microphone can be directed at the voices from different directions at the same time. This type is most suitable for interviews and group discussion situations. 
  4.  Personal microphone – This is a small electric clip-on the microphone which is extensively used for speech pick-up. It can be attached to the lapel, shirt or tie, and may be hidden beneath the clothing. 
  5.  Hanging or slung microphone – This type of microphone is usually suspended over the action area and is effective for area sound pick-up, such as choirs and orchestras.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 4

  1. Microphones are not necessary equipment in broadcast programme production. Discuss. 

3.5 The Console

According to Idebi (2008:61), the console is the link between the microphone and the recording channels. It is equipped with faders, equalisers, various buttons and switches, which are used to regulate and modulate signals. The mixing console has a lot of input and output, which are these days digitally operated. With the introduction of modern technology, the console is still a primary piece of equipment in most production facilities. The broadcast consoles used in most stations are fairly straight-forward in their construction and operation.  Although the board of the console may appear intimidating because of the numerous buttons, knobs and levers, most of these are repeats of what you might have come across before, since the board has many different input and output because, like most other production equipment, the console is facing transformation from analog to digital.

Reese et al (2006:42) say the console board has three primary functions: to mix, amplify and route audio. The console enables the operator to select any one or a combination of various input. And the control board amplifies the incoming audio signal to an appropriate level. Amplification means that the volume of an audio signal going through the console can be raised or lowered as the situation may dictate.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE 5

  1. What do you understand by the term “audio console”? 

4.0 CONCLUSION

So far, we have discussed some of the equipment used for production in a broadcast station. We have attempted to look at a few but somehow the most important without which production cannot take peace. There are many more that are not treated here because of the exigencies of time and space.

5.0 SUMMARY

At first one could be frightened at coming across some of the terms and equipment needed for production, especially if one happens to enter a broadcasting studio for the first time and seeing the massive assemblage of switches, knobs and meters. It should be noted that most equipment are becoming digital which can be manipulated with ease just like the older analog ones, if carefully studied. And the new ones may even be easier to maneuver with a few clicks or a touch screen.

6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT

  1. Distinguish between monochrome and plumbicon cameras. 
  2. Studio production can successfully take place without lighting. Discuss 
  3. What are the differences between Effect lighting, Base lighting and Model lighting?

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