By Marc Loftus
Issue: January 1, 2004


Reality programming is probably the fastest growing genre on television these days, and while the concepts range from clever to ridiculous, you almost can't help but watch them. I'm pretty sure I don't want my neighbors redecorating my living room, but there's something about Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole that lures me in.

This month's issue takes a look at some of these popular reality shows. No scripts, no soundstages, no film - these programs can be produced for modest budgets, but that doesn't mean they are as simple to put together as one might think. Because of their run-and-gun/guerrilla style, footage and sound is often captured under less-than-perfect conditions. This brings up a number of issues when it comes time to post.

One post supervisor that Post's Christine Bunish interviewed for this month's "Editing For Reality TV" story says they will go with imperfections and all, opting not to do much clean up of footage other than fine tuning skin tones. Another editor believes that some segments almost have to be tweaked for them to work within the show. Slow motion can be used to detail the action, and image processing helps to clear up the consumer formats some of these clips are acquired on.

And how about the audio pro's job? Can you imagine working on Ozzy's dialogue track?

Sound designer Ric Viers has done some freelance work on reality programs for The Discovery Channel. Viers was recently called on by Norwich, England's Anglia Television Ltd. to serve as a recordist on the Animal Planet program "Animal Cops," an episode of which was being shot in his home town of Detroit. The program investigates animal cruelty situations, so Viers outfitted two detectives with lavalier mics and used a boom to pick up ambiences - but the dialogue, he notes, was the priority.

A single episode, says Viers, can be shot over a number of weeks, the goal being an attempt to provide viewers with some closure as to the animal's well being once it's all edited together.

"I used [Anglia's] sound package," says Viers of the "Animal Cops" gig. "Usually, shows like this - when they are hiring multiple freelance guys like myself - will provide their own audio equipment and their own cameras. The reason is because they want everything to look and sound the same."

For more on "Audio For Reality TV," check out our feature.