Technicians are people too.... Supposedly
by, 02-09-2009 at 10:10 AM (4178 Views)
My first blog.... ever.
So, we have a studio based broacast with an insert from a separate studio. The scene is a presenter in a dark, atmospheric room, bookcase as background, giving a serious piece to camera. Down in the studio there are two monitors. One connected to the camera and one from the control room, showing what will go to air. In between me and the broadcast image is a technician...
Technicians are usually bright people. Often geeks with a hint of nerd they have a degree in something technical but don't always have an "artistic" side. Having spent the whole morning creating an "aaaah" image I'm a bit perturbed to see that the "air" picture is boring.
Guru "What's happed to the image? There's no shadow detail."
Techie "I've had to correct it to make it broadcastable."
So I walk up to the gallery. I do not storm up in a fit of rage because that's unprofessional but I do keep repeating the mantra "He's only a technician, he's only a technician" en-route. In his dark corner I politely ask "What's the problem?".
"There's no white." He says
"No" I reply "It's supposed to be dark and atmospheric with the talent barely seperated from the gloom."
"But I don't get more than 80% anywhere at all!" He whines.
I see he's looking at his vectorscope. I also notice that the only monitor showing the picture is tucked away in the corner, all the other monitors are on vectors or graphs or waveforms.
"Which one of these is to air?" I ask.
"Er... all of them."
"Oh! So we're broadcasting waveforms? The viewer is sitting watching a white line on a black background is he?"
Here I have to stop before I resort to violence. The techie is only interested in his waveforms. He doesn't see any high notes (in fact, since the presenter was tanned, the highest level was about 75%) so the techie increases the brightness until his monitor shows numbers he likes. He then realises that there's no true black, so he fiddles with that. We end up with a picture where all the shadow detail, created with painstaking delicacy, is lost.
"Where's the shadow detail?" I ask.
"There." He replies, pointing to his A1 monitor. "If you look closely..."
Now these monitors each cost more than a brand new saloon car and, if you look closely, in a darkened control room, in ideal viewing conditions, you can just about make out a few of the old books which the props dept spent days sourcing and setting up. On a Curry's flatscreen in a living room it will be a black patch.
I try explaining that to the techie who fails to comprehend. This may be because he has a £2k television at home which he watches with the curtains drawn but is more likely to be because he doesn't actually watch television, preferring to interact through his computer.
It doesn't matter what I do, I know that the broadcast image will be what the techie wants, not what I created.
Then some tabloid so-called TV critic who has never made a film, video or photo in his life will cleverly and sarcastically comment on the "cheap set consisting of a black cloth background". The producer will have a pop at the props, who will blame the set-dresser who will blame the Lighting Director (me) who will not even try and blame the techie because:
(a) I'm too far up the food chain (I never blame those below me ...Too tacky)
(b) The techie would deny it and blame me anyway.
The grass may be greener to you, but that's only because an awful lot of manure has been spread in my field!