Profile: multi-camera director

John Smith talks about his role on The Weakest Link and the skills needed for the job. He talks about the importance of having good spatial awareness, the ability to lead a team and a willingness to learn.

The Weakest Link is shot on five cameras, and John's responsibility is to lead the camera crew, sound crew and production support staff. 

"At least 75% of the work is done before you sit in front of the monitors." – John Smith

Multi-camera shoots are commonly used for sports and news programmes, soap operas, talk shows, game shows, some sitcoms and live events where action cannot be repeated or replicated. These may be studio or location based.

During pre production the multi camera director will plan camera positions and shots. During the shoot the director leads the team and is in charge of the personnel on the studio floor and in the gallery. This includes the floor managers, camera and sound teams, production assistant and vision mixer.

John believes the main requirements for a multi-camera director are patience, enthusiasm and good spatial awareness. The director is often sitting in a gallery a long way from the cameras, so must be able to envisage how each camera is positioned in relation to others, and what shots each is able to get. Good communication skills are also crucial. The team in the studio can only hear the director’s voice over talkback. So the director must be able to communicate quickly and clearly what is needed, while also encouraging all of them to work together as a team.

On a long-running programme like The Weakest Link there is an established pattern and style of direction to follow. John has five cameras to achieve the look of the show, but acknowledges that one of the secrets of good direction is in having the confidence to try new things.