Exploring this Job
Reading association publications is an excellent way to learn more about broadcast engineering. Many of the associations listed at the end of this article offer newsletters and other publications to members—some even post back issues or selected articles on their Web sites. You might also consider reading Broadcast Beat (https://www.broadcastbeat.com), an online news source for broadcast engineers and technicians.
Experience is necessary to begin a career as a broadcast engineer, and volunteering at a local broadcasting station is an excellent way to gain experience. Many schools have clubs for persons interested in broadcasting. Such clubs sponsor trips to broadcasting facilities, schedule lectures, and provide a place where students can meet others with similar interests. Local television station technicians are usually willing to share their experiences with interested young people. They can be a helpful source of informal career guidance. Visits or tours can be arranged by school officials. Tours will allow you to see engineers involved in their work. Most colleges and universities also have radio and television stations where students can gain experience with broadcasting equipment.
Exposure to broadcasting technology also may be obtained through building and operating an amateur, or ham, radio and experimenting with electronic kits. Dexterity and an understanding of home-operated broadcasting equipment will aid in promoting success in education and work experience within the field of broadcasting.
Broadcast engineers are responsible for the transmission of radio and television programming, including live and recorded broadcasts. Broadcasts are usually transmitted directly from the station; however, engineers are capable of transmitting signals on location from specially designed, mobile equipment. The specific tasks of the broadcast engineer depend on the size of the television or radio station. In small stations, engineers have a wide variety of responsibilities. Larger stations are able to hire a greater number of engineers and delegate specific responsibilities to each engineer. In small and large stations, however, engineers are responsible for the operation, installation, and repair of the equipment.
The chief engineer in both radio and television is the head of the entire technical operation and must orchestrate the activities of all the technicians to ensure smooth programming. He or she is also responsible for the budget and must keep abreast of new broadcast communications technology.
Larger stations also have an assistant chief engineer who manages the daily activities of the technical crew, controls the maintenance of the electronic equipment, and ensures the performance standards of the station.
Maintenance technicians are directly responsible for the installation, adjustment, and repair of the electronic equipment.
Video technicians usually work in television stations to ensure the quality, brightness, and content of the visual images being recorded and broadcast. They are involved in several different aspects of broadcasting and video recording television programs. Technicians who are mostly involved with broadcasting programs are often called video-control technicians. In live broadcasts using more than one camera, they operate electronic equipment that selects which picture goes to the transmitter for broadcast. They also monitor on-air programs to ensure good picture quality. Technicians mainly involved with recording programs are often called video-recording technicians. They record performances on video using video cameras and recording equipment, then edit together separate scenes into a finished program; they can create special effects by manipulating recording and re-recording equipment. The introduction of robotic cameras, six-foot-tall cameras that stand on two legs, created a need for a new kind of technician called a video-robo technician. Video-robo technicians operate the cameras from a control room computer, using joysticks and a video panel to tilt and focus each camera. With the help of new technology, one person can now effectively perform the work of two or three camera operators.
Engineers may work with producers, directors, and reporters to put together recorded material from various sources. These include networks, mobile camera units, and studio productions. Depending on their employer, engineers may be involved in any number of activities related to editing video into a complete program.