Video Directing 101: Intercom Communication

VideoDirecting101

As with any leadership position, one of the most important aspects of video directing is communication. A director’s first audience is his support personnel and camera ops, and then the world. Simply stated, without clear, consistent and easily understood communication, the video director will not be able to direct.

Here are some ideas for effective communication over intercom (or headsets). Once again, these ideas are geared towards the Church market, but are applicable in other situations as well.

Start with prayer

I have a confession. I usually get right to work and don’t pause to pray at the start of service, but what we are doing is worship. Let’s put first things first.

While serving on technical teams, we are working during the entire service. When prayer is happening in the service, we are not stopping to pray on the media team. We are getting ready for whatever is next. Set the tone by praying first.

Lead communication with an identifier

Don’t: “Come out wide and prepare for a push, camera 3.”
Do: “Camera 3, come out wide and prepare for a push.”

A subtle difference, but identifying your subject will provide clarity and save time.

Refer to positions, not people

Know your camera ops names. (Write them down on a post it if you need to and place it under their monitor in the control room.) But part of the benefit to calling positions, and not names, is that you as a director will develop a better flow. It will help you connect with the task you are doing, instead of thinking about who is running camera that week. Almost everyone I have ever trained, always starts by calling everyone by name and not position.

Here’s the idea I am promoting:

  • Any procedure that helps you stay in the flow of directing is good.
  • Any procedure that interrupts the flow of directing is bad.

If you are thinking about camera 2, looking at camera 2, previewing camera 2, getting ready to punch camera 2 to program; don’t stop that groove and say, “Tim, stand by…” Just say, “Camera 2, stand by…”

Try it and I know you will experience the difference.

Compliment your team

If the team just nailed that last song, let them know. If someone just pulled off a sweet camera move, throw them some cookies. As Lee Cockerell says, “Burn the free fuel.”

This is the exception to the above idea of referring to positions and not people. Compliment by using names.
Generally wait until the move is over, but it is OK to be enthusiastic.

Examples might sound like this:

  • “Nice, NICE, Tim, keep it going.”
  • “Guys, this is looking great, good job!”

Hold information until it is needed

I like to give an overview of the service to the team before we start letting them know if there is a special song, baptism, communion, drama, or anything out of the ordinary. I know they already know, because I know our team reviews the schedule on Planning Center Online first, but going over the game plan helps us focus. You might do this in a green room before service. You might do this over headsets. Many times, I have a quick meeting by the cameras before we get started.

But you don’t have to give them all the details right then.

Most services have down time between events–like a prayer leading into the offering. During that time, for example, I would go over a drama and make sure everyone understood their assignments.

Make sure your team has the information they need, but don’t bombard them with too much information before they need it.

With experience and familiarity with the service order, you will learn the best times for communicating specifics.

Model intercom etiquette

  • Except the director’s microphone, all intercom mics on the video channel should stay off unless talking. And then immediately off again.
  • Identify yourself. I’ve heard this done in different ways, but basically, “This is camera 3. My tripod just broke.” Is much better than, “My tripod just broke.”
  • If you are in the control room, and you have to set down your headset, turn off the mic first. No one wants a loud banging in their ears.
  • Do not yell, cuss, or criticize over headsets. If your team, or a specific operator, really screws up, be a leader and take responsibility. The team I work with is awesome. I believe people do their best when they are properly trained, prepared, engaged and focused. That’s your job as the director. Don’t lash out at others for your failures.

Have fun

Creating good video is hard work. There is no reason it has to be arduous. Keep your operators engaged in the service by talking to them. It is challenging to stay focused on camera if there is no talk on headsets for a prolonged period. Yuck! There is a line between conversation that assists in concentration and breaking concentration with too much conversation.

It is OK to banter, tell jokes, tease and laugh. After all, if you are having fun, that energy will come through in your line cut. Find an appropriate balance, but talking with the team is part of helping everyone stay engaged. I find that the sermon usually supplies ample material for my sarcastic commentary. A word of caution however: there is no excuse for making fun of people and harshly critiquing those on the platform. Don’t do it. It’s not Christ-like and leads the conversation in the wrong direction.

Conclusion

If we want to create a video that communicates well with an audience, we must start with good communication on the media team. Effective communication is essential to effective video. A director’s first audience is his team, and then the world.

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4 thoughts on “Video Directing 101: Intercom Communication

    1. Ha! If you knew how close I was to adding an asterisk after that bullet and posting a footnote that said – “And you too, Brandy!” You would really think it was great! Ugh. Missed opportunity right there.
      You are an asset to the team and a continual example of fortitude and finesse. 🙂

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