Brian – video & audio engineer

Brian is a video and audio engineer helping to capture and send out all of the coverage of the London 2012 Olympics with the team at the European Broadcast Union (EBU).

Who or what inspired you to become an engineer?

I was initially approached by the husband of a colleague of mine who used to work for the EBU and thought I would be well suited to this position as it is worthwhile and rewarding, so I took it from there.

What does your typical day at the Olympic Media Centre involve?

The working day is typically about 12 hours long. Before the games began my job mostly involved setting up the equipment which includes crimping (or connecting) the cables, setting up the matrix (a bit like a telephone network), and testing a lot of circuits. Once everything is up and running and in order, it is simply a case of managing incoming and outgoing feeds for the various different customers and broadcasters, as well as the host broadcaster the OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Service). We are in the middle of OBS and the outside broadcasters so try to manage all this and make sure the feeds get to where they should be.

In my department of the EBU there are 5 of us working together. We are all male in this department and this can be fairly common but we are starting to see a change around with more females coming into the roles.

Where do you normally work?

I am German and work for ZDF – a major German broadcaster.

What do you love about your job and what would you change?

I love the fact that the team is from all over the world and we all meet up every 2 years to put this operation together. I am very lucky as I get to travel the world and have all of my accommodation sorted out for me so it is a really good job in that respect.

We are only working on the Olympics coverage for 5 weeks so it is relatively short and I don’t think that I would change anything. The only negative point is that some of the shifts can be long, but on the other hand it is a plus to have a shift pattern as you have the opportunity to work early in the day and then have the evenings to yourself.

What qualifications did you need for this role?

After completing school, I carried out a 3.5 year apprenticeship as a radio and TV technician. At the age of 18 I then started working for ZDF in the studio, taking care of cameras, monitors and audio equipment. I then went into editing for about a year before working in the master control room in ZDF. I started working for the EBU in 2004 for the Athens Olympics.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Having positive replies from customers thanking me for my help. It is satisfying to receive recognition for a job well done. I also enjoy overcoming challenges and finding the best solutions.

What’s the most unexpected thing about your job?

You really don’t know what will happen every day. I was working the night at ZDF when there was a power loss for a sporting event in Austria. We try to cover every eventuality and have various back up feeds and satellite back ups, but if the power goes then you lose everything. You just have to do the best that you can to overcome these issues to make sure everyone can see the action as quickly as possible.

The coverage can also be interrupted by big news events and as you never know when these are going to hit it is impossible to plan for them, and you just have to take action as and when required.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Stick with it. If you really want to do it there are downsides such as the long working hours. If you are working at the big events then you need to accept that you will be away from home for 6 weeks at a time and sometimes even longer. It is good to be prepared for that, but remember there are lots of positives to the job too such as the travel and getting to see so many different places around the world as well as lots of major events.

What do your friends and family think about your job?

They think it is a pretty good job for me. They know that I enjoy going to work!

Would you say you have a good standard of living/work-life balance?

Yes! With this job you can’t take your work home. When the programme is over and the sports transmission is complete then it is done. You don’t have to carry around the baggage of never feeling that your work is over and always feeling that you must be working on it.

What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

I enjoy going to the gym and rock climbing.

What has been your best Olympic moment so far in London 2012?

For me it was definitely the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

What will you take away from your experience of working at the Olympic Media Centre during the London 2012?

That I got to meet a lot of people. These types of events are very helpful for networking. This industry is a big business but a small family so you get to see the same faces at each event and you can build relationships with many of the individuals who have similar roles to you in lots of different countries. It also helps to put faces to names when we are all back in our own countries again after the event but will continue to help each other solve problems via telephone or e-mail.

What are your aspirations for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I hope that I will still be working for ZDF. It is a good employer and a safe job. Next year I will have been working for them for 20 years! I have a good position with them and have no reason to want to change.

What would you most like young people to know about what you do?

This is a very fun job. It can be challenging and there is always a lot of multitasking to do – the intercom may be going off whilst the phone is ringing, and you still need to be keeping an eye on the live screens – but I think that this just helps you to stay alert and keeps the job interesting.

If you were an athlete for a day, which sport would you compete in?

I have always fancied having a go a Beach volleyball. The weather is not great for it in London with all of the rain, but maybe I should try it in Rio for the next Olympics in 2016!


With thanks to Nigel Phillips for providing Future Morph access into the International Broadcast Centre and providing all of the ‘behind the scenes’ information required.