Television has now been around for nearly a century, and yet the news-sharing and production techniques we see when we turn on the TV today is not all that different from what people saw 60 or 70 years ago. Despite the incredible advances in technology that have put television sets in nearly 97 percent of American households and made the spread of information virtually instant, we have been watching television in basically the same way since the mid-20th century.
You might wonder why anyone outside of the media industry would care about the history of TV production, but in order to understand Glenn’s plans for TheBlaze, American Dream Labs, and beyond, you will need to understand the historical context.
While single-camera broadcasts have been around since the early days of television, the introduction of additional cameras in the mid-20th century opened up a new world for TV production. Though it is widely believed that Desi Arnaz and his Desilu Productions (of I Love Lucy fame) pioneered the multi-camera setup, its origins actually date all the way back to 1928 when the BBC used three cameras to broadcast The Queen’s Messenger.
The multi-camera system allows for multiple shots of a live situation as it unfolds chronologically. Not only does such a technique speed up production times, it is especially suitable for shows that require a live audience. On the contrary, single camera shoots allow the director a lot more control over each shot (after all, there is only one camera to keep an eye on), but various takes and setups are required to ensure everything is captured properly, and the action is rarely enacted chronologically.
Arnaz and Desilu, though not the inventors of the multi-camera system, were the first to use the multi-camera setup in front of a live audience and employ 35mm film. I Love Lucy incorporated multiple cameras, used to film the action on several adjacent sets, to allow for chronological filming in front of a studio audience. Arnaz is also credited with inventing the TV rerun (aka the very system that allows us to enjoy I Love Lucy to this day).
Throughout the 1940s and 50s television shows were often performed live and not recorded. This meant that there was different programming in different time zones depending on what was available. Networks began to wise-up, however, and kinescope recordings of shows broadcast live in the east became available to be re-broadcast in the west.
Arnaz took this one step further when he approached network executives to allow Desilu Productions to put I Love Lucy on film. In 1955, I Love Lucy began re-broadcasting earlier episodes. As the New York Times observed, “The appeal of reusable filmed programs led eventually to a seismic shift in television production from New York to Hollywood, and made the program’s creators millionaires.”
It was this integration of additional cameras, film, and audience that paved the way for the future of TV, a future we still observe to this day. In today’s media, sporting events, news programs, talk shows, and some sitcoms utilize multi-camera shoots, while single-camera productions favor dramas, TV movies, music videos, and even commercial advertisements.
Speaking of commercial advertisements, it is remarkable to see how stagnant the formula has been, whether it be behind the scenes in the production or the onscreen objective. Since the commercial television model was approved by the FCC in 1941, advertisers in the U.S. have made use of the single-camera setup and catchy slogan to attract consumers to their product.
The very first TV commercial aired on the New York City NBC affiliate, WNBT, at 2:29PM on July 1, 1941. During a break in the action of a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies, a 10 second spot aired for Bulova watches. A Bulova watch appeared over a map of the United States, while a voiceover of the company’s slogan – America runs on Bulova time! – played in the background.
Insert video of an athlete wearing Nike sneakers with the tagline of “Just Do It,” people eating soup with a voiceover of “Campbell’s: mmm mmm good,” or a Toyota truck driving through a perilous landscape with the reminder to “Never Stop Improving” and the ads that populate our airwaves today don’t seem all that different from the Bulova commercial of 70 years ago.
Despite all the redundancy that has become the norm in television, Glenn has made it clear that TheBlaze is operating in a new age of information sharing and technology. Over the next several months, the network will experiment with new forms of production, advertising, and interaction that will turn this nearly century old formula of broadcast upside down. It will be an exciting time that will rely on YOU – your participation and your willingness to explore new avenues. Stay tuned…