What Does A Video Operator Do On Tour?

What Is a Video Operator?

A video operator is the person on tour that produces any video content requested by the artist. Video operators, sometimes called VJ’s, are most commonly found in the DJ world, but video walls are becoming increasingly popular in other genres as well. 

Skills Required to Be a Video Operator

The primary skills needed to be a successful video operator involve computer literacy. The computer serves as an instrument for this line of work, so a deep understanding of the hardware and software necessary to put the visuals together is integral. Understanding the tool will make troubleshooting a much easier process. It’s also essential for creating original work instead of using visuals that someone else has already produced. Knowing where to find resources is also important. Basically, any skill can be learned from YouTube, and there are a million different tutorials that someone can watch to help tighten up the skillset. An interest in graphic design or photoshop would give a prospective video operator a leg up and is a great starting point for anyone interested in doing this as a career. Organization is also critical because keeping the show files up to date and making sure they’re easy to find can be a full-time job in and of itself.

Daily Tasks of a Video Operator

With DJ world, the schedule is always up in the air (literally), so it’s tough to pinpoint what a typical day would look like on tour. Fly dates are an industry standard, so the day’s scheduling looks different from the touring discussed previously. Going through show files to make sure everything is the most current version is the most important daily task for a video operator. Once a system for keeping all the files organized is established, running through the show with the artist is the next step. This can be done by watching the show cue to cue or using the show from the night before to get feedback from the artist for what improvements to make. 

Once everyone arrives at the venue, it’s time to map the show. This could be an excellent opportunity to practice troubleshooting as it’s not always easy to interface with the venue’s setup. Much like a monitor technician, a video operator works with cues to ensure the show is going according to plan. Cues can either be time stamped or triggered live by the video operator following what’s going on with the artist’s performance. When triggering cues live, it’s beneficial to know the artist’s catalog so the visuals can be better tailored to the performance. 

Video Operator Tips

  • The show doesn’t start when the show starts; it starts when you take the job
  • Listen to feedback and know when to shut up and listen
  • YouTube university is your friend
  • Fake it till you make it, but that doesn’t mean be lazy
  • Record every show, every night to learn what to do better for tomorrow
  • Forget the 24 hour day; think of your day in hourly chunks to work through long travel
  • Use what you’re good at to find your niche

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