Unscripted TV

Multi-camera director

Also known as: director

Multi-camera director

What does a multi-camera director do?

Multi-camera directors are at the heart of a large studio or outside broadcast (OB) production. They can work on big-budget programmes, either in the studio or outside, sometimes with as many as 30 cameras or more. When the red light goes on for recording or live transmission, multi-camera directors are in the gallery in front of a huge bank of monitors, running the programme from moment to moment. They direct the camera crew, guide the lighting and sound team and set the pace and style of the production. They are responsible for the look and feel of a programme.

They work closely with the producer, who’s responsible for the editorial content of the programme, and the vision mixer who cuts the shots as the director instructs. It’s a bit like being the conductor of an orchestra.Arguably, their most important job is to bring out the best in the presenters. The presenters need to feel confident that the director will be able to support them throughout the programme and steer them through any tricky moments, especially if rehearsal time is tight.

For fast-turnaround daily magazine programmes, directors often have very little time to plan ahead and may only brief the craft team on the day of recording. But for a high-profile entertainment show or a completely new series, the director should be able to meet all the key members of the team before the day of the recording, have time to go through the running order and the script in detail and work out all the camera shots. Having a well-prepared camera script saves an enormous amount of studio time and should result in a far more polished programme.

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What’s a multi-camera director good at?

  • Multi-tasking: be simultaneously across multiple camera shots, lighting and sound issues, whilst liaising with the vision mixer, producer and presenters
  • Staying calm under pressure: be creative during a live transmission, make good decisions within milliseconds, problem solve in the moment
  • Artistic vision: be able to envisage and establish the look, feel, tone and pace of a production
  • Leadership: communicate the artistic vision to the crew, make quick, effective decisions, give instructions clearly, make good judgement calls, have a good understanding of all crew roles
  • Photography: have a good eye and understanding of composition, light, colour, texture, focus and framing, have an in-depth understanding of how all camera and lighting equipment works

Who does a multi-camera director work with?

Multi-camera directors work closely with the designer, lighting director and camera supervisor to produce a studio setting that works both artistically and technically. The relationship between the director and the camera supervisor is very important, as the camera supervisor advises the director on the cameras and ensures what’s being envisaged is within budget. Multi-camera directors also brief the sound supervisors. When in the gallery, they work closely with the vision mixer, producer and presenters.

How do I become a multi-camera director?

Multi-camera director is a very senior role. Many multi-camera directors take their first steps into directing on long-running magazine programmes, children’s programmes and daytime talk shows, where they learn their craft and build up many hours in the production gallery. From there they can move on to Saturday night entertainment shows or major outside broadcasts. Just as in other areas of broadcasting, they will soon begin to build a reputation for a particular genre, so some directors go on to work on sporting events, like Wimbledon, and others on music festivals, like Glastonbury.

A good route to this role is to start as a runner and then become a camera assistant. You can then work your way up to camera operator and go on to become a director before becoming a multi-camera director. Another route is to start off as a runner and then become a script-supervisor, then vision-mixer and then multi-camera director.

At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in any subject you enjoy, but art, art and design, photography, media studies, English or film studies are all useful.

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:

  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
  • Aim Awards Diploma in Creative and Digital Media
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Production
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Visual Effects
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Photography)

 Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. There aren’t apprenticeships for directing as such.  However, as a way into the industry, it could be useful to take an apprenticeship with a TV broadcaster with view to working your way into directing from there. To find out more, go to what’s an apprenticeship?. Go to where can I find an apprenticeship? to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region, or approach companies directly. Find the major broadcaster schemes using the apprenticeships filter in information and resources. 

Get a degree:
You don’t need a degree to be a multi-camera director, but you might want one. If you want a degree that is particularly related to the TV industry, have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in unscripted TV, or search for ‘directing unscripted’. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the unscripted TV industry.

Get work experience:
Try to get work experience by writing to local production companies and asking if they offer any. Keep an eye out for work experience opportunities at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Sky.

More specifically, you may wish to consider:

Network:
Get to know people in the unscripted TV industry by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest in and knowledge of the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.

Network online:
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making unscripted TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales ScreenNorthern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.

Search for jobs:
Research unscripted TV production companies that you’d like to work for and watch the programmes they make. Regularly check their websites and job listings websites to see if they are advertising for roles. You can also send in a short speculative letter with your CV to the production manager. Register your CV on websites like The Talent Manager, which is used by most broadcasters and independent production companies when looking for staff. StartinTV offers tips on creating your CV and attending interviews, as well as some advice for your first day working in TV.

You might also be interested in…

Being a series director or vision mixer in unscripted TV. Or you might be interested in being a director of photography in film and TV drama.

Further resources