Camera Calling Alternative

Approximate 3 minute read

One of the best skills you can develop as a live video director is the ability to clearly and concisely communicate your wishes to the rest of the crew. The pressure of a live performance or a church service – in the moment – or “calling the show,” makes things that much more stressful for directors as well as potentially unclear for the show technical staff listening for instruction.

If you come out of a legitimate theater or AV background (as I did) you may have picked up habits calling a show that may work fine in a scripted environment but are inefficient for live multi-camera video applications.

In legitimate theater or corporate AVL a stage manager’s “call” may sound something like this:

“Long warn Follow Spots and Music cue.”
[Then]
“Warn Follow Spots Stage Left Entrance and Music cue #5.”
[Then]
“Stand by Follow Spots Stage Left Entrance and Music cue #5.”
[Then]
“Follow Spots Stage and Music cue #5, GO!”

A live video director using a similar technique might sound something like this:

“Camera #2, stand by to pick-up Pastor Guido Sarducci camera-right.”
[Then]
“Camera #2, Pastor Sarducci will be coming out with his cat “Chairman Meow” cover wide please. Camera #1 stand by for a close-up of Meow.”
[Then]
“Stand by two … dissolve two.”
“Stand by one, cut one.”
“Stand by two, cut two.”
“Stand by three, cut three.”

As you can see … this is quite wordy. The more words you use to say what needs to be said, the more people need to listen to, understand and execute on.

A few years ago I was on a show with director Ron De Moreas and he totally changed my thought process regarding calling cameras. His show call is ostensibly completely backwards from what I was used to coming out of a theater background. When I asked Ron about it he said it dawned on him after some time that the “normal” way of calling cameras is just terribly inefficient. He thought … there must be a better way of communicating to the crew what you are thinking, all in a live, spontaneous environment, especially when flying by the seat of your pants; still giving the crew enough warning as to what may occur and then a concise command exactly when to execute a cue.

What Ron came up with was a simple variation which (if the crew understand what you are doing) can be very effective.

Instead of calling “stand-bys,” “warns,” and then “go/transition” cues, Ron begins all camera calls with a camera number. For example Ron will simply say, “three.” Implicit in his statement “three” is the warning. If you hear your camera number the Director may be coming to you. His next statement is either “cut (take),” or “dissolve,” which is essentially “the go” cue for the Technical Director operating the production switcher. By limiting his speech to “one” followed by “cut (take),” or “dissolve” in just two brief words Ron has given a warning as to where he is going and then the actual go/transition cue.

Now, if Ron is scanning the monitor wall and changes his mind from say camera (3) to (1) and then finally decides on (2), his call may sound like, “three… one … two … cut!” If the team hears two camera numbers back to back they know the Director has changed his mind. After a cut/take or dissolve call the next number uttered is “a warn.” Simple.

Are you saying too much on PL? Are operators getting confused? Try Ron’s technique out … but let the crew know in a meeting beforehand what you are doing. It will not take them long for them to catch on.