My Job

I've done most technical things in television, from fixing broken radio microphones to telecine operation and videotape editing.

Currently, I specialise in video tape operation, with associated simple editing, and quality assessment (which generally involves trying to convince programme distributors that the copy of the programme - or even series! - is unacceptable to us because of...(insert list of defects here)). Because my employers are big on multi-skilling (which seems to me to be a way of reducing staff numbers to save money), I also have a sideline in Transmission control, which entails controlling the on-air look of a television channel, amending the schedule as required, and general tidy presentation.

Back with video tape, the distributor supplies a copy of the programme, hopefully on a tape format we are equipped to play, in his preferred style as regards audio tracks, timecode at start of picture, closed up commercial breaks, etc. This does not match our requirements in about 99% of cases, and in any case putting a distributor master copy in the robotic cart machine for transmission is not a good idea, since the possibility of damage is not negligible.

Thus, we copy all master tapes for air, making the copy in our preferred style - editing out breaks, audio on all tracks, removing foreign subtitles over dialogue, etc., on our standard tape format - Sony Betacam SP. That copy is then viewed to choose the points at which commercial breaks will be taken, as required by scheduling interests (lots of breaks with lots of advertisements) and licencing requirements (maximum of x number of breaks per hour, breaks no more than y minutes long, gap between centre breaks in programmes no less than 20 minutes, and so on.....).

Each programme has to have subtitles prepared in each of our client languages (at the moment 3, although this might change. If it does I'll be among the last to know) These subtitles are electronically generated against the running time of the programme at air time, using a timecode that uniquely identifies every frame of the video. (this is another case where our standard differs from that of most distributors). Preparation of the subtitles is outsourced to a specialist company, so we provide scripts and VHS tapes of the programme to them, and get back a computer-readable file, which is loaded onto our internal systems, checked against the programme, and then transmitted.

Not infrequently, a distributor master has defects which we consider are unacceptable as regards quality, or the recording is defective. Defective recordings are generally fixed with a new master, but quality can be an uphill struggle, particularly with the Americans, whose technical standards differ from ours, and as a result, stylistic conventions make the programme unacceptable. This is generally unfixable - we're in a sellers' market, and often get the reply "No-one else has complained."

In addition to all the above, I'm often first port of call (aka "Geoff, Help!!!") for computer-related problems, with such things as e-mail, or problems with the cart machines, which are computer controlled (and not Y2K compliant!!!)

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