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Become a Control Room Operator

Written by SportsTVJobs.com Contributing Writer: Brian Hegner, ESPN Director II

So you want to be a Sports TV Director, Producer or Video Editor? To advance to one of those jobs you’ll have to succeed at one or more of the following Control Room Operator jobs. The more successful you are at displaying your skills, the faster you’ll move your way up the Television Production career ladder.

Sub-Control/Central Record: All of the video that is fed into a Sports Network or Local TV Channel passes through a recording center. There are varying position titles for people that run the machines, either tape decks or video servers, to ingest video. Sub Control, Central Record, Ingest or Satellites all have the same essential job requirements, but are labeled differently depending on the structure of the Sports Network or Local TV Channel.

A talented Sub-Control Operator has to be detail oriented and able to adjust video and audio levels to make all incoming video look and sound its best. Just imagine, the Sportscast is nearing its beginning and there is late, extremely important video coming in from out of town. If a Sub-Control Operator is unable to get the video to look and sound right, the quality of the Sportscast will suffer.

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This is a great job for a recently graduated student to begin understanding the workflow and pace of live television production. Some people find they love working in television, but aren’t ready for the extreme speed associated with many jobs. Sub-control is a great department to work in because it has less urgency, but great importance.

Playback Operator: Playback Operators are responsible for loading and playing all of the video elements for a Sportscast.edit deck video playback This is done with tape or on a digital server – same concept either way. During a Sportscast there are always multiple changes, a Playback Operator has to listen and make appropriate changes on the fly. If a Playback Operator makes a mistake, the wrong video will appear on-air and the Sportscast will look ridiculous. No one is happy when the Sportscast looks ridiculous

In this position, management will notice if the Operator has what it takes to be part of a live Sportscast. If a Playback Operator has trouble in this role, it is assumed they will have trouble down the line, especially if they are looking to continue in a technical role.

Stage Manager/Floor Director: Some Sports Networks or Local TV Channels use the Stage Manager/Floor Director position as one of the first full-time spots on the crew. A Floor Director is responsible for everything that happens on the studio floor: keeping cameras from running into each other; cueing anchors to talk; helping the studio crew get ready for each show.

Being a Floor Director is the first chance to demonstrate leadership skills and the personality to take charge. Don’t miss the chance to show leadership potential, trust me people will notice.

Master Control Operator: The bigger the facility, the bigger job being a Master Control Operator will be. A Master Control Operator is responsible for everything that gets sent out to the broadcast audience. This includes commercials, live programs and taped programming. A Master Control Operator may or may not have someone supervising their work; many times they are given a schedule of programming and are expected to execute it.

Many people find this a career position. A Master Control Operator can get a pretty good schedule and the responsibility is fairly high. A Master Control Operator will work very closely with the Broadcast Engineering department; so many people transition into Broadcast Engineering after a stint in Master Control.

Teleprompter Operator: A Teleprompter Operator controls the display of the scripts for the Sportscasters to read on air. Job requirements may also include running scripts to Sportscasters or Studio Producers. A Teleprompter Operator should be able to perform these tasks after only one hour of training. This role must be taken seriously, if someone can’t do this job effectively they will lose the confidence of their superiors and not be deeemed worthy of advancement.

A Teleprompter Operators work will directly impact the Sportscast; if they are too slow or can’t adjust on the fly they can make a Sportscaster look foolish on air. Not a smart career move.

Camera Operator/Robo-Cam Operator: Being a Cameraman has a direct, hands-on impact on the Sportscast. control room operator cameraman Usually an entry-level position to start, this can become a career for some. A Cameraman must be able to follow instructions and understand how the camera functions in order to succeed. Sometimes robotic cameras are used in a studio as a cost saving measure. Knowing how to operate robotic cameras is a plus, but not something to waste too much time mastering if this position is just a stepping stone to other positions.

Sometimes robotic cameras will have a mind of their own, moving in a direction the operator didn’t plan for. It causes panic during a Sportscast, but makes for great blooper tapes.

Minimum Requirements: Control Room Operator

  • Associate degree in Broadcasting or Television, Video Production
  • Relevant work experience, including internships or college television stations
  • Basic technical understanding of equipment. You don’t need to be a Broadcast Engineer but having a basic foundation of how your equipment works will help greatly.
  • Basic understanding of Television Production workflow
  • Continuing education and classwork to keep up with rapidly changing technology

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