Behind the Scenes: Camera Operators Make the Broadcast Come Alive
These professionals have Choir “uniforms” but they don’t look a thing like the men and women in the loft. They are dressed in black. You won’t see them center stage although you occasionally might see them slipping between rows on stage or moving the jib from one place to another. The camera crew for Music & the Spoken Word and other Choir broadcasts is very much a part of the success of the final product—behind the scenes.
Their work begins with setting cameras and the “jib” (a large crane with a camera at the end) and then meeting with the director to review “shot sheets” which are never the same week to week. “If you were to look at our sheets,” explains Glen Fisk, jib operator who has been shooting Music & the Spoken Word since 1997, “you would see a brief description of the shot and the length of time between shots.” Fisk describes their directives as “camera talk” like “PLT” (“Pan and Tilt” meaning to create a diagonal shot) or “Large Men Push” (which doesn’t refer to the size of the choir members but the size of the shot) or “Airwolf” (a flying wide shot over the Orchestra and Choir).
There aren’t many live TV shows left and most of those will usually have at least a couple of rehearsals before a broadcast. The Choir has just one. So on Sunday morning those operating the cameras are listening to several people on their headsets from the director to the technical director, the music reader to the producer to other camera operators. They will meet before and after rehearsal to resolve problems like catching other cameramen instead of singers on screen or the jib flying through shots, says Fisk.
The equipment is the most current on the market and camera operators are required to have five years professional experience in live broadcast for just an entry position. Some on the crew of Music & the Spoken Word have as many as 30 years service on the program.