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Logger

Loggers are generally employed either during production (especially on live shows, or fixed rig documentaries) or in post-production. A logger’s chief responsibility is to view all the rushes and record key themes, sync and story arcs.

Stage
1

Gain work experience at a production company, or post production facilities house. Familiarise yourself with software used for logging: Forscene, Cinergy, AFrame.

Stage
2

Apply for runner or logger dailies on TV productions. A runner/logger should expect to work for at least one year in this capacity before they are considered experienced enough to progress.

Stage
3

After a year or so, retitle your CV and apply for positions as a junior researcher, data wrangler or edit assistant.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT

The editorial team are responsible for story development and execution: they are story finders, peoplefinders and most importantly: they know if a story has legs (makes good TV). The editorial team are usually the first to be employed once a programme has been commissioned. There’s a small editorial team in development, but the development team have a very different skillset (writing up pitch documents to present to commissioners, shooting sizzle reels, amassing ideas for programmes, unearthing the next big TV trends).

The production editorial department can be quite a big team, depending on how extensive the casting, access or location requirements are. Editorial come on board in pre-production. They hit the ground running, finding contributors, experts and stories that fit with the programme’s treatment. The series producer (or producer on single programmes or smaller productions) controls the editorial team, and picks the team - though sometimes it’s the production manager who makes first calls to check the availability of loggers, researchers, assistant producers, producers, directors, editors, edit assistants and edit producers.  

The editorial team need to be dynamic and astute: the key goals during preproduction are to find the best possible stories, contributors and location access and then present them (in writing and verbally) to the series producer (SP) in a succinct, clear way. It is advantageous to have a background in journalism because journalists know how to condense down hefty chunks of information, and present findings quickly, instinctively knowing what makes a compelling story.  

Depending on the production budget, recces are either conducted at contributors’ homes (led by researchers, assistant producers, and sometimes producer/directors), or using video apps such as Skype. A recce helps the team determine if the contributors have the right type of story for the programme, and if they’re good on camera. Recces can also help build trust before any official filming for the programme takes place.

Once stories have been signed off by the SP, exec producer and the channel, the editorial team plan shooting schedules with contributors, write scripts/interview questions and go out to film (either self-shooting or with crews depending on the production budget) the stories that they’ve set up. After production has finished, the editorial team is reduced down to one or two people, who are there to help collate/retrieve/return any missing paperwork, and source or return archive materials supplied by those who’ve contributed to the programme.

Loggers are generally employed either during production (especially on live shows, or fixed rig documentaries), or in post-production. A logger’s chief responsibility is to view all the rushes and record key themes, sync and story arcs. After they’ve watched everything and produced their logs, they feed back information about good storylines and provide time codes of good sync/scenes to the SP/edit producer/PDs. The role of the logger is important because they summarise hundreds or thousands of hours of footage so that editorial can easily locate the juiciest moments for the edit.

On factual or archive-heavy programmes, a researcher is often in the production office until the end of post production, fact-checking, script reading, sourcing archive photos/video clips, and generally being there to call contributors/experts if anything is missing or if the edit producers (EPs) require any last bits of information to complete a story.

When rushes go into the edit suites - sometimes the production’s producer/directors get to cut their own stories. If the budget or schedule doesn’t allow for producers or directors involved in the shooting of the stories to go into the edit suites, production will hire EPs (who usually come from PD backgrounds) to cut one or a few stories simultaneously. EPs start during production, and have an important editorial role as they craft the rushes fed into the edits and write edit scripts. They also identify what archive material is missing, and liaise directly with Researchers, who will source materials for them.    

WHAT ARE THE ENTRY LEVEL POSITIONS IN THE EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT?

The entry level positions for the editorial department in TV are runners, loggers, transcribers production assistants and junior researchers. Sometimes you can transition from a runner to a runner/junior researcher within the duration of a series production, or over the course of a few months if you’re working in-house at a production company. This only happens when you can prove that you have the added reliability, tactfulness and diplomacy needed when handling contributors/talent/HODs. If you get a job/work experience/trainee position in structured reality, children’s TV, factual, entertainment, news or documentary genres - these are all potential genres where you’ll be able to join an editorial team. Runners are sometimes given logger duties, and you’ll often see combined runner/logger jobs advertised - the balance of duties will vary from production to production. A mix of runner/logger duties is often a positive thing, as some may find the long hours of typing a bit of a bore.  

Remember that as an entry level employee - you are very much replaceable. Be grateful, humble and hungry. Remember that if your next in line manager or exec comes across as stressed out with you, it's probably not related to something you've done but it's a big enough issue to mean anything you say or do for the rest of the day will get ignored, but just remember that 99% of the time it's nothing personal!

WHAT GENRES OF THE TV INDUSTRY CAN LOGGERS BE FOUND?

Loggers are generally employed on every production that includes factual, documentary and reality content. Loggers are not generally employed on TV dramas/films as film crews work from a pre-prepared script, where no new sync or stories are produced organically. If there is room in the budget the role of the logger can be found on the following productions:

  • Structured Reality TV

  • Radio and Broadcast News

  • Current Affairs

  • Feature Documentaries

  • Documentary series

  • Entertainment

  • Sports/OB (Outside Broadcast)

WHERE DO LOGGERS WORK?

It depends if you’re live logging or post-production logging. Live logging requires the logger (or team of loggers) to be on location, recording live action as it happens. You could for example, be in the Alps, live logging some contestants doing ski training for Channel 4 celebrity game show The Jump. You could be using old fashioned pen and paper, your iPhone or production might give you an iPad loaded up with logging software like TCoder, Live Logger or Timecode+. Less glamorously, you might be in an edit suite or a production office - in which case, you’ll be tape logging (using footage that’s been recorded on media cards). You could also be in a studio, logging a big entertainment production like Strictly Come Dancing.

With fixed rig series (eg. The Hotel, or 24 Hours in A&E), loggers can be working day or night, in a gallery, side by side with the hothead operators and directors/producers. If a production is short on time and budget, they will often employ a logger who can work from home. They might work on Microsoft Office, or the production company may supply a specific software package for them to use, such as FORscene, Avid Interplay or Cinegy. It you’re logging from home, you might be expected to have your own laptop or desktop computer. The rushes will be sent to you, (streamed online) quite often in proxy quality (due to bandwidth limitations and costs), there’s little need for tapes/hard drives etc. to be used these days, TV is largely a tapless industry now.

WHAT CAREER PATHS DO LOGGERS TAKE?

When you start out as a logger/runner/data wrangler or junior researcher, you will begin to understand what floats your boat in editorial terms - it could be: casting, live news, facts and figures, science. Are you a visual thinker? Or are you more interested in budgets and logistics? At an early stage, it’s good to decide if you are more interested in the aesthetics or the practicalities of production. If you’re a visual thinker, you may want to go from logger to researcher, to assistant producer to director - as in this role, you’ll have more control over how the programme looks, and what type of performance you want from your contributors/talent. If you’re keen on numbers, logistics and leadership - you’d probably take the logger, researcher, assistant producer, producer and then series producer route.

Due to TV budgets being significantly cut in recent years - lots of roles are becoming multi-faceted - it’s more likely (especially on documentary productions), that you’ll go from AP to producer/director (PD), which is a role with a combination of creative control and budget spending powers. PDs tend to be better with budgets as they’re always thinking of the budget while casting their contributors/choosing locations. Directors will generally have more motivation to keep production values high and thus spend money in order to get a better ‘look’.

After a few years of being a producer, director, or PD, the next career step is series producer/director. This is where you prove that you’re able to manage an extensive creative brief, with all the extra demands that bigger crews, more script writing and leadership responsibilities that a series brings. Some SPs then go on to be executive producers, which is the top career level, (though exec producers are less hands-on with editorial content). Exec producers are concerned with maintaining a good relationship between the production company and the channel execs/commissioners. They also step in to help with any problems within production teams or contributor-related legal issues. They often have a few productions to look after simultaneously.  

If technology and data workflow is more your thing, you could go from logger to data wrangler to DIT. Or logger, edit assistant then editor, which would mean you still keep a foot in editorial, but you also have more control in managing the digital data flow coming in from shoots and the crafting of the footage captured in production. Alongside making the story flow, editors are heavily involved in the storytelling process and play a key role in translating the overall message of the production to the viewer.

When working as a logger, having an eye for what an editor might want can often help. Being able to recognise changes in emotion, different tones of voice, nice camera tracking movements, usable GVs, the need for pickups (too much light/dark in shot) will always add value to the storytelling process and will likely give the editor a reason to remember you. Using previously agreed upon or logical/appropriate naming conventions of keywords will save your editorial team lots of time, which in turn saves your production manager lots of money - always a good thing.

Sometimes productions will ask you to initial your log comments (often the logging software will do this automatically), this way they know who is responsible for writing what. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to show off your amazing logging skills and then be remembered for it. Imagine the SP and PD are in the edit with the editor, they happen to be looking for a shot of their main contributor smiling even though often they are upset, you spotted a smile and logged it as 'rare smile from contributor X', the SP and editor love you for this and by seeing your initials they get to immediately know who was responsible. This will more than likely lead to praise / being talked about / put on the radar, or at least a mention at the next production meeting, effectively adding to all the reasons why you should be picked for their next production!

In rare circumstances, you might be able to bypass the runner/logger job level and gain a role as a junior researcher because you have specialist qualifications or knowledge about a particular specialist factual subject - eg. natural history, medicine or music.

What are the key duties of the Logger?

Loggers document what is happening on screen and break it down into a useful text format that can be searched by editorial staff. You are there to help senior team members (SP, APs, PDs, EPs) find and track the juiciest, most interesting bits of footage to fill a programme with. It’s very  important to discuss keywords and naming conventions for themes / characters / locations / stories, because it makes searching through rushes a lot easier for editorial staff. If you show a penchant for finding good stories and articulating why the storylines would suit the production, you could be taken on as a junior researcher, which is the next logical step for story-focused juniors. Not only do loggers keep across every piece of footage that is filmed, their work contributes to the deliverables necessary for archiving and compliance rules set by broadcasters. Core responsibilities include:

  • Write and maintain rushes logs

  • Watch large amounts of footage

  • Use logging software

  • Help edit producers and senior editorial staff search for specific bits of footage

  • Liaise with post production supervisor

  • Submit logs on time, under tight time constraints

  • May be asked to transcribe interviews, PTCs, OTFs and sync

  • Record date, time, subject, conversation topics, cast (or contributors) in shot, location and other metadata that will aid the editor/post production crew.

  • Learn the production company’s system for labelling, file management and frequently used meta keywords

  • In some cases, the logger acts as an in-house archivist for the cache of tapes/media

In order to progress your career, and step-up to researcher, it is best to ask lots of questions - being inquisitive is one of the best attributes of a researcher/AP. Take up every opportunity to go on location, and share your programme ideas - you never know, your idea could end up in development!  

WHAT ARE THE KEY PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES OF A LOGGER?

  • Fast typing skills (50 - 100 wpm)

  • Strong spelling and grammar

  • Tech savvy with Mac and PCs

  • Good attention span

  • Efficient

  • Patient

  • Good listener

  • Accurate

  • Journalistic nose for stories

  • Comfortable dealing with large amounts of data/info

  • Team player

  • Can-do attitude

  • Work to tight deadlines

  • Meticulous eye for detail

  • An understanding of editing

  • Knowledge of multiple media formats (inc. DVD, HD and MP4)

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LOGGING AND TRANSCRIBING?

Some people find that logging and transcribing go hand-in-hand, as the jobs have many parallels. Some loggers will decide that typing speedily and working in a fast-paced environment really suits them, so transcribing becomes their chosen career path. A good transcriber will get plenty of TV work - which can include: writing post scripts, subtitling, translating, closed captioning, time coded transcription, verbatim transcription, captions and credits across a broad range of TV genres. Transcribers usually use a software programme called InqScribe, which is the industry standard.

The main difference between logging and transcribing is that transcribers write everything down as a literal script of everything said during interviews etc. Loggers only pick out bits they think are relevant to the programme, and often just summarise sync and interviews. Transcribers aren’t usually part of production, though they can be employed to work during live programmes occasionally. There are many TV transcription agencies, who have a list of freelance transcribers on their books that they’ll hire out when a project comes in. Transcribers often work from home, using their own equipment and software.    

WHAT IS IT LIKE WORKING AS A LOGGER?

Production can be very demanding, especially if you have a short but packed shooting schedule, using locations all over the country (and possibly abroad too). It is a creative environment, where you are rewarded for using your initiative and given the unique opportunity to witness real human emotion, and/or spectacular events as they unfold, or soon after they’ve played out. However, you’re not seeing the edited version that you see in a final cut.

This means you see the exciting bits and the mundane bits. The mundane bits usually outweigh the exciting bits - so it’s you that needs to spot the potential in a scene/contributor, and pick up on funny/moving bits of dialogue. Good bits can literally be a change in facial expression or a one liner - so you need to have a beady eye to catch these subtle yet poignant expressions. It’s worth getting to know your contributors, their relationships with other contributors, and build character profiles that can be pinned up on the walls in the gallery so you can be reminded at a glance.

If you’re office-based, and don’t get the opportunity to go on location - there are still many ways to prove that you have a natural aptitude for editorial. You need to be tenacious and prepared to spend a lot of time being sat down, staring at a screen and writing. Perseverance is key. It can be frustrating if your Edit Producer/SP doesn’t like a contributor or story that you are really gunning for, but in time, you will become more in-tune with the production’s key decision makers’ requirements and build a strong intuition for what each of the channels like in terms of ‘character’ types, and storylines.

Logging is rewarding because you get to learn loads of general knowledge in diverse subject areas - it can take you all over the world (metaphorically and physically). You have to be a people-person, and editorial-driven. You want to make TV gold, and you know when you’ve found something that the editorial team/post production team should put into the programme.     

Logging is an entry-level position that is sometimes offered as an internship, dailies employment (employed by the day, so very short-term), or fixed-term contract (can also be quite short). Full-time positions are a rarity. It’s only really Executive Producers and some HODs that are guaranteed a full-time occupation in TV these days. Logging is the standard first step towards a career in TV production and/or post-production. Research, Edit Assisting or data wrangling would be the next step up. Freelance work as a logger working for a small independent production company may require you to provide your own laptop (and sometimes software too!). When looking for logger jobs, you should concentrate on contacting companies that specialise in reality TV, documentaries, current affairs, local and national news - basically any programme that’s non-scripted.  

DO I NEED ANY QUALIFICATIONS?

You won’t need a specific qualification to become a TV logger. However, a degree in media, drama or broadcasting may give you a good grounding. If you are keen to get a better understanding of the editorial department and journalism as creative mediums -  considering taking a TV production course, the following short and long courses may help you prepare you for a TV career:

You will need to have wide experience in and knowledge of the preproduction and production processes, so any work experience or training on any TV production will give you a helpful taster of how the processes work

13 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR LOGGERS NEW TO THE INDUSTRY

  • Download a free trial of some logging software and using it on some of your own footage, could simply be shot on your phone.

  • If you’ve never seen a log before, try and get your hands on a few before you start so that you can familiarise yourself with how they look, and how they’re formatted.  

  • Keep your notes brief and clear. No one wants an essay - timecodes with short summaries are best.

  • Watch freely available video tutorials on the logging software you are going to be using, familiarise yourself with the user interface, shortcuts and media management tools before jumping in.

  • Watch TV. Sounds simple, but if you want to work in TV, you need to know the schedules, what works in which slots, and have a good understanding of why certain characters fit within certain programmes.

  • Use a rating system when commenting on a scene, eg. 3 stars for a jaw-droppingly entertaining argument, and 0 stars for someone putting out their washing.

  • Think editorially - ask directors or PDs what they’re looking for and which interesting storylines you should keep across.

  • Always highlight comedy moments. Even if you’re working on something serious - lighter moments add light relief. If something makes you laugh, it’s likely others will find it funny too.

  • Use good spelling and grammar. If your logs are littered with spelling mistakes, you’re highly unlikely to make a good impression on the senior team members. Excellent writing could get you fast-tracked to being a researcher.

  • Don’t disclose any confidential information about the stories and contributors that you’re working on to your friends and family or post anything of a contentious nature on social media. Editorial trust is built on confidentiality, and leaked stories ruin everyone’s hard work.

  • Use really simple language when describing action. You will get through tapes quicker, and editors/PDs don’t search for ridiculously convoluted words and phrases any way.    

  • Spell contributor names correctly. If you don’t, precious stories could slip through the net as a misspelled name won’t appear in search results.

  • Making a note of what contributors are wearing can help with consistency in the edit when trying to stitch together a sequence where the footage actually spans a few days but in the edit seems like 2 seconds.

PHRASES EVERY LOGGER SHOULD KNOW

  • PTC. A piece to camera segment, usually led by a presenter looking directly into the camera.

  • OTF. On the fly, to describe an impromptu interview (eg. just after an emotional scene).

  • Sync. Chunks of contributor dialogue. “Good Sync” is sync that is likely to make a cut of the programme.  

  • I/V. An interview.

  • Rushes. Visuals and sound footage recorded over the course of a shooting day.

  • Gallery. Control rooms which are usually housed in studios and fix rig documentary locations - productions using multi-camera techniques. For OBs, these are often housed in a vehicle such as a large van.

  • C/U. A close-up shot.

  • GVs. General views, moving wallpaper shots.

  • Backstory. SPs, producers and directors need backstory for every contributor in order to gain an insight into their history, so they know what questions to ask and how a current situation could potentially play out during filming.

  • Keywords. Easily searchable words. Can be different for each specific project, keywords get tweaked and everyone has their own preference – GVs night / GVN / NGV – get everyone to agree on which terms to use, write them up and print a copy for everyone, if they don’t ask for it, do it anyway (maybe out of hours) to show them you give a damn about their content and how easy it will be to search in the edit.  

  • Timecode. A coded signal on videotape or film giving information about such things as frame number, time of recording etc.

  • Multicam. Often used in fixed rig, logging multiple camera angles with multiple stories all at the same time, common to be watching 3 or 4 video feeds at the same time, usually condensed from many more feeds in the gallery controlled by a team of hot head operators and edit producers.

  • Transport controls. Often, ‘J’, ‘K’, ‘L’, keys = rewind, stop, play/fast forward. Shared across most popular video editing post production software packages

What software programmes do Loggers use?

  • FOREScene. Video editing software for collaborative productions and remote workflows. World’s most advanced cloud-based video post-production platform.

  • AFrame. A central location where everyone can instantly view, access and work with high resolution video.

  • InqScribe. Use it for transcribing, typing up notes and exporting subtitles.

  • Avid Interplay Assist. Desktop video tool used to review and log video before it goes into the edit suite.

  • Cinergy. Post production workflow system.

  • TCoder. Logging software for iPhone and iPod Touch.

  • Live Logger. Adobe Prelude Live Logger is a companion App to Adobe Prelude CC that increases the efficiency of the post production workflow

FAQ's

What hours does a logger work?

If you’re on location/set with a crew your day can range for 10 to 12 hours plus, depending on the shoot. If you’re office-based, 9.30 to 6.00pm is fairly average. Though if there are tight deadlines, you may have to stay until a certain batch of tapes have all been logged. Live logging on set/location, you will sat down typing for long stretches, and also have stints on your feet, and as the junior member of the team you will be called upon to some Runner duties too, which will include: delivering rushes, getting lunches, finding contributors, putting mics on contributors, getting release forms signed. 

If you’re working on a fixed rig documentary series, you’re likely to be part of a team of loggers that do a mix of day shifts and night shifts as the cameras are often rolling for 24 hours a day. As you’re working long hours: make sure to take care of yourself as well as the rest of the team. When you are tired it is easy to forget what has been asked of you, so make lists and prioritise your tasks. Drink plenty of water too.

How much do TV loggers earn?

Most productions adhere to BECTU (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union) rates, and BECTU have their recommended Freelance Rate Card for Factual TV, which doesn’t list Loggers, but you would expect the same rate as a Runner, which BECTU list as £397 working on a 48-hour week (inc holiday pay). Be aware however, that BECTU haven’t updated their rate cards since 2009.

Are there any free industry events I can attend?
What can I do to speed up my progress in the TV industry?

Working on short films and friend’s projects is definitely going to bolster your competence within the editorial and Editing Departments. It’s worth remembering that you meet many people on short films, and creating a good working relationship on a freebie can lead to paid work. Any type of journalism experience can help too - radio production, print features, college newspapers. It’s great to get used to interviewing people at an early stage. Even if it’s interviewing your granddad about his gardening hobby filmed on your iPhone - it’ll get you used to asking questions, being inquisitive and working on your directorial approach. 

Once you’ve landed that first paid job - work hard, be respectful of everyone, expect to be ignored occasionally, be meticulous, be aware of your surroundings. If you’ve got a good idea don’t just blurt it out, find an appropriate time to share your thoughts. Always push yourself slightly out of your comfort zone but don’t outright lie about your skillset. Be early when needed, perfect the art of tea/coffee making. Find the right time to open your mouth and when to keep quiet, eg. if both the SP and PDs are intensely watching a viewing, it’s probably not best to ask if they would like to hear about your amazing idea in relation to a clip you just logged, maybe send an email instead!

I feel I am being unfairly treated who can I go to?

The first port of call is always your production manager, but if they are unavailable or are the source of the problem, visit the executive producer or post-production supervisor - as they have an overall duty of care to the production./p>


Thank you's

My First Job in TV would like to thank Callum Yuill, freelance editor, for his contributions to the guide. 

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