The second and third day on work experience at Sky Production Services was filled with helpful advice on how to get a job and progress in the TV industry.
Tuesday 8th July
A runner came to meet us in the morning and he took us to where we needed to be. He explained that the pace of change at Sky is very fast. Technology and the studios and sets are constantly being improved in order to compete with other companies and so the staff must be able to learn new systems and techniques quickly. He gave us our first tip of the day:
“To succeed in your job at Sky you need to be adaptable and always up for a new challenge”.
First on our itinerary was a quick lesson in sound and we joined the team in the production gallery for Sky Sports News. The sound room is separate from the main production gallery and there were two sound technicians. On the wall were about 25 different TV screens showing multiple different camera angles and content. On the desk beneath these were more buttons than I’ve ever seen in my life. Needless to say, it was intimidating! However, both of the guys were chilled and despite the show being live they were happy to chat to us and take time to explain what they were doing.
Through a huge window you could see into the main production gallery where the director, associate producer, vision mixer, producer and co-producer plus graffix, autocue and lighting staff were all looking very focused on the live news. In the studio the presenters and floor assistant had head sets (or ear pieces) with talk back enabling them to hear the directors comments.
Our second opportunity of the day was to spend an hour with M who was the floor assistant for Sky Sports News in the Studio. She gave us head sets to hear the talk back and let us look at the inews software detailing the running order and each story with the script etc. M had become a floor assistant after her work experience placement and highly recommended applying for a job after we graduated. She has been at Sky a year and said she loved being able to shadow other people in their roles meaning there was opportunity to learn and progress within the company.
Her top tips for floor assisting or managing were:
1. Always communicate and pass on information
2. Don’t be afraid to double check details if unsure!
3. Be aware of what’s coming up. For example, you need to know when guests are on, when presenters change over and which equipment/ studio locations are required.
4. When the show is live don’t approach the presenters or guests. Even if a video is playing there is risk that it could cut out and you would be in the shot!
After spending an hour in the studio we then had a tour before our lunch break. Our tour guide was over flowing with enthusiasm and had brilliant stories about working with David Beckham, £10,000 bikes, golf studios and glamorous award ceremonies! He had some words of wisdom for us too:
“Watch more Sky TV! Especially Soccer AM!”
Our backs were a little achey after a morning of lots of walking and standing up. We were very read to sit down and have a break by 12.30! The onsite cantine has a variety of tasty things to choose from. If I wasn’t dedicated to pre-wedding-healthy-eating then I could have gone wild. (Only 6 weeks until D & I tie-the-knot!)
My favourite part of the day was working in Sky News. I must’ve watched this channel a million times and so it was exciting to actually be there and see it in reality. We sat alongside the camera man who showed us the remote control cameras and explained how they worked. We also got to see the presenters deliver their stories live from the desk in the centre of the room.
The day ended with experiencing vision mixing and then graffix. Both these roles required quick reactions to the directors commands as they were making sure that the live TV looked finished off to Sky’s impressive standards. We were given another bit of advice:
Show enthusiasm while working at Sky, come in on your days off to shadow someone in a position you are interested in, and you will be given further opportunities to advance your career.
I was feeling inspired yet tired by the end of the day and reflected on everything we’d learnt as I took a long train ride back home to Brighton. My note book was filled with messy scribbles and I read through it all to refresh my memory. Once home, I met friends and watched Germany absolutely smash Brazil in the world cup semi-final. Definitely needed an early night and a good sleep before heading back to Osterley for day three!
Wednesday 9th July
Content Services is something I know much less about and in the morning, as I looked down the list of things we’d be doing, I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly sure what they were! “EPG, Ingest and VTR”?
The day started with an explanation from D about how Sky Studios is aiming to be tapeless. They want everything to be saved as computer files on the MAM (media asset management). I think this is a ginormous computer server where all video clips, programmes and movies are stored. This way there doesn’t have to be huge libraries of tapes. All Sky Sports content is no longer filmed on tapes and slowly other genres and companies are changing their methods too. There was however a library of over a million older tapes in another building!
The library was interesting as you saw how things were logged and archived. M showed us how you could type “Oscar Pistorius” into the search box and absolutely every video clip they own, featuring him, would be brought up. Everything needs to be archived incase something comes up in the news and visual content is needed to enhance the broadcast.
To work in the library you need to stay focussed and show attention to detail when imputing data.
In the Stills department we saw the photo studios and learnt how that department is responsible for sourcing, storing and distributing still imagery for press, magazines etc. They get requests for images intended for broadcast. For example, if Sky News needs a specific photo of a disaster in a developing country, the stills department will check photography agencies such as Getty, Rex or P.A and source that specific photo for them.
In QC which stands for quality control we met C whose team watches everything that Sky has on its channels. They watch and listen closely for any problems. She said
“You might think we are just being paid to watch TV, but actually you have to step back from the story in order to assess the quality of each show or movie. Sky’s ethos BELIEVE IN BETTER is not just a commercial phrase, we have extremely high standards for our output”.
C has worked for Sky for 11 years and told funny stories about assessing horror movies in 3D and trying not to be disgusted. My Bloody Valentine was one she couldn’t finish and had to ask her colleague to do! They have a technical specification which they adhere to and make sure other production companies do also. If something is wrong with a movie or TV show, Sky will not transmit it, the fault has to be rectified.
The media coordinators work with the acquired and commissioned shows, they ensure there is a smooth process from receiving it to transmission. They also make sure 80% of shows are subtitled, for those who struggle to hear, and 20% has audio description for the visually impaired.
The day ended with Ingest and EPG which stands for electronic programme guide (aka your Sky TV planner). Ingest put all video tapes on the MAM. They can then be made into DVDs or the files can be shared within the company.
The last tip of the day was:
If you get a job here, sign up to the mentor scheme. Having someone invest in you who has worked for the company longer, and is further along in their career, is a privilege.