Putting together Dish Nation, Twentieth Television’s new syndicated show that features morning DJs in five cities, is an unusual process. Each day, a team of 72 records 71.5 hours of high-def footage from 13 Sony EX3 cameras set up in the radio studios that gets edited and enhanced into a seamless 21-minute episode. Says the show’s EP, Stu Weiss: “Our workflow is one of a kind. We have implemented existing technology in unique ways that may not have been done before. Using the Avid AirSpeed 5000 … we’re able to bypass other ingesting processes and equipment that are normally used.”
Dish Nation is a new TMZ-inspired TV show in which popular DJs in five different markets riff on entertainment news and the latest foibles of the Kardashians, various Real Housewives, run-amok performers, misbehaving royals and other celebrity clowns.
The half-hour strip from Twentieth Television, which debuted on Monday, rapidly cycles through clips of the DJs recorded during their live radio shows. The gab and laughter — lots of laughter — are enhanced with images of the targets of the DJs’ barbs.
For the premiere season that began this week, the participating radio shows are Scott & Todd (Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill) on WPLJ-FM New York, DJ Laz on WRMA-FM Miami, Kidd Kraddick on KISS-FM Dallas, Rickey Smiley on WHTA-FM Atlanta and Blaine & Allyson (Blaine Fowler and Allyson Martinek) on WDVD-FM Detroit.
The show is cleared on stations reaching 95% of the country, including the Fox O&Os in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Pulling it all together is Studio City, a production company in Hollywood. It’s a remarkable technical and organizational feat.
Each day, a team of 72 records 71.5 hours of high-def footage from 13 Sony EX3 cameras set up in radio studios that have been outfitted with Dish Nation logos or backdrops of skylines that help viewers transition from market to market.
Producers then whittle down the footage and cut in the graphics and supporting images and videos to create a seamless 21-minute episode.
“I have not seen or heard of any other production process like this for any other nationally syndicated show,” says Stu Weiss, executive producer of Dish Nation. “Major news outlets perform similar tasks but with much larger staffs and far more equipment. The same is true for large sports broadcasts, but not for a show like this.”
At each of the radio shows in New York, Atlanta and Dallas, Dish has three Sony EX3 cameras taping the radio morning teams. The show has two EX3s in Detroit and Miami.
The footage is fibered back to Studio City in Hollywood and ingested on the fly into an Avid AirSpeed 5000.
“This device simultaneously captures all of the footage from all the cameras and puts that HD footage into the Avid ISIS storage system,” says Weiss.
Everything is cut using Avid Media Composer 6 editing software.
Using the Avid AirSpeed 5000 is a change from summer 2011 when seven Fox TV stations tested the show.
“At that time, we used physical tapes to backup our ingest into an Avid ISIS and did not utilize the AirSpeed system,” Weiss says. “There were no major technology issues last summer other than that we were slower and less streamlined than we are now. This year, our facility is 100% digital.”
The production team works around the clock. The show is produced in four segments. To keep it fresh and topical, the first segment uses same-day video from the East Coast. The other three segments comprise day-old material.
The work cycle begins at 10 p.m. Pacific when a three-person Dish Nation research team starts looking for entertainment news stories for the DJs to talk about.
By 1 a.m., they have a content meeting with the show’s executive producers. At 1:45 a.m., they all get on a conference call with the five morning radio shows to go over that day’s entertainment news. They use an FTP website to share photos and video clips with the radio shows.
That meeting lasts until about 3 a.m. Pacific, when the morning DJs on the East Coast are starting their shows. That’s also when Dish’s segment producers show up at Studio City to start reviewing that day’s footage.
The editors show up 5 a.m. and by 9 they’ve completed the first segment. A four-person finishing team pulls up the three late segments from the prior day and begins assembling the final product for a 1 p.m. feed to stations.
After that, the crew works on the next day’s second, third and fourth segments.
“Our workflow is one of a kind,” Weiss says. “We have implemented existing technology in unique ways that may not have been done before. Using the AirSpeed 5000 the way that we are, we’re able to bypass other ingesting processes and equipment that are normally used.”
While the radio shows are on the air, Studio City producers monitor them in three separate viewing rooms.
In one room, the show’s segment producers watch on three 50-inch and two 25-inch monitors; in another, assistant editors watch on a dozen eight-inch monitors.
In the third room, the show’s executive producers watch the DJs react to entertainment news stories that Dish producers provide to them. The DJs might bring up topics on their own.
“Some days we get exactly what we expect [from the DJs] and other days we get something completely different from what we imagined,” Weiss says. “Either way, it’s very funny.”