What does the vision supervisor do?
The vision supervisor works closely with the lighting director and vision guarantee to make sure the pictures that are created in a studio, or on an outside broadcast (OB), are as good as they can be. Vision supervisors begin by making sure all the cameras – and there could be as many as 20 or 30 of all types – are correctly exposed and the colours match precisely. This is essential because otherwise, when the director cuts quickly between the different cameras, the shots will be different colours.
In a studio, the vision supervisor could be working with all sorts of different lighting sources. As well as the usual lighting rig, there might be specialist equipment such as neon signs or lasers. All these will need to be carefully exposed and colour-balanced in order to create the best look. The vision supervisor and their team pay particular attention to making sure the flesh tones are accurate so the presenters and programme contributors look natural.
Away from the studio, on an OB, the vision supervisor deals with the added complexity of managing natural light. For example, a football pitch could be half in shadow and half in direct sunlight; so as the play moves up and down the field, the vision team needs to work hard to ensure the exposure is correct. If they get it wrong, millions of viewers will struggle to see the ball. At some events, such as a carol concert, the illumination may be nothing more than candle light; so then the vision supervisor will need to work hard to manage the low level of light and bring out the subtleties of the pictures.
When working well, the vision supervisor can make a huge difference to a programme: they can bring out the vibrancy of the colours, adding to the enjoyment of events like The Chelsea Flower Show, and accentuate the excitement of a live performance at Glastonbury or in a big entertainment show like Strictly Come Dancing.
Vision supervisors are often freelance. They usually have a technical background and need to keep up to date with the very latest equipment, as cameras are upgraded all the time – from standard definition to high definition and, more recently, ultra-high definition.
What’s a vision supervisor good at?
- Understanding imaging: know electronic technology, including lighting, exposure, colour and optics; have an in-depth understanding of how all camera equipment works, stay up to date with the latest technology
- Seeing: have a good eye, be able to spot colour and light discrepancies easily and know how to correct them
- Problem solving: come up with solutions to technical problems. This is particularly important on an outside broadcast in a remote location where spare parts aren’t easy to find
- Leadership: be able to manage a team, communicate and give instructions effectively, make good judgement calls
- Staying calm under pressure: be able to think creatively in a live environment when decisions you make will have an effect on millions of viewers