With thousands of hours of live television directing to his name, Del Brown has a career that spans 20 years. Directing and vision mixing live music, magazine shows, news and sports. Del has consulted on new channel launches and directed large scale live events for RedBull, Blackberry, Porsche and Facebook. In 2007, he founded his own short course in Live Directing and Vision Mixing based at Trickbox’s Tower Bridge TV Studios. Del also finds time to teach the next generation of young talent through his work in four universities, including Ravensbourne.
We managed to pin Del down for ten minutes to find out his quick fire do’s and don’ts when directing live TV. Here’s what he had to say…
How has the industry changed in the past 20 years?
When I started making TV programmes, the industry was based around old school learning, old school equipment and old school practices. There were separate directors, vision mixers and gallery PAs. Over the years the industry has become multi-skilled to reduce costs and in recent years, web streaming has become common practice, which means the whole dynamics of TV have changed. The principles from those earlier years still exist but they’ve evolved and adapted for smaller broadcasters with smaller crews enabling them to achieve the same result. We’re still making television, but we’re now distributing to mediums such as smart phones, social feeds and websites like YouTube as opposed to traditional main stream TV channels.
What are your top dos and dont’s as a director?
Do be calm under pressure, be in control of the crew and be swan like at all times. A very important skill as a director is to make sure that the crew don’t think you’re losing it.
Do be nice to everyone because even the young kids that are making your tea as a runner will end up sat next to you producing or editing the show or working as the channel controller. I’ve seen that happen frequently. Ideally it’s not something you need to work at, it’s just part of your personality but it’s good to be mindful of that fact. The people growing in the industry around you will be key players in a few years’ time.
Do make sure that you’ve had the opportunity to try everyone’s job at some stage in your career because that will help you be a stronger and better director. It gives you an understanding of their limitations, workflow and their responsibilities.
Don’t turn down any new work because you never know where it’s going to lead. If a new job comes your way and you’ve got a social engagement in the diary, cancel that if you possibly can. Don’t turn down any new opportunities.
Don’t ever think that you don’t need to learn the new kit that comes into the studio because within five minutes everyone’s learnt that skill and you’re a dinosaur.
Which types of jobs do you enjoy the most?
I like the ones where I’m directing and vision mixing because I like to be in control of the crew and the show and I also like to press the buttons. I really enjoy working on light entertainment and music shows. One of my favourite jobs of all time was when Trickbox asked me to direct and vision mix the turning on of the London Oxford Street Christmas lights. That year Kylie Minogue was on stage and we turned up with a jib and a full crew and Trickbox handed it over to me and said, “off you go Del”. I turned up in the morning and made a camera plan, rehearsed and then we did the show. Kylie came out and pressed the button and everyone loved it.
You run a two-day short course where you train delegates on the basics of vision mixing through to multi-camera live directing. Can you tell us about it?
Working in Trickbox’s fully equipped, multi-camera Tower Bridge TV Studios with a full crew gives delegates the chance to learn the combined skills required to both direct and vision mix live studio output, unrehearsed and unscripted. Techniques covered include: understanding the vision mixing desk, keying, layering, ME banks, transitions etc., directing multi-cameras, understanding camera angles, working with talent and using correct terminology. It offers a balance of theory and plenty of opportunities for hands-on training.