Tips for using intercoms with live camera operators

If you can possibly do it, having wired intercoms, e.g. RTS, tecpro or Clearcom is a great benefit when you are mixing a live IMAG show with camera operators. But what do you say? Here are some suggestions…

The first thing to remember is that wired intercoms are ‘party line’ i.e. everyone is on the same channel and everyone can speak to everyone. This can get a bit confusing, especially during a gig when it gets noisy and camops can’t really talk back. It is important that you agree a nice simple communication technique with your camops to avoid confusion.

Speak in a logical order

When talking on comms it isn’t always clear who you are talking to, so it’s good practice to always say: 1. who you are talking to 2. when you want them to act 3. then what you want them to do, in that order. This avoids lots of confusion and people moving on shot. So you would say “Niall, after this shot, can you get the drums?”, rather than say “someone get the drums NOW!” 🙂

Agree how questions will be answered

If you ask a camop a question, e.g. ” Niall, can you get the harpist?” or “Dave can you zoom in more?” the normal way to answer negatively is to ‘shake the head’ of the camera, i.e. move it slightly from side to side as if shaking its head. This prevents the camops from having to open up their comms mics which should of course normally be left off to avoid noise spilling onto the channel and making it hard for everyone to hear what is being said. You may need to explain this.

Keep good shots for when you need them

– if someone has a shot you like, but are not ready to use immediately, tell them to hold the shot, e.g. “Dave, hold that shot of the drums.” It also helps them understand what kind of shots you are going for so they know for again. Equally if someone is holding a shot you know you can’t use (too dark? wrong framing, etc.) then tell them you won’t use it and to change shot. You don’t need to say why, just say “Dave, can’t use that, try another shot”

You have a better view of focus than they do

– you will get a much better idea of focus on your bigger monitor or on the screens. If someone is out you can just say “Niall, check focus” and they should react, then give them an “OK” to confirm when it is fixed.

Provide “Audio tally lights”

If, as is often the case in VLOBLIVE gigs you don’t have tally lights wired up on the cameras to tell them who is live, you can give an audio tally equivalent. For example say “going to Niall….Niall is live……Niall is still live…..going to Dave….Dave is live….” etc. effectively a running commentary of what shots I am selecting and using. It’s fine to NOT go to someone even if you said you would, if you suddenly see a better shot, but let them know.

Remind people when they are live

It’s very easy when you are a camop and you can’t see the screens to forget that you are ‘live’ and start to move the camera to your next shot. Adding a ‘Dave you are still live’ or ‘Dave has shot’ comment every so often can be a good reminder.

Prepare for the next bit during gaps

– in between songs, try to talk through what you might do for the next song, so that they can prepare e.g. “OK for this one, lets have Niall sticking on the lead singer, and Dave can you try to get keyboards, and Gordon watch out for the guitar solo after the second chorus..” etc.


Finally remember to encourage them if you like a shot, or if it works out well. You want to motivate the camops to get good shots, and use their imagination.


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