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Thursday, 01 July 2010 00:00

An American Reality

Written by  Dylan Powers
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Events_Casey2compReality TV is a genre that has become increasingly popular since the introduction of the show “Big Brother” back in 1999, and it has since had a major impact on all aspects of television. With the airing of shows that include audience participation, such as the hit Fox show “American Idol,” the interest of the nation’s viewing audience has expanded significantly, and as a result, on-location backdrops –– from California and New York to Fiji and Thailand –– have also increased.

Now in its ninth season, “American Idol” has millions of audience members calling in to vote for their favorite contestants. The show’s finalists were recently given an opportunity to visit their hometowns, and each trip was later televised on the semi-final episode.

The “American Idol” production team went on location with Casey James, the second runner-up, for his hometown visit to Cool, Texas, a community about 40 miles outside of Ft. Worth. The production crew kept the cameras rolling for James’s entire trip, which began with a visit to an AT&T store, official telecom sponsor for “American Idol,” and continued with his musical performance at Bulldog Stadium in Millsap and autograph signings for a sea of mostly young female fans. Panasonic’s AJ-HDC27HP VariCam camcorders were used to capture footage of a section of the Lone Star State that rarely gets seen by America. With a population of less than 200, James’s little hometown officially crowned him as the “King of Cool.”

Events_CaseycompFor Illinois native Lee DeWyze, now the winner of “American Idol,” the Television Service Department of Mount Prospect, Ill. (MPTV) built a temporary control room for a live viewing of the show’s finale. The Broadcast Pix Slate 1000 video production system, used for live coverage of village board meetings and local programming, became the cornerstone of the “American Idol” finale viewing party that attracted an estimated 5,000 people. According to Cable Production Coordinator Howard Kleinstein, Mount Prospect rented a 9x12-foot JumboTron so the crowd could watch the live finale as well as see footage from DeWyze’s homecoming visit during commercials.

The MPTV team displayed the show feed on large screen with images that were captured with two Sony DSR-400 ENG camcorders on location. Kleinstein believes the “American Idol” finale viewing party was a very positive way to showcase their village on national television. “The response was extraordinary,” he says. “People were very happy with it.… Even the production team from Hollywood was impressed.”

Now it seems like there’s a new reality TV show popping up with each new season. And with tax incentives encouraging more on-location productions, an increase in new mobile equipment and a growing demand for shows with audience interaction, the reality is that television production will keep evolving with the times.

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