TV production on location

The location is often an important part of the story - what's it like to be there? Paul Simpson is a senior TV field producer, while the late Brian Hanrahan reported on Bosnia, Kosovo, the Middle East and Falklands, and was the BBC's correspondent in the Far East and Moscow.  

What's behind the tourist facade? And what are the shots that convey the feel of the place?

In this video, Paul Simpson introduces the basics of TV field production and working on location. He returns to Berlin with the late BBC correspondent Brian Hanrahan, 20 years after covering the fall of the Wall.

Paul says to look specifically for great locations for pieces to camera. And remember: you might not be able to go back later, so be prepared to record your piece there and then.

The producer needs to keep talking to their correspondent and crew - what have they seen that would make good pictures, or that makes a particular visual point? What other ideas do they have?

"I try to think all the time about the structure of the piece - what we’re filming; where it might end up in the piece"

Tell your camera operator why you think a particular shot is useful - it'll help them to focus on the best way to take the shot. They're also likely to have a better idea.

Keep good notes of all that you shoot, too. You'll need to locate them quickly in the edit. And think forward to the edit - how much of a particular location might you need? How might you use it?

Always think about possible structures for the package.

Be organised. It's the producer's job to think about paperwork; do you need permits or visas? What are the safety implications of filming in that location?

It's also the producer's job to think ahead - your camera and correspondent need to concentrate on the here and now. You need to think about tomorrow - or later that day.

As you record interviews, listen for the best cuts as you go along - and think 'story'. How might that sound bite move the story along?

A little local knowledge will go a long way. Part of your organisation and planning will have been to hire a good fixer or translator. Make time to listen to them to pick up the nuggets of information, stories and so on that might give your correspondent's script extra depth.

So, prepare; have a schedule; think structure. But at the same time be ready to throw it all out of the window when events dictate.


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