Controlled Chaos

“And stop it, light it, push in, pull out,
fly it, lights, turn the turntable, John!”

—Mark Breslow,
Director’s Track, Match Game ‘79

Marc Breslow was an amazing director in daytime television. He was the original director of the current run of The Price is Right, and many of the shots he designed way back in 1972 are still in use, virtually unchanged, 37 years later.

Another show he directed was the zany Match Game with Gene Rayburn.

I’ve found a rare clip on YouTube that mixes the director’s track, the audio from the headsets that all of the studio crew would hear, with the actual program audio.  This is what anyone on the studio crew would have heard while this show was being taped.

This segment features Match Game’s opening sequence, which involved a rotating sign, nicknamed “the flipper,” painted blue on two sides onto which the faces of that day’s celebrities would be electronically superimposed, or “keyed.”

Though this effect could today be accomplished much easier with computers, this was punched “live” to tape manually, changing the camera shot while the flipper’s side was facing the camera. Once in a while, you could see the shot change as it turned around to its next side.

The quote I listed at the top of this post occurs at about 36 seconds into the clip. In that frantic set of instructions, he’s actually accomplishing all of this:

Stop it: Instructing the operator of the flipper to stop its rotation.
Light it: Instructing the lighting director to activate the lighting sequence that illuminates the Match Game ‘79 logo sign.
Push in:Instructing the camera operator shooting the flipper to zoom all the way in to its blue panel so that the lighted background around the flipper disappears.
Pull out: Instructing the camera operator shooting the close-up of the logo sign to zoom out to reveal the full set.
Fly it: Instructing stagehands to lift the logo sign up and out of the shot.
Lights: Instructing the lighting operator to bring up full lights on the set.
Turn the Turntable: Instructing another stagehand to activate the turntable which spins the contestants into place.
John!: Cueing the legendary announcer Johnny Olson to proceed with his script to introduce host Gene Rayburn.

Here’s how it looked and sounded:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DduZnMEtwSE[/youtube]

Can you imagine having to listen to all that going on while trying to pay attention to what’s actually happening on stage?

Welcome to the crazy world of television production!

Throughout the remainder of the clip, you’ll hear Marc calling each individual shot between the four cameras on stage. It’s fascinating to hear what’s happening in the control room, and it might give you a totally new appreciation of how a television show is directed!