What is a TD Really?

This is a subject I have wanted to talk about for a while and have avoided for fear of what could come of it and I finally decided to voice my opinion to those that read my Blog. If you don’t agree or have a different perspective feel free to comment or send me an e-mail and we can talk about it if you would like.  I would just like to disclaim that this is my opinion and you can decided if you agree with it or not.

So here it is.  One of the things I have often struggled with working for a church is that everyone is considered a “Technical Director”.  In the church world a Technical Director is the person that is in charge of sound, light, and video.  Because all these areas are technical, technical director makes sense… right?  Well in my opinion… No!  In the video/ Broadcast world a Technical Director is the person who programs and pushes the buttons on the switcher during the show. It doesn’t matter if it is a corporate event or a full on sports broadcast, if you are using a production switcher you are considered a Technical Director.  So if you are going with industry terms at a church you have your Technical Director and if you are doing IMAG, you now have another Technical director, isn’t this confusing?  You see my dilemma?

At NAB I was walking around the exhibit talking to different people, they ask what my title is I tell them I’m a Technical Director.  They understand I’m talking about switchers.  Later that day I met up with the CTDRT group and we are talking and every time I introduced myself to someone I told them that I was a Technical Director I had to clarify that I was a full time video technical director for the church I work at.  I feel as thought the term has become so diluted.   I personally do work outside of the church and sometimes TD and I find it difficult and confusing living in both worlds myself and I guess I’m at the point where I’m more annoyed than anything else.

Now many people would point out that there are many jobs out there that have the label “Technical director” when it comes to jobs around technology.  I would agree that the term is universal.  What bothers me about it being used in this way is that Church tech is sound, lights and video.  Church video is a huge market these days.  In fact broadcast manufacturers take the church market very seriously. Since we as churches are using broadcast level gear and have crews both volunteer and staff, I feel we need to separate the terms to the go along more of the industry standards.  More and more churches are hiring tech people and more and more churches are purchasing production switchers and if they like it or not have TD’s operating them.

Talking with my friends at Ross video, they have told me that the Church market is HUGE! And ever expanding.  A major broadcast manufacturer takes the church market very seriously, and every other person that uses their products are called Technical directors.  Why should the church be different from all the rest?

So what would be another term to use for Technical director in the church world?  In my organization my boss’s title is Director of Technical Arts, or I have seen these titles: Production Manager, Technical Arts Manager, Technical Arts Director, ect.  I just feel their needs to be separation and would like to challenge those of you reading to consider for yourself what a technical director is.  If you agree with me I hope you would maybe change your title and help preserve what a TD is when it comes to AVL.

About brhoda

I freelance doing a few different thing in the video and live production market. I worked for a church for 5 years directing services and designing control rooms.
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6 Responses to What is a TD Really?

  1. Gord says:

    I would have thought that the person doing the switching for video would have been called the Video Director.

  2. cccvideoguy says:

    It has confused people here at Crossroads when I tell them the guy running the switcher is the technical director. They always say, “aren’t you the technical director?” My title as Media Coordinator is closer to what I really do. I oversee sound, lighting and video. I coordinate all of these areas and work the technical aspects of them.

  3. Jonesy says:

    Hmmm… I see what ‘Gord’ is saying.

    In my opinion, the technical director title is probably only appropriate when the individual is producing (or directing) the service. The problem with the title as-is, is that I usually see who you call a ‘technical director’ taking direction rather than giving it. That’s just been my experience… I suppose it’s dependent on the structure of your weekend production department.

    If you lead a video department… then sure… Video Director becomes appropriate…

    If you only head up the production of the weekend services, then Production Manager or Service Director are then appropriate…

    Technical Arts Director seems like just adding an unnecessary adjective… all things technical have form and function incorporated in some fashion… even if the beauty is only in the eyes of the beholder… although I do see the merit of this title in that it would be unique and very specific in the church-sector…

    Where do you draw the line for such a title? Are you IT or video producer, are you stage/light design or Audio Technician? Or are you all of the above?

    Do you ‘direct all of the technical aspects of your church’?
    Then I think you just might be the Technical Director!

    Side-note: For a while we used ‘Technical Coordinator’ as a title, but I felt like that should be a title found on my kid’s PTA Board…

    just my $8 or so…

  4. Taylor Charboneau says:

    I’ve worked at two churches and both did live video production. Both churches had employees with the title of Technical Director- both meaning very different things. So with that I understand both sides of the coin. I agree with Brandon on this. Let me explain more…

    In every situation outside of church I’ve been in, directors and producers don’t use the gear, the TD does. I think the bigger issue here is that the church has changed the meaning of Technical Director. Because the church has AVL, and video is live with a production switcher and all, I think we need to go with the old broadcast guys and call the person operating the switcher a technical director, and come up with something else for the top boss of production. In touring and broadcast world that person is the production manager, in a corporation that is the CIO.

    The other thing is I think we downplay the role of the TD in the church world. They just hit this and then hit that when they’re told so. The TD just takes direction and doesn’t give any, right? No. TD’s should know the switcher inside and out, they should be protecting the end product, making sure camera shots are in focus, irised correctly, and essentially have the director’s back. They build effects and add some creativity to the production. They use the switcher to help them, building macros and memory’s to do multiple task, and control devices.

    Like I said earlier… I’ve been in both worlds with the TD title. I understand why the lead of the Technical Arts Ministry gets the title of Technical Director. Just like Jonesy says… “you direct all the technical aspects of your church? You should be the Technical Director.” Don’t ya think that’s just a case of the “don’t know’s”?

    I think we need to look at the bigger picture, take into account all areas, and markets, the church market is just getting going in the area of production and manufactures are noticing and creating product lines for us. I challenge you guys to do some research in different markets and see who’s called a technical director and why.

    Here’s a good place to start….

  5. Jonesy says:

    I call my video switcher ‘Frank’. ; )

    I also checked out wikipedia before posting my first reply…
    In summary, all official definitions basically say… who the TD is and what they do, well… it depends on what you’re doing…

    Broadcast has a TD, Theatre has a TD… (the list continues…) and they all do different things. It seems like the secular market is more confused than the church.

    I’m not trying to belittle what a TD does or how vital they are to the technical arts ministry…

    In all honesty, I do think that the church needs to be embracing the same titles as the secular market… If you want a professional TD to attend and then freely volunteer at your church… you’d better be giving him the professional courtesy of recognizing his contribution. To art inside and outside the church.

    So if anything this post has at least made me more aware and likely to change… thanks for the resource.

  6. Joel Asbury says:

    At Greenwood Christian on the south side of Indy, we have ALWAYS used the term “Technical Director” to describe the person pushing the buttons in front of the video switcher. Now, if you want to have a “Technical Director” be someone who is in charge of all church media (lighting, video, audio, graphic arts) then you would be living in “Church Production” and not in National Association of Broadcasting production – which sets the industry standard.

    I have a degree from an NAB accredited university – Indiana University – but I work with a Production Director (which I think is the best term for someone over all church media) who graduated from Johnson Bible College’s Media Communications department – a program designed for teaching Bible college students the technical arts for church production. He and I have both agreed that the terms should all be made NAB standard across all aspects of your church production ministry. It is with ours. I am the Video Director and we have an Audio Engineer also on staff. As “Video Director,” I am responsible for all video production during the week. We use stock video for a greeting time made up of elements of our services, but all other video is made or bought with my input (testimonies, bumpers for sermons, countdowns, special event video, etc). That is the definition of Video Director – someone who controls the video “elements” incorporated into the service. The Video Director also has another position during the weekend – but that can be within the whole production as it relates to video.

    I also work as a weekend Producer. Sometimes, that involves Producing, Directing, AND Technical Directing all at once. I call the shots I have designed as well as playing with the gear to make them happen. Where churches struggle with naming their production personnel lies in how they define each role. Volunteers are great for five positions in this aspect – camera, lighting, CG, production manager, and stage manager. If a church is able to employ a Production Director (weekend Producer), Audio Engineer (weekend audio tech), and a Video Director (weekend Technical Director, etc.) then that church has managed to produce a high quality product that isn’t “church cheesy,” but it will eventually become broadcast quality for television airing.

    So, if the term “Technical Director” means more to you as the guy who is over ALL church technical arts, then your church is failing to understand what it means to technical direct – thus failing to give credit where credit is due (even if we’re not in the business to “give credit” as the Bible says not to boast but in the Lord). If you have anything to do with creating a service during the week, call yourself a “Producer” before anything else. There are levels of that title I do not have enough time or space to delve into – maybe another topic? The Producer creates music (Worship Leader/Minister), the week’s sermon (Lead Pastor/Sr. Minister/Preaching Minister), and the technical arts needed to accomplish the service (the Production Director). The people with the vision for the service are the Executive Producers – but again, I don’t have enough time or space to describe this in greater detail.

    Technical directing is thus NOT being in charge of all aspects of production, but merely sitting in the chair in front of the switcher helping with quality control of the Director’s calls, pushing the right buttons, and crafting the art of video mixing either using the T-bar or a 30 frame per second dissolve (depending on the shot – never slower than 30fps unless purposefully 50/50’ing two compositions is normal). Cuts are generally used more for speaking situations than in music, but that, too, is another subject!

    Hope this helps!

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