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Making TV: Scratch a Magazine, Find a Production Opportunity

Multimedia platforms are unveiling new television shows with opportunities for DPs and shooters. Outdoors On The Farm is an example.

By Michael Fickes

Mike Byers editing Outdoors On The Farm
Mike Byers editing Outdoors On The Farm.

While most print magazines struggle to sell enough advertising to live on these days, a handful of publications have discovered that a multimedia company with print publications, websites and television programming can generate more advertising revenue than just a magazine — because each format advertises the others and gives advertisers a host of different ways to tell their story to prospective customers.

It can be done large, like Rupert Murdoch’s international News Corporation, which owns cable networks and channels, magazines, Internet networks, movie studios, newspapers and other media assets.

Or it can be done small like Farm Journal Media, a Philadelphia-based multimedia company that covers agriculture in more than a half-dozen print publications, each with a comprehensive website, and five television programs that appear on the RFD-TV network (www.rfdtv.com): AgDay, Corn College, Outdoors On The Farm, The Legacy Project and U.S. Farm Report.

Outdoors On The Farm host Chip Flory goes fishing.
Outdoors On The Farm host Chip Flory goes fishing.

Either way, large or small, the video programming part of a multimedia organization offers opportunities for Directors of Photography (DPs), camera operators and crew.

From Segment to Show
Outdoors On The Farm started in 2002,” says Chip Flory, the editor of Pro Farmer, a Farm Journal Media electronic newsletter and the show’s host. “It was an occasional three-minute segment inside AgDay TV and U.S. Farm Report. The feedback was positive, and we decided to go to a half-hour weekly format on RFD-TV and online. The first show aired November 4.”

Dog trainer with hunting dog
Todd Sterrett, a professional dog trainer on staff with the show, works with a hunting dog.

Television programs spinning out of print media evolve differently from conventional television. Flory not only hosts the show, he also handles producing tasks such as content development. “This is a show about the farmer, the farm and the farm’s connection with the outdoors, ” he says. “It showcases ideas for improving habitat and generating new sources of revenue from the property. I’m responsible for all of the content. ”


Joe Brown on muleback
Joe Brown with Mediawork Productions
shoots a hunting show on muleback.

The first show covered a Nebraska pheasant hunt. Next came “Mississippi Makeover, ” about using abandoned catfish ponds to build habitats for waterfowl. Episode three, “Food Plot Plans, ” talked about designing food plots to hold wildlife and songbirds all year.

Joe Brown, a partner with Mediawork Productions in Davenport, Iowa, shot “Food Plot Plans. ” He and Flory worked together on Outdoors On The Farm segments before the half-hour program was commissioned. Now Brown shoots regularly for the show.

“Chip uses several videographers, based on geography, ” Brown says. “When the show goes to Illinois, Nebraska or another state, he’ll use someone there. ”

Brown calls the show’s shooting style Electronic Field Production (EFP), a “run ‘n gun ” approach to creating the TV magazine-style features that compose each show. “Chip knows the topics and can go without a script, ” Brown says. “My job as DP is to make it look and sound good. ”

Brown shoots with a Sony HVR-Z1U, a smaller-format digital camera with HD and SD capabilities. He carries the camera and a tripod from location to location. Flory wears a wireless mic connected to channel one on the camera. The second audio channel is a camera-mounted shotgun mic that captures ambient sound.

Brown is the video and audio tech as well as the lighting tech. Outside, he uses available light. For indoor interviews, he keeps it straightforward with one key light and a back light on the subject’s shoulders and hair to separate the subject from the background.

Shoots take a couple of days. On day one of “Food Plot Plans, ” Flory and Brown prepped the show and shot short interviews with experts who add detail to the shows.

Shoot days can include teases and tags to promote future shows. “We often shoot promotional elements for upcoming shows, ” says senior producer Mike Byers.

Brown shot the lion’s share of “Food Plot Plans, ” on the second day. It consisted of several interviews ranging across land being converted to a food plot as well as B-roll shots of wildlife and other kinds of habitats to transition from one interview to another. “The biggest challenge is to capture enough footage during these shoots, ” Brown says.

While a lot of the shooting is straightforward, it is also a lot of work to cram into a single shooting day.

Print Plus Web Plus Television Make a Business
After the shoot, tape and media cards from the DP and other shooters, depending on the show, go to the Farm Journal Media offices in South Bend, Indiana where producer Doug Farmwald logs and organizes it into four segments that move from an opening though three commercial breaks and back to the program. Farmwald also writes voiceover transitions that link one segment to another.

Next, Mike Byers converts any non-Beta SX tape footage and imports it into a Grass Valley Edius 5.5 editing system. He also collects files on media cards, from QuickTime to Windows Media Video. “Edius can see most of the formats, ” he says. “Sometimes we have to convert those files to MXF, which is a format native to Edius, which can export video to Beta SX.

“I’ll edit three or four segments and interviews and put them together in the right order, fitting the pieces together with the animated show-openings, ” Byers explains. “It takes from two-and-a-half to three days to finish. I record each show to tape and send it off to RFD-TV, where it is captured into their distribution system. ”

Finally, Byers converts a video file of the show to a Flash file and uploads it to the server that distributes Farm Journal Media’s television shows. Online viewers can access the show at the website (www.agweb.com) by clicking on the multimedia button.

Turning back to the larger picture, programs such as this and the other Farm Journal Media shows help to drive viewers and advertisers to their respective print magazines and websites. In turn, the websites and print magazines drive readers and viewers to the RFD-TV programs. In the end, each medium becomes more attractive to advertisers. Synergy in action.

“There is no question in my mind that without the multimedia aspect, Outdoors On The Farm would not be successful, ” Flory says. “It enabled us to attract a lead sponsor for the show: Ram Truck, which wants to communicate directly with farmers on the website, in magazines and through the television show. ”

December 6, 2012