Last month I talked about how the audio and video engineers undeservedly get the title of some of the most under-appreciated positions in the broadcast control room.
This month we take a look at two more positions that are also perceived to be “down the totem pole” in a video production, the graphics and teleprompter operator. All four of these positions might not be the most glamorous job in the control room but they are critical to the success of a broadcast.
On most student video productions the graphics and teleprompter operator positions are often thought of as “throw-away” or “rookie” positions. It shouldn’t be that way. These two critical positions can cause a production to “crash and burn” fast, or at the very least make it look like most people’s perception of a student production, amateurish. If the teacher doesn’t view them as “throw-away” positions, neither will the student.
The most important characteristic of a graphics person is attention to detail. Bottom line, there can be no misspellings. Any word spelled wrong will stick out like a sore thumb when the production is sent to air. In the hustle and bustle of a control room it’s very easy to not see the misspelled words or for anyone else on the production team to catch them. There is a sign in our District’s Public Information Office that sums it up: “Details, Details, Details”
Even more important than the text information in your graphics are person’s names. Always check and double-check them. If the guys name is John Smith, it could be spelled Jon Smith or John Smyth. If you are not 100% sure, ask someone, call them or look it up.
Other important characteristics of a graphics person are organizational skills and being able to think on their feet. Sometimes lower thirds (name, title or location graphics at bottom of the screen keyed over video) are only on screen for a few seconds. If the operator doesn’t have the right graphic called up, that moment is gone. Worst-case scenario, the wrong graphic gets put up over a person.
Always try to get a second or third set of eyes to check all graphics before airtime. Best case, this would be the producer of the show since they are ultimately responsible for what hits the air.
A graphics operator should also have very advanced technical skills. He should be familiar with the software package and have some basic design skills. In most productions, they would be filling in templates, but there are many times graphics will be need to be created from scratch. They should also be very familiar with video “safe zones,” mainly the safe title area. No text should be outside of this area …none.
The most important characteristic of the teleprompter operator is the ability to focus. Even though they may be wearing an intercom headset, they must be able to focus their attention on what the on-air talent is reading. This is especially true with inexperienced student anchors and hosts who seem to rely heavily on the teleprompter.
The teleprompter operator must keep up with the anchor by constantly slowing down and speeding up the scrolling of the text. The teleprompter speed setting is not set it and forget it. A rule of thumb I use in our broadcasts is to keep what the anchor is saying about three-quarters of the way up the prompter screen. The brain reads ahead of the anchors mouth. Never let what the anchor is reading get to the bottom of the screen. If so, alert the transportation authorities, there’s about to be a train wreck!
The teleprompter operator also needs to do some pre-production work. They should at the very least have a show rundown and compare what’s loaded into the prompter with the rundown. If there are any discrepancies, alert the producer and the anchor.
No matter what the job, it’s Details, Details, Details!
Albert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005. The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools. The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.
Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years. As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009. He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 5.