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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California


When I was studying abroad in London, I watched ATVN newscasts on occasion. A few weeks into the semester, something came up in the show that was not there during the two and a half years I worked at ATVN….LIVE SHOTS. 

Even as a producer, it is important to know how live shots work from a reporter's perspective
Even as a producer, it is important to know how live shots work from a reporter's perspective

My first reaction was thinking how great it was that our station was incorporating a new and dynamic way of presenting the news. Now as a producer, I am learning the art of the live shot. For instance, producers need to decide when a live shot is appropriate in the rundown. Then, when a live shot is put in the show, everyone in the newsroom must plan ahead and communicate in order to execute a flawless 30-second hit.  

Live shots must have a purpose. As a producer, I know that live shots should not be put in the show for the sake of having one. The best live shots are when there is a direct need for putting the reporter in that location rather than just producing a live intro in the studio. For example, if there was a fire in downtown LA, this would be good enough reason to high tail the reporter downtown for a live shot. The visuals for that live shot are so much more captivating than a standup in the studio. This live shot also brings the viewers to the scene. Viewers want to see action and this live shot can give that to them. On the other hand, a story on tuition spikes may not be an appropriate story for a live shot. A generic live hit on campus next to Tommy Trojan does not bring anything new to the story. If the reporter cannot interact with the scene or the scene does not give substantive context to the story, it may not be necessary to produce a live hit. Reporting live for this type of story may just give the same effect as a studio standup. 

If producers decide to put a live shot in the rundown, the only way to effectively execute it is to communicate with everyone. This includes the director, the producers, the reporter and the camera operator. When I produced a live shot for a 1PM show, the reason it went well was because I worked with my director to make sure the live shot was set up early and the reporter and camera operator knew when to standby and go. Live shots sometimes get very tricky with a delay. Therefore, it is important to know when to cue the reporter. Sometimes, this means saying “CUE” or “GO” 7 seconds before the reporter is actually supposed to talk. 

Although my experience was a positive one, live shots do not always work out. Therefore, it is important for producers to always have a back up plan in case the dreaded color bars come up on the monitor to indicate a loss of signal. To make sure something can be done to recover from this, producers should always have a VO or copy written as backup so the anchor or host can say something in place of the live reporter. 

It is amazing that ATVN gets to practice and use this live technology. At my various internships, most of the reporters only do live shots for the INTRO of their story. As a reporter, camera operator or producer, it is vital to know what all of these positions need to do in order to air a successful live shot. 

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