Running your own "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" TV Show
Arhive copy only. For newer information check our web site
By Brendan Harris - DIYTV Project
Introduction- Welcome to the best and/or only place on the Internet where you learn to make your own "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" TV show. We have ACTUALLY done the show and had a great time doing it. Basically, this document explains how to set up the room and equipment. Before starting, make sure you have everything in the 'prerequisites', namely equipment. You'll need a good computer with video in/out, 4 NTSC monitors (TVs), 2 computer monitors, 3 video cameras, among a huge lot of other stuff. The system works using a special program that I wrote, available for free download. The video cameras pass the picture to a signal switcher, where it is sent to the computer, where questions are superimposed in real-time. Then, the picture is sent to a VCR where it is recorded, and out to the player's and Regis' monitor. It takes pretty much all day to set up, play, and tear down. If you decide to do a show and follow my instructions, make sure you email us!
Prerequistites- To make your own 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' TV show, you will need the following:
- Contestants - 4 or more well-behaved, talkative, somewhat intelligent people
- Regis - a good actor and someone who has Regis lingo to a science
- Lighting man - someone who flicks the lighting knobs when the music plays
- Camera man - someone who selects which camera angle to record from (task may be performed by question/sound man)
- Question/sound man - someone who can run the computer, bringing up questions and playing sound effects
- Three video cameras with composite out ports. These video cameras preferably don't shut off after 5-10 minutes of non-recording (Sony Handycams don't if you remove the tape) Remember, these cameras won't actually be doing any recording. We used 2 Sony Handycam 8mm cameras and a General Electric VHS camera.
- Phono jack splitters, couplers, 100' of cable (various lengths) you will need to draw a diagram and measure your room to figure out how much of each
- A PC with a 16-bit or better sound card with analog output, Windows Media Player 6.0 or up, video in&out, 800x600 resolution, loaded with Millionaire MP3's and my free automation software (we used an Intel PII 333 with Soundblaster 16, ATI Rage Fury Pro AGP 32MB video card, Windows 98)
- A stereo reciever and decently powerful speaker connected. This will be plugged into the sound card to play the effects
- A monitor extension cord
- A monitor splitter cord (difficult to find, about $25.99)
- Two identical computer monitors, 15" (We used 2 identical Philips 105E monitors) Should be identical for aesthetic reasons, as they will both be in the camera shot. Identical flat-panel monitors would be really cool if you can get them.
- A good quality VCR with phono in&out jacks (We used a Sony SLV-494HF hi-fi unit)
- Three power bars
- Some good long extension cords
- Two 100W floodlights (ground-stake style) mounted on a piece of wood to keep them from toppling
- Tonnes of garbage bags
- Bedsheets and 'chip-clips'
- Two identical chairs
- Something to set the monitors on for Regis and player. We used two overturned recycling bins with cash-print cloth thrown over (looks like cash-box in real show)
- Some other lights, low powered as to keep the room quite dark but illuminate player's face enough - 20, 40 or 60W clamp lights work fine, you can hide them behind monitors, you can use gels (coloured plastic sheets) to soften the light if you like
- Black electrical tape
- Video signal selector, composite jacks, 3 or 4 channels, with output composite jack, got mine at Wal-Mart for $39 (we used an RCA unit with four buttons on the top)
- More video cords
- Brand new high-grade video tape
- Three sturdy tripods
- Home-made light dimmer board or alternative. To build one yourself, follow the link at the bottom of this page. You could also borrow a rack-mount dimmer unit from a theatre or TV studio. Or, if you have two rooms with wall dimmers, use the wall control to control the lighting. This would be difficult because you'd need to find a way to connect the floodlights up to the dimmer. The dimming capability is important because on the show they have their lights not only dimming, but motorized as well. I suppose for the authenticity, you pretty much need dimmers. This also adds a lot of excitement to the music
- Other things I forget about
- The first thing you need to do is to find a room. It needs to be big. Things take up more room than you first think. You need some breathing room, and the tripods need to be back quite aways from the action in order to let the cameras get a wide angle.
- Clear out the room. Every piece of furniture.
- If the room has windows or a patio door, get your garbage bags and black tape, and get working. You need to mask out the light by attaching the bag right to the glass, not the sill. Oh, and make sure the window or patio door is closed first. Otherwise, the wind flaps the bags around. If you plan on doing the show at night, ie. after sun has gone done completely, you will not need to do this, but plan for a very late night.
- Take the bed-sheets (blue, black, or white) and hang them from curtain rods or anything that is available using the chip clips or using any other resourceful method you think of. This basically constructs a 'set' for the show, cover 3 sides of the room
- Make a structure to put the monitors on. We used two overturned recycling bins with a cash-print cloth thrown over them. Be creative.
- Put the identical monitors on top, facing apart.
- Put chairs at either side, facing the monitors.
- Connect the monitors to an extension cord that runs backstage. Backstage, connect it to a power bar.
- Connect the monitors to the splitter, if you were fortunate enough to find one (like us, thanks to Perfect Electronics, Queen St. Toronto, ON). Connect the splitter to the extension and run the extension backstage.
- Bring out the flood lights, break the stake, put the stake in the base, attach the nut, screw in the bulb, and aim the lights at the back wall. I recommend mounting (using screws through the base) the lights on a board) One light should be aimed to the left, the other to the right, on the back wall. The bulbs should be uncoloured for best performance.
- The flood lights should be attached to different extension cords, so they can be operated independantly.
- Run the extension cords backstage.
- Pull out the video cameras
- Connect power supplies to a different outlet than everything backstage as to not trip a breaker. Don't use batteries. Mount cameras on tripods.
- One camera angle should be aimed at the player's chair so it sees the player's shoulders and up. This is the primary angle.
- Another camera should be aimed at the whole room. It should be between the other two. It should show the audience (seated on back wall), player on far left, monitors in middle, Regis on the right.
- The last camera should show the back of Regis' monitor, and Regis sitting in his chair. Not a close-up. (Regis isn't that good looking...) It's best to have most of Regis showing, and a bit of the back of his monitor. To see our camera angles, go look at the photo section (link @ bottom) after reading the instructions.
- Make sure tripods are secure, cameras mounted tightly, aimed properly, etc. If you want, you can use sand-bags to secure legs.
- Connect video cables to cameras. Run the cord backstage. If it won't reach, use phono couplers to connect two or three cords together. Or buy really long cords. Believe me, if the job looks like it needs a 10' cord, get a 20'. (You need length to go up altitude of tripod, go around bends, and travel up onto the table where signal selector is, with length to spare)
- One of the video cameras should have an audio cord connected also. Run it backstage.
- Connect extension cords from the lights to a light board. The lights should be independant of one another. You can build your own light board if you like. If you don't have the time, ambition, or money, to build a lighting board, just plug them into power bars and have someone flip the switches to create the flashy effect. Then plug the power bars or lightboard into the other power bars.
- Buy the soundtrack disc or download the sound effects from this web page. Please keep in mind that the sound effects are owned by the producers of the TV show, and if you use them, you will be unable to broadcast/sell your video. You should ONLY make the show for fun!
- Plug a miniplug to dual RCA cord into the sound card of the PC. Connect it to the stereo reciever.
- Connect speaker wires to reciever.
- Hook up the PC fully
- Connect a video cord from signal switcher out to 'video-in'
- Connect a video cord from 'video-out' to the recording VCR.
- Connect monitor extension cord into the PC's video card.
- Connect a commodore monitor or small TV into VCR TV-out.
- This monitor will serve as your PC display, as opposed to the two connected for Regis and the player. Considering they have the PC monitors, you need to see something backstage, so a Commodore monitor connected to the VCR connected to the PC vid-out works fine, although it's a bit fuzzy. Don't connect the monitor directly to 'video-out' because you need the VCR in order to record the show.
- Connect the video cords from the cameras into the signal switcher.
- Connect the audio cord from the lucky camera directly into the VCR. Use couplers if the cord won't reach. Connect it to 'audio-in' on VCR. If the VCR is stereo, connect to the LEFT channel.
- It is recommended to plug the extension cord that brings power to the player & Regis monitor into a powerbar dedicated to the monitors. That way you can switch off the monitors out there, between contestants, so they can't see you loading up the next round's question set. (Or playing solitaire) Remember, they see what you see. Those are YOUR monitors out there. Also, the VCR is recording your actions- so stop it when you need to load up more questions
- If you like, use splitters to connect a monitor to each camera angle signal. The splitter takes the camera's signal, sends it to a monitor, AND to the switcher, where it may or may not be used. This way, the signal switcher person can see all of his or her options simultaneously on several monitors. Or, do as we did, and connect monitors to only 2 of the 3 angles. Remember, this takes up room. We already have the monitor for the PC display (from VCR). AND, we have a VCR, stereo reciever, power bars, light board, can of pop, etc. backstage. You'll need a lot of real estate to accomodate, say, five monitors backstage. The best monitor is a Commodore monitor. Expect to pay less than $100 for one. They're like little TV's without tuners.
- Hang a bedsheet across so that nobody can see backstage. It is a huge distraction for the player to be seeing people going nuts on sound and light cues.
- Test out ALL equipment. Record on your new video tape to make sure it's not defective. Turn on the stereo and test out the radio. Test out the sound effects from the computer and adjust volume so that it's somewhat loud and full of bass, but doesn't drown out people talking.
- Invite everyone over, give them lunch.
- Congratulations, you did it. Take a breather and look that the mess you made!
Next Contestant- When the next contestant is ready, follow pretty much the exact above instructions, but keep in mind:
- Line up chairs against the back wall with your assorted contestants sitting down in them. They should be BEHIND the player and Regis in the middle camera angle, on the back wall. We skipped fastest-finger, you should too. Let everyone have a turn. We put Regis and the first player behind the middle camera. They walked out on either side of it when we start.
- Make sure the audience APPLAUDS!!! When the player comes in, when they leave, when the player gets a question right. Pretty much any time that the special music is playing, have them applaud.
- On the question PC, load up a question set. Turn on the player and Regis' monitors.
- Do a verbal count-down.
- Press RECORD on the VCR.
- Wait 3 seconds.
- Start the theme song playing.
- The camera guy should have full-room angle active.
- The lighting guy should flick lights to the music.
- After 10 seconds or so, Regis and player should walk out on either side of the middle camera. (Careful of cords!) They should stand until music finishes.
- Regis welcomes everyone, they sit down. They talk, camera angle should change depending on who is talking, but not rapidly.
- Regis yells 'let's play', camera switches to full-angle, lights flash, let's play music starts.
- Camera goes to Regis who is saying "Okay, here it is for one hundred dollars" or the like.
- Press the "R" key to pull up the question. The background music will start in sync. When the contenstant says "final answer" hit the A, B, C, or D keys. In the first round, there won't be a "final answer" sound effect. The second and third rounds will.
- For a 50/50, press the "5" key.
- A large number of keys have functions assigned to them. Check the source code for details.
- When the contestant is done playing, play the "goodbye" theme. Regis will say "we'll be right back!" and you play the commercial theme.
- Press the STOP button on the VCR. Take a break.
- Play commercial break music.
- Everyone should be back in their original seats. Regis should call up the next 'random' contesant, who gets out of seat, comes to hotseat.
- Camera angle should change as the player is sitting down.
- Regis interviews player, camera changes to Regis so he can say his famous line.
- Regis says 'let's play!', points, lights flash, camera changes to whole room, let's play music is played, music finishes, question appears exactly as background music starts, camera angle changes to player.
Thanks for reading through this. It sounds very hard, but it can be done. Try not to compromise too much, instead go all the way we did, or further. Dress up the set, add cameras, it's worth it. We did in fact do this show, and with this experience behind us have made these instructions. It's not just an idea: it has been done, it can be done, it's a tonne of fun.
Make sure you mention me in your credits in your video.
I sincerely wish you good luck with your show.
All content © 2002 Brendan Harris. Please cite my name and the URL of this page.
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