#ITVSchoolDebate: a Director's point of view on set

Election School Debate director Laura Craig on set in West Bromwich. Credit: Pat Fenelon

As Director on the Election School Debate, before the day, my first job is to liaise with the Producer and Technical team to confirm the technical details of the outside broadcast.

This includes deciding what the layout of the set will be, how many cameras we will have, who is sorting the lighting for the set, how many people will be attending, and other things that make sure we will have all the kit we need for a successful recording.

On the day I will help to layout the set, moving chairs, stage and displaybanners with the help of the camera team. The aim is to get the best shots of the guests and presenter as they have their discussion. I need to know where the main guests who will speak are sitting. The camera crews will often make suggestions of where they can stand and any good shots they can get.

Once the camera positions are fixed and the set is ready we will go througheach section of the debate and rehearse possible camera moves. This often involves asking other team members to pretend to be guests so we can check shots.

As the debate itself was live and therefore unpredictable, we had to make sure we could get cameras and microphones to anyone who might wish to speak.

Debate guests seated Credit: Pat Fenelon

Having rehearsed as much as we can we then prepare to record theprogramme. The technical team set up a mini ‘gallery’ in a nearby room where I could see each camera output and cut between them on the vision mixer.

I chose to have two cameras concentrating on the presenter and any guest who was speaking, one camera picking up anyone the other two could not reach and also getting shots of the students listening, and I had one camera on a wide shot of the whole set – useful when lots of hands were raised and we needed to work out who was going to speak next – I call it the safety shot !

The banner adds to our set design Credit: Tejinder Kaur

During the recording I have a Production Assistant working beside me timing all the sections and passing information to the presenter such as where particular guests are seated and how much time we have left on each section or topic.

Once the debate was over I asked the camera team to give me some ‘cutaways’. These are shots of the audience and guests who are notspeaking which can be used to tighten up pauses when the debate is edited.

Once the recording is over I am part of the team that de-rigs the entire set and packs away all the cameras, sound kit, vision equipment and lighting – and there’s thousands of feet of cable to wind up too. This can take well over an hour, but once it’s all packed away we can be ready for the next time we go out on the road for an outside broadcast.

Click here for lots more about the ITV Election School Debate.