Live Event Crew

The Live Event Crew Members

I have spent quite some time working with crews of differing sizes and expertise - what I affectionately call 'The Gang'.  But who are the members and what do they do?

Well to begin, The Crew on a Video Documentary is different to The Crew for a Live Event.  For starters, the Video Documentary is going to be shot in multiple locations (Location Director), have a script (Scriptwriter), will have to keep track of continuity (Continuity Director) and there will probably have to be some thought to costume (Costume Director).  Whereas the Live Event is so much simpler, all you need are a couple of cameras, some audio and 'let it rip!'

Well .... no quite

To Direct or not To Direct

How many times have I seen a good videographer decide that he is also a good director and then try and do both jobs at once - in the majority of cases it simply can't be done.  You may be forced into this position, but work hard to extricate yourself and either get another videographer to help or someone to direct.  This is especially important in the early stages of putting a crew together - I know, the very time when you don't have the luxury of having spare bodies!  But think about it.  A new crew, people not really understanding the jargon, not understanding the requirements of 'the shoot' or of the other members in The Crew - there is an absolute need for someone to give direction.  How can you be working one camera and know what is happening at the other camera stations?  What sort of shots are being taken?  You can't.  So, there MUST be a director (not to be confused with The Producer!)

The Producer

I like to look upon The Producer as Mr FixIt (or even Ms FixIt - in fact my best producers have been women, maybe it is the human interaction).  The producer needs to be a person who pays attention to detail, can juggle many different tasks at once and has an eye for the clock.  The producer is concerned with 'getting the job done', now, on time.  Not worried about artistic quality, shot composition ... but is concerned with more mundane issues like - Is there food for the crew?  The event starts in 30 minutes - have the crew had a break yet?  Lines of communications set up and tested between control and the different stations?  All bags/cases/boxes stowed away after setup?  Complying with Health and Safety?  Obstructing the audience in any way?  The producer will be liaising with the venue, the event organisers, the Satellite People and the public.  A peoples person.

The Director

Jack of All Trades in terms of the technical and artistic composition of the final piece.  Usually in the Control Booth where he can get an overview of all the possible inputs and make decisions concerning shot composition, colour, sound and how shots will sequence.  Before the event starts, he will go through the likely shots with each camera to ensure that there is a good understanding of what a Tight Shot means or a Soft Shot .... this is where the language is firmed up so that when direction is given during the event, the operator understands exactly what is required.

The director, like the producer, needs to have good people skills.  It is so easy to be aloof, not to have time to explain things properly and worse still, not to give credit where credit is well deserved.  One of the operators has a shot lined up before you even call it - thank him!  You call a shot that you have just noticed and the operator has to do some mental and physical gymnastics to deliver - thank her and apologise!  We are all human, and a certain amount of empathy is required.

Video Mixer

Sometimes, The Director is also The Video Mixer - if for no other reason that it cuts down on the possibility of a misunderstanding between the two people!  For most live event productions, this is quite acceptable.

Audio Mixer

My preference here is that someone other than the director (video) handles audio - it is too important and does need to be monitored 100% of the time.  Not only that, the person handling audio should also be the person who sets it up in the first place, checks sound levels 

.............. unfortunately that is all that some people do ...... 

'testing one two one two one two testing testing testing'.  

But that is only scratching the surface, sound goes much deeper - especially if you want to produce a professional product at all levels.  What you should do now, is have a LISTEN to 01 Martin Burns in Concert and I do mean LISTEN.  The sound here didn't happen by accident, it was equalised, balanced - not just a check on levels to ensure that they didn't overdrive and distort.  Now have a listen to 02 The Rambleers - In Studio in Dingle - this was handled by a complete novice with no prior knowledge or understanding of the mixing desk.  I assumed too much and never checked beforehand.  Why?  Didn't have a producer to take care of 'The Production'.  Lesson well learned.  But back to the story, did you notice the professionalism of the first clip adn how it enhanced the entire production?


Here I am thinking Camera Operators - because they are essentially operators working under direction.  Over time, the operators will get an understanding of the types of shots that the director will want and will tend to anticipate.  Also, the director will begin to understand which operators have a flair for which type of shot composition and automatically call shots to suit operators.  The 'prima donna' videographer has no place in The Crew, this is a co-operative endeavour UNDER DIRECTION.

By and large, there will not be any Boom Operators, usually the roving microphones are handled by members of the event staff themselves during the Q&A sessions.  These people are well versed in the layout of the auditorium and are well able to cover all areas without your help.  Leave them to it and simply make sure that you have the various radio frequencies covered beforehand so that you get clear audio from the audience participants.

The Crew Size

Finally - if you are using remotely controlled cameras?  Simple.  Director/Video Mixer, Audio/Producer - A crew of 2 is the minimum achievable, but you will be exhausted!  Go for that extra person, it will be worth it in the end :-)

If you don't have the luxury of remote operation then - 1 person for each camera.  This may sound obvious but some people try to leave some cameras unattended as they are being used for cover shots.  But, if these cameras are tripod mounted then there must be a person positioned beside that camera to ensure that it doesn't topple over or, worse, a person trips over the tripod leg - this person does not need to be a videographer, could be a non-techie, even the producer.  Apart from camera operators, you need a Video Mixer and a Sound Operator.  That is the minimum.

Get out there and put together some dazzling live event programmes!

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