Lecture 4 – Tricks of the Trade

This week we are considering tips to improve your TV and Radio format programme making skills.

1. To be a Formats Producer – “You need to be very creative, dogged, passionate”

Look how well you are doing!

BBC Development Executive video from BBC College of Production website

Also recommend you watch

TV studio director video, vision mixing, lighting, etc


– Telly relies on its looks.  So  pay attention to Set design and lighting. How you present the studio is really important. It tells the audience everything they need to know about the tone and intended audience of the programme.

To appreciate the craft that goes into making a TV studio programme WATCH TV with the sound off.

Look for

  • How often the shot changes
  • What type of shot (wide shot, medium shot or close up) is used
  • How often the camera moves within a shot
  • What visual clues are included in the shot
  • What the lighting is like
  • How graphics (words on the screen) interact with the rest of the visuals

– Radio relies on words to paint the pictures.

Making a radio package video explains how to set the scene and engage your audience.

1. Work out what the story is? And be clear on this.

2. Who are you going to talk to?  You will need a range of voices from experts and public opinions

3. Choose a location carefully.  EG Market gives your piece some good background noises.

4. Check your kit before you go out.

5. Remember the people who speak to you the most passionately

6. Record wildtrack.  That’s background sound to cover the edits.

Listen to as much speech radio as you can to deepen your understanding of the medium.  The more you listen the better your scriptwriting and presentation will become.  Get yourself out of your Chris Moyles comfort zone – hunt around the BBC radio website for some real gems.  Use your practice session to get your Presenters talking in pictures.

3. Find good contributors. Formats eat contributors.

There is a constant need for members of the public to take part in shows. Finding “good people” will make your programmes work. And good contributors are not necessarily the loudest or most extrovert;

Contributor Research video

Casting contributor takes time. The longer and harder you take to cast the better the results.

You don’t want a load of TV wannabees. You want a good ethnic mix.

You don’t always want loud, brash, noisy people. You need people who hold attention, have a strong presence and something about them that audiences will relate to.

Don’t cast individuals, cast the team – people who will work well together or not (as the format determines).

Audition and screen test your shortlist is the next stage in the process.

BE HONEST about your show. You don’t want anyone to pull out at the  last minute. Prepare contributors for the  media exposure they might get.

Recording vox pops

1. Smile!

2. Learn to take rejection

3. Listen…. people will surprise you with what they tell you!

4. Ask open questions – that start with why or how or what to avoid yes or no answers.

5. Speak to a variety of people to get different opinions and perspectives.

Tips on how to get the best vox pops

4.  “Pictures are secondary, sound comes first”. Pay attention to the SOUND recording too.

Voice is everything – looks mean nothing! Both television and radio are about words.   Use your practice sessions to sharpen up your script writing skills (everyone can help out with this) and make sure your presenters practice “talking”.  Give them random subjects to talk about during the studio setting up time to get them used to this.  The more you practice, the better you will get.

Voice video.  Tips include Talk to your listener, Uses pauses and Listen back (to appraise your performance) and Dress the part (feel like the professional you want to be).

Graham Norton video offer tips on how to best record sound on an improvised studio programme.  Sound is as important as pictures in a TV show.  Rehearse moves around the studio so that sound recordist can cover the action. Remember protocol in a studio team and who is allowed to speak, when.  Sound technology is a skill that takes time to learn.

5. Communication, Communication, Communication.

Would you describe yourself as a good communicator?  Well how do you know you are? Well to be a good TV communicator you need to be good at;  persuading, negotiating, putting people at their ease, public speaking, and probably most importantly trusted.

Kate Humble’s video explains the directors/presenter.

– Make sure everyone knows who everyone is and care about your team. Remember to give the team a break.

– Tell the team what you want to achieve

– Presenters are isolated from the action, they want to know what’s going on

– Tell the presenter what type of shot you are using so they know what the audience is seeing

– Make sure the presenter knows the tone of the item/programme

– Do say “action” and “cut”!

Chris Evans and his Producer explain how important this relationship is in radio.  Look out for each other. Give each other space. Don’t make any fallings out about the programme personal.


Making programmes should be fun.  This is the main reason people who work in telly work in telly.  These clever, articulate, creative people have chosen a profession that at it’s core is about promoting happiness. Leave the stress at the studio door – You can’t make good telly stressed!

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