What’s the difference between TV and Film production?

Once upon a time it was easy to differentiate between Film and TV production: film was shot on film, TV was shot electronically. SAG looked after the interests of Screen Actors (film) while AFTRA looked after the interests of Television actors. That the two actors unions have merged is indicative of the changes in production technology.

As is noted in an article at Digital Trends, there is almost no difference between the technologies used in both styles of production, so what are the differences? It comes down to two thing, which are really the same thing.

With the technology essentially merging, thanks to the move to digital cameras with large sensors that create a more pleasing, somewhat “film like” look,  there is no differentiator like film vs video. Any NLE can be used to edit film or television.

The differentiator comes down to time and money, which mostly devolves to time.

A film has more time invested in the script. A film will have more shoot days than a similar number of television pages, because film will take the time to set up more elaborate camera moves, resulting in a more visually dynamic result. I’ve noticed recently how a film will stage a “two people talking” shot with motion and dynamic camera moves. In the television world, that is being handled by a couple of relatively static camera setups to cover the action.

Film will set up more elaborate sets, justifying the larger sums of money invested, although the trend to virtual sets makes that less of an differentiator.

And a film will get a lot more time in the edit bay and audio studio to craft the finished result.

I think time invested in production will continue to be the differentiator, but creatively, I think we’ve seen a lot more interesting television than film over the last decade. Mainstream film production has devolved into retelling it’s own, or other people’s stories, while television has created some innovative story telling and production.

I’ve always had more respect for those in television production. In the three years of a typical movie cycle – script to screen – a film team will produce about 120 minutes of top notch production. In that same three years, an hour long drama show will produce  about 2890 minutes of high quality production.  No, not studio film level but damned good quality none-the-less.

One thought on “What’s the difference between TV and Film production?”

  1. Thank you for the illuminating article. I was quite curious of this difference myself, especially now as more and more TV series hit the screen.

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