Engineering manager

Sound desk

"It's essential to be a team player."

Name: Hugh Davison

Job title: Engineering manager

Your job?
My job is to interpret what the production team wants. They will come to me with a list of facilities and ideas they would like to feature in the outside broadcast.

I come up with a way of doing them feasibly and cheaply. You have to interpret what people want relative to what you can give them due to financial constraints.

On the day of a large OB (Outside Broadcast) I arrive with the riggers. I ensure the infrastructure is set up before the crew arrive. The crew will arrive and I'll make sure all the engineering equipment needed, i.e. hoists, cameras and scaffolding, are there and set up.

If I've prepared properly then I should have relatively little to do throughout the OB. If things crop up - rain or cameras in wrong positions - I'll take care of it. I simply oversee proceedings and make sure that equipment is set up safely.

This means ensuring that all equipment has been passed fit by the relevant bodies beforehand. I'll have a form saying the scaffolding is safe. The hoist operator will give me a form telling me his equipment is safe and in the correct place.

What I'm doing is going around the facility and problem solving. If someone has a problem with a camera or a lens, they'll suggest to me what they'd like done and I'll sort that problem for them.

It takes between two and three hours to set up the OB. You have to make sure the sound is working, the cameras are working, all before the production team arrive. Everything has to be checked and ready. I'll co-ordinate that.

When the production team arrive they'll do their checks before transmission. If they're not happy with something they'll bring it to my attention. If they want a camera moved slightly or a lens changed I'll make sure that's done.

I'm a point of contact for the satellite company and the presentation company. If they've got any problems they'll ring me. Again, I'll be problem solving during the match.

At the end of the transmission I oversee the equipment being removed from the site. I make sure this is done correctly and safely so equipment is in working order and people don't have accidents. I make sure everything leaves site on time and that nothing is left behind.

Why this job?
You get to go lots of places that nobody else goes. That's true with any job in the BBC or in the independent sector. You will go to places that the general public do not go to. I've run around the roof of the Millennium Stadium many times. Some people would hate that and some people would dream of it.

We get invited to the most fantastic places. I've been around the bedrooms of Windsor Castle when we were putting a camera on the roof to film the royal wedding.

I went to Patagonia and Buenos Aires for the rugby tour in 2006 for two weeks. We spent two weeks out there with the Welsh rugby team. We were in the same hotel as them. There are people who'd love to do that and its just part of our job.

You get to know the players and they're some of the most charming people you'll meet. That is one of the most fantastic aspects of the job - you go places that nobody else will ever go.

How do I get a job like this?
What they wanted just before I joined was a degree, A levels and GCSE's. I left school after O Levels and I knew I couldn't work in the BBC, even though I wrote to them at the age of 11 asking if I could work here.

All my life I wanted to work for the BBC. I did two years in the theatre and saw a job advert in the paper. I applied and did a three month training course to see if I was of the right calibre. Fortunately I was and that's how I started.

I started in sound as a sound assistant and then became a sound supervisor. I worked for breakfast time and newsnight in London. I also worked for the film unit doing films.

I became an engineering manager after eight years of being a senior sound supervisor. The BBC gives you lots of opportunities to work in different areas which is fantastic.

Nowadays if you're trying to work in sports TV they want you to have shown an interest in the job that you're applying for. If you want to work with cameras they don't want to see your holiday snaps from last week. They want to see what you've done over the past five years.

If you want to work in sound they'd expect you to have tried hospital radio or maybe done PA setup (public annoucement) in school. You need to show a lifetime interest in the job and not just a faint idea of working in the area. The main thing is to show commitment to the job whether that be work experience or a masters course, etc.

You need to be dedicated. A cameraman will have to be up a 34 metre hoist in the wind and rain. You have to be pretty determined to do that. The two main ingredients are commitment and dedication. You've always got to be prepared. We want people with a lot of common sense, a lot of determination and commitment.

A major part of the OB is teamwork. My background is in sound. I rely on the cameramen, vision engineers and video tape engineers. Over the past year they've been incredibly helpful to me. I don't know all the answers to the questions I get, we work as a team. We couldn't work in the OB industry without working as a team. It's essential to be a team player.


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