Timings in Talk Show Production: What, How, and Why

What Are Timings and Why Are They Important for Talk Shows?

As the word speaks for itself, timings in talk show production are a way of structuring your show according to a specific timing schedule or ‘target timing’.

Timings are an essential part of a prerecorded or live show. They help to be in control and respect the allocated airtime of the broadcaster. Especially for commercial broadcasts, it is important to strictly stick to your airtime. Otherwise it can cost you a fine when you take the precious airtime from the programs or commercials after you.

Timings play a vital role in protecting the content and integrity of your show. They help you stay on top of the show and make the right decisions in time. The sooner you know there’s a problem, whether you ‘overrun’ or ‘under-run’ your target timing schedule, the sooner you can adapt the rundown and protect key moments of the show. You don’t want to last-minute cut in important must-see moments!

Who Keeps Track of the Timings?

As mentioned in the ultimate talks show guide, it’s usually the PA’s and Director’s role (in Belgium and the UK) to keep track of timing. However, it is necessary for the team to be able to follow along.

With the ‘Cue column’ in the Cuez’s as well as TinkerList’s script and rundown, the PA can ‘cue’ or start timing every item during a live show just by clicking or hitting the space bar! This records the actual time of the show, enabling the whole crew to follow the cued parts and automatically scrolls to the next sequence of the show.

Naturally, this makes it easy for anyone in the team to manage the timing. Whether that person is the Director, PA, Script Supervisor, Showrunner or any other team member responsible for the timings.

Cue column in Cuez
Cue column in TinkerList

Challenges of Timings

In the past, timings in talk show production were not automatically calculated and updated. The person in charge of the timings often had 2 chronometers:

  • one to time the full length of the show
  • one to time the duration of the different segments or guests

While at it, they would write them down and add hand-written notes to the script/rundown. This is to know which part of the show is too long, and where to make cuts.

With every change, timings needed to be recalculated. Then, written down in an Excel file. Compared to the estimated timings and then changed again in the script and rundown. Havinf to follow the show, manage, write down and adapt timings simultaneously, you can imagine how stressful this job is!

The PA timing at De Cooke & Verhulst Show

Different timings for talk show production

There are various ways of calculating timings for the rundown and script. Besides Cuez and TinkerList, Shoflo or Rundown Creator also offer services to manage your timings. Here’s a list of the different types and their meanings (in Cuez and TinkerList).

Timing columns

Timings Columns in Cuez
Timings Columns in TinkerList
  • Estimated duration (Est.): Allocated time for each card in the script. Based on the amount of text inside a card, TinkerList will suggest an appropriate estimated duration. As a user, you can overwrite this suggestion. This column is usually always shown during the recording of your show.
  • Actual duration (Actual): Actual duration of a card, based on the real-time cueing during (live) recording. To cue a card, open the Cue column via Columns. This column is usually always shown during the recording of your show.
  • Front time (Front): Shows the estimated start time of each card, based on the On Air Script time and the estimated duration of the card.
  • Back time (Back): This shows the time you should try to start this part of your show if you want to end on time, based on the Off Air script time and the estimated duration of the card. This is a very important timing variable, as it allows you to systematically stay up to date on potential over- or underruns and to intervene/cut/add items when necessary.
  • End time (End): Shows the estimated end time of each card, based on the On Air Script time and the estimated duration of the card. It’s effectively a cumulative running total of each time an item will end in the running order.
  • Actual start time (Act. Start): Shows the actual start time of each card when this card was cued via the Cue button.
  • Actual end time (Act. End): Shows the actual end time of each card when this card was cued via the Cue button.

Script header timings

Script Header Timings Cuez

(1) Live vs. Recorded

Depending on the type of Episode you are creating, different Timing information may be needed. In this dropdown menu, you will be able to select either ‘Live‘ or ‘Recorded‘.

  • Live‘ will result in the option to enter ‘On Air time‘ (2) and ‘Off Air time‘ (3).
  • Recorded‘ will remove these options as these will not be relevant in the case of a recorded show.

(2) On Air Time

Real-time on-air time of the show. The value should be put in by the user.

(3) Off-Air Time

Real-time off-air time of the show. The value should be put in by the user.

(4) On-Air Duration

The On Air Duration represents the total duration the Episode will (or should) be.

(5) Over/under Duration

The Over/under Duration represents the amount of time you will be over or under your On Air Duration, based on the Estimated Duration of all Parts / Items / blocks in the Episode.

This value is calculated, and updated, automatically for you by Cuez and is shown as minutes:seconds. This means that, once you have all your Estimated Durations for the different elements (Parts, Items, Blocks) in your Episode, you will immediately see the over/under at the top of the Episode. No need for you to do any manual calculations.

The Over/under Duration changes colour depending on the result:

  • Yellow: Under time
  • Red: Overtime
  • Green: On-time

As the ‘on air time’ and ‘off air time’ indicate, the paper timings in this example represent the timings of a live show. Naturally, in a prerecorded show, this won’t be shown but only the duration and the over/under as the difference between your estimated timings and recorded timings.

Next to the paper timings, which are the estimated timings prepared beforehand, a black frame will pop up at the top of your screen when you start recording your show. These will indicate the actual timings being recorded. The far left frame applies to the duration of the whole show, and the far right frame applies to a specific item that is cued. These frames help you keep track of the difference between the target timing and recorded timing.

The blue arrow facing upwards counts how much time you’re in recording your show, and the arrow facing downwards counts how much time you have left based on the estimated duration of the show. As mentioned above, the over/under will tell you how much you’re over- or under-running based on your estimated timings.

Floating cards*

In TinkerList, we introduced ‘floating cards’. These are optional items that can replace other items or can be added to the rundown, to create a flexible buffer during the show. In case the estimated timings had to be adapted by cutting or adding items because you have been over- or under-running your show, it is imperative to strictly respect and watch these new timings closely.

If you’d like to know more about floating cards, adding columns, recording your show, and using timings in different settings (pre-recorded show, live-on-tape, live shows and events, on-air and off-air time) in TinkerList, we have organised an excellent webinar with Tony Gregory with probably all the answers to your questions and information you need to know.

*Floating cards are currently in development for Cuez!

Value of Cuez for Talk Show Production

Cuez keeps a structured, collaborative, and clear supervision of your script, rundown and timings. It offers a collaborative, real-time and customisable platform to the liking of each team member. Fear not if it seems a bit overwhelming at the beginning — your eyes easily get used to the intuitive interface and know where to look at what moment. We’re convinced this feature will take a big part of the stress away in the gallery.

As mentioned in our complete talk show guide, the timing columns in the rundowns and scripts allow users to predict or record the duration of each segment in a talk show. With this feature, the team can:

  • Receive pre-calculated suggestions about how much time each segment would take, based on the amount of content and media duration in each segment.
  • See detailed records on how much time each segment took, where there have been delays, etc.
  • Control the duration of segments that follow the segments that have gone overtime, to make sure the show ends before the air time passes.
  • Add commercial breaks to the timing breakdown.
  • Add notes for specific team members (technical staff, director, sound, light,…) in additional columns
  • Viewing rate analysis: all metadata such as the viewing rates at specific times are linked to the archive so you can easily access it for research later.

Managing timings in is crucial for smooth live talk show production. Cuez provides a comprehensive solution with unique features that will help you manage the show more productively. It offers collaborative tools, customisable interfaces, and viewing rate analysis for a stress-free experience.

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