What does a grams operator do?
Grams operators play in any music or sound effects that are required when recording a studio show or outside broadcast. They work on a variety of programmes, from entertainment to sport. They report to the sound supervisor and take direction from the director. ('Grams' is short for gramophone, which is what originally would have been used to play sound cues during the recording or transmitting of live television shows.)
They prepare the sound files for use and follow the script and the director’s instructions on when to cue them. Some sound effects, like a contestant’s buzzer on a game show, will be rigged into the grams operator’s equipment so they can control the sound that comes out when it is triggered.
They need to know how to operate bespoke hardware, edit efficiently and work with MIDI and GPI software to enable sound cue relays from the vision mixer’s desk and graphics machines. Grams operators are either staff in studios with long-term or returning shows, sports units or freelance.
What’s a grams operator good at?
- Knowledge of sound effects and music: recommend or suggest appropriate material, have access to new effects and music, collate a rich and varied archive of sounds
- Technical skills: be able to operate the necessary equipment, troubleshoot any issues that arise, have an excellent knowledge of sound technology
- Communication and teamwork: respond quickly to direction and cues, collaborate effectively with the director, producer and crew
- Timing: play sounds at just the right moment, which often requires comedy timing on shows with audiences, like quiz or entertainment programmes
- Manual dexterity: have the ability to operate several items of equipment simultaneously
- Knowledge of production: understand studio and location requirements and challenges, be experienced in live and pre-recorded shows