Video Production Handbook

By Mack, June | Journal of Film and Video, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Video Production Handbook


Mack, June, Journal of Film and Video


Shyles, Leonard. Video Production Handbook. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, 403 pp., $44.00 (Paper).

In his new book, Leonard Shyles has tackled the ever-challenging topic of beginning video production. The difficulty of creating a comprehensive text ties in the combined tasks of "meeting" the students as consumers, loading their brains with just the right dose of technical theory and artistic approach, and sending them out excited about communication on a very wide scale. Too much "tech" at this delicate stage can stifle the creative process-and not enough can keep their budding messages from ever being heard. This balancing act has been masterfully accomplished in Shyles's new book.

As all who have taught introductory film/video realize, organizing this particular material is difficult since it does not branch easily into a logical tree of information; it requires that several diverse concepts be learned and utilized simultaneously. This book begins from the consumers' perspective, allowing the novice videographer to relate immediately. In comparison, Herbert Zettl's 6th ed. of Television Production Handbook (Wadsworth, 1997) first gives an overview, touching lightly on technical aspects, of cameras, lighting, audio consoles and linear and non-linear editing, later to devote whole chapters to each of these production elements. Shyles presents the material linearly by creating a trunk or common ground in an audience psychology approach. In Chapter 1, "Video as Communication," Shyles discusses tailoring programs to audiences by drawing on Aristotle's ideas of ethos (source credibility), logos (reasoning ability), and pathos (emotional appeal). His use of ancient ideas in relation to con temporary audiences is both refreshing as well as supremely grounded. Well-articulated, the discussion is neither high-brow nor pedantic. He moves smoothly into modem communication research, covering methods such as the varieties of redundancy techniques in advertising. Leaving his discussion of demographics and psychographics, he closes this section of the book with the concept of the universal audience, citing programs which have a wide audience appeal across cultural lines, a fitting goal for first projects.

From his basis in information theory and audience research, Shyles takes the next logical step into the world of television by discussing transmission systems. He clearly describes radio waves and the conversion of sound energy into electrical energy. A prominent diagram illustrates how the telephone mouthpiece and earpiece work-another "user friendly" technique leading students into technical subject-matter through familiar devices. In comparison, the Zettl text shifts from its overview to a full chapter on computers. Though excellent in its comprehensiveness and historically timely in content, Zettl gives more detail than the beginner needs at this point. I prefer this information to be integrated, as Shyles does, in chapters where applications are being discussed.

Shyles moves from radio to television transmission, maintaining the historical logic of the invention process, a perspective often missed in other video texts. He concludes this chapter with a clear and comprehensive discussion of DTV and HDTV. He notes the world-wide web address-- another hook into the students' personal world-which allows students to access the infamous report by the FCC of December, 1996. In contrast, Zettl goes from the computer chapter to production people and places, again utilizing an overview approach. Shyles reserves these discussions for the end of his book as an extension of learned tools.

Both authors cover scripting in the final section of their texts, though the importance of "message" is clearly stated from the beginning. This placement is oddly out of sequence in the creative process. As stated earlier, Shyles, addresses content as a creator/audience dialogue in his opening section. Had his scripting chapter followed closely, it would have reinforced the sequential unfolding of the preproduction process. …

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