Some Not-So-Known but Vital Jobs in the Broadcast Industry

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Sound Operator

Sound operators require both creativity and technical skill. In a radio studio, their duties can include sound balancing, mixing and tape recording. In television, they ensure that the studio equipment is functioning properly and, working with the camera operators, they see that microphone boom arms are effectively positioned and yet remain out of shot.

They also do a lot of pre- and post-production work, such as editing taped speech and music or selecting (and, in some cases, devising) special sound effects. On outside broadcasts, such as coverage of a live football match, sound operators work from an OB (outside broadcast) unit, and they will also be responsible for rigging up and dismantling equipment and for testing the quality of the lines.

Applications for sound operator traineeships should be aged 18 or over, have normal hearing and color vision and have had a good general education.



Sound Mixer

Sound mixers monitor and balance the sound signals from a control room. They also feed in music or other sound effects where appropriate.

Sports Reporter/Commentator

Sports reporters are generally journalists who have specialized in sports coverage, and many commentators are retired sportsmen/women. A good microphone manner is essential, as is a thorough knowledge of the sports they cover. Commentators need to be able to speak fluently and coherently without a script.

Stagehand

Stagehands, also known as 'setting assistants', usually work in small teams. They erect the scenery in a studio or on location and dismantle it when shooting or transmission is finished. Most television scenery consists of large plywood flats which must be assembled according to the set designer's plans.

Safety is crucial. Generally, stagehands have had craft training through the theatre or construction industry. No special educational qualifications are necessary, although GCSEs or their equivalents in English, maths and technical drawing would be useful, as would a clean driving license.

Stage Manager

Stage managers organize outside rehearsals (which usually take place in large public halls). They mark out the rehearsal room floor, order and move props and act as a prompter, so they need to take a careful note of any script changes made during rehearsals. All stage managers have had previous experience of theatre or television.

Transmission Controller

Transmission controllers are responsible for sending a company's programs to the transmitters so that they are broadcast at the advertised times. They work from a mixer console connected to a bank of television screens on which they can monitor the picture that is currently being sent from the station to the transmitter, the picture going from the transmitter to home television screens and the start of the next program to be broadcast. The transmission controller operates the controls to ensure that each program is brought in on cue. The work involves a great deal of planning and combines periods of intense activity with periods during which nothing much happens. They need to be able to think and act quickly in the event of a technical failure as they must not leave viewers with a blank screen.

Most vacancies are filled by internal applicants. Applicants for assistant transmission controller traineeships are usually aged between 18 and 21. They need normal color vision, good hearing and a good general education (most hold A levels or a degree).

Vision Mixer

Television programs are generally made up of pictures that come from a number of different sources, such as a camera in the studio, or maybe pre-recorded videotape or from a slide. Vision mixers receive a signal from the director telling them when to cut from one picture source to another, producing a smooth sequence of images. The vision mixer sits at a console into which all the picture sources are fed. This console can produce special effects, such as 'dissolving' or 'wiping', to make the transition from one scene to another either more interesting or unobtrusive. The job calls for quick reactions and an excellent sense of timing. Trainees are usually recruited from among those already working in television. They need normal color vision, good hearing and a good general education.

Visual Effects Designer

Many of those concerned with the visual side of television - set designers, costume designers, graphic designers, make-up artists - are creating a visual effect or illusion. The services of specialist visual effects designers are called on when a special effect is needed, such as a burning skyscraper or a rocket launch. They may work with actors or stunt performers on a life-size set on which they have started a carefully controlled fire, for example, or they may use scale models. Visual effects designers need a good working knowledge of sculpture, model-making, painting, optics and pyrotechnics, together with an understanding of the principles of physics, chemistry and electricity. Many other visual effects, such as those used in title sequences, or superimposed effects (which, for example, could make dancers look as though they are dancing underwater) are generated electronically. There are few permanent posts with television companies for visual effects designers. Most work freelance or for facility houses which provide services for other film and television companies. Applicants for the post of visual design assistant should have either art college experience or an electronics qualification and, ideally, experience in films or the theatre. Vacancies, however, are rare.

Wardrobe Work

Wardrobe stock-keepers issue, maintain and index costumes for television productions. Wardrobes operatives perform such tasks as assembling and labeling garments and packing them up for dispatch. Supply operatives collect and transport costumes and accessories.
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