The production process is commonly broken down into preproduction, production, and post production.
The Pre-production Phase
There is a saying in TV production: "The most important phase of production is preproduction."
The importance of this is often more fully appreciated after things get pretty well messed up during a production and the production people look back and wish they had adhered to this axiom from the start.
In preproduction the basic ideas and approaches of the production are developed and set into motion. It is in this phase that the production can be set on a proper course or misdirected (messed up) to such an extent that no amount of time, talent, or editing expertise can save it.
The Prime Directive
Star Trek has its prime directive, so does TV production:
"Hit the target audience!"
In order for the program to be successful, the needs, interests, and general background of the target audience (the audience your production is designed to reach) must be studied and kept in mind throughout each production phase.
In order for your program to have value and a lasting effect it must in some way affect the audience emotionally.
This assumes both knowledge of the prime directive and the target audience, and it ends up being a key to your personal success.
More on that later.
During preproduction, not only are key talent and production members decided, but all of the major elements are also planned. Since things such as scenic design, lighting, and audio are interrelated, they must be carefully coordinated in a series of production meetings.
Once all the basic elements are in place, rehearsals can start.
A simple on-location segment may only involve a quick check of talent positions so that camera moves, audio, and lighting can be checked.
A complex dramatic production may require many days of rehearsals. These generally start with a table reading or dry rehearsal where the talent along with key production personnel sit around a table and read through the script. Often, script changes take place at this point.
Finally, there's a dress rehearsal. Here, the talent is "dressed" in the appropriate wardrobe, and all production elements are in place. This is the final opportunity for production personnel to solve whatever production problems remain.
The Production Phase
The production phase is where everything comes together (we can hope) in a kind of final performance.
Productions can either be broadcast live or recorded. With the exception of news shows, sports remotes, and some special-event broadcasts, productions are typically recorded for later broadcast or distribution.
Recording the show or segment provides an opportunity to fix problems, either by making changes during the editing phase or by stopping the recording and redoing the segment.
And, Finally, the Post-production Phase
Tasks, such as striking (taking down) sets, dismantling and packing equipment, handling final financial obligations, and evaluating the effect of the program, are part of the post-production phase.
Even though post-production includes all of these after-the-production jobs, most people only associate post-production with editing.
As computer-controlled editing techniques and post-production special effects have become more sophisticated editing has gone far beyond simply joining together segments in a desired order. As we've noted, editing is now a major focus of production creativity.
Armed with the latest digital effects, the editing phase can add much in the way of razzmatazz to a production. In fact, it's pretty easy to become enthralled with the special effect capabilities of your equipment. But, then there is this...
Confusing the Medium With the Message
As fun as all the razzmatazz effects might be to play with, all this high-tech stuff should only be considered a tool for a greater purpose: the effective communication of ideas and information. If that sounds a bit academic and stuffy, you might want to look at things from a broader time line.
If you think about it, today's latest high-tech effects will look pretty lame a few years from now. (Ever look at the special effects in some early films?)
It's only the ideas and feelings that have a chance of enduring. How many times have you seen a movie, and forgot about it almost as soon as you left the theater? In contrast, then there are the movies that seem to "stick with you" — that you may think about for days or even weeks.
In 2004, the average American spent 1,669 hours, the equivalent of 70 full days during the year, watching television.
This medium that you are learning to control can either be used to provide audiences with time-wasting, mindless, drivel...
...or ideas that can make a positive difference in the overall scheme of things. (And, as you may have noticed, there's often a definite need in the world for people to make a positive difference.