In the most recent post in this series, we heard from Peter Demetris. This time, we catch up with multi-camera Director/Vision Mixer, Del Brown.
What are some of your biggest multi-camera directing achievements?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great people. Directing the likes of Joan Rivers, Joan Collins, David Hasselhoff and live music bands including Soul II Soul and Bastille. One of my first jobs when I became freelance over 10 years ago was to be the launch director for ‘Express Shopping Channel’. Six months later I was asked to launch another start up channel called ‘Jackpot TV’. This was intense, hard work, but very exciting, working with an entirely new crew and creating a new format from scratch. Other big achievements include creating my own short course teaching ‘Live Directing and Vision Mixing’, which led to me becoming a university sessional lecturer. Working on the London 2012 Olympics was another great moment.
What makes a good multi-camera director?
Remaining calm under pressure, having a relaxed, confident, in-control personality. The multi-camera director is the captain of the ship and if things start going wrong during a live show, the worst thing you can do is let the crew realise you’re inwardly panicking. A warm, friendly personality and a good sense of humour also go a long way. This can help relax a tense presenter and engage a tired crew.
Having a background in technical operations enables the director to have a good overall understanding of his or her crew and their roles. Being able to confidently speak their language and understand their limitations, results in a crew that feel relaxed in your company.
Being presenter-aware, reading their body language and anticipating their needs whilst they are in front of the camera, also helps make a good director. Presenters aren’t able to tell you what is wrong or tell you what they need when the red light is on, so a director that is keeping a close eye on them the whole time will quickly gain the respect and trust of the talent.
Being concise and tight with time is another key skill. A director that can bring everything together in as few takes as possible, avoiding tiring out both talent and crew.
What’s the worse thing that’s happened whilst you’ve been directing a live multi-camera production?
I’ve been fairly lucky in my career so far and not had anything go terribly wrong. In my early days of directing, I’ve had situations when cameras have died on-air during a live show. Microphones have failed half way through a live interview. VT machines haven’t run, or we’ve accidentally played out the wrong VT. As you get more experienced, you learn how to cope, avoid or best cover these tricky unpredictable technical problems.
But one event that does remain with me was when I was directing a live show and the presenter was talking to a viewer during a live phone in. The subject matter wasn’t particularly sensitive, but something the caller said obviously touched a nerve with our host who suddenly became overcome and burst into tears live on-air. My first instinct was to take the presenter out of vision and quickly go to a break. The pro that she was, during the break she touched up her make up and went on with the show.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to become a multi-camera director?
Drawing on my own experience, I would advise anyone who wants to get into multi-camera directing to learn their craft in the technical roles first. Make sure you’ve actually operated a studio camera, mixed live studio sound, experienced live racking as a vision controller and have a basic knowledge of lighting. Get some experience of editing, putting pictures together, working out shots, see what transitions work and what don’t. These are all good skills to draw on when sat in a gallery looking at five studio cameras, deciding the best way to shoot an interview or live band.
A good broad mix of experience will give you the confidence when thrown in the deep end and asked to direct a subject or genre you’re not overly familiar with. I remember the first time I was asked to vision mix live sports, it was new to me and I wasn’t sure how well I’d cope. But within minutes, I quickly realised the subject matter wasn’t important, it was all about delivering a professional clean show.
A thin line separates arrogance and confidence and the multi-camera director will get the best out of their talent and crew if he or she walks on the right side of it.
In the next post in this series, we talk to multi-camera director, Scott Imren.