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Meet the sports broadcast graphics operator

AE Live's Jodie Butcher reveals how she went from PE teacher to working on some of the biggest sporting events in the world, and why she would advise anyone looking to enter the media tech industry to "own your lack of knowledge"

Jodie Butcher, sports broadcast graphics operator, AE Live
Talk us through an average day in your role:

Working across various sports means every day is different. However a typical few days would involve being on an OB, rigging cables and potentially problem solving any technical issues with vision and sound departments. I would then prepare all the graphics needed for the event using Viz and take part in the FACS check to ensure everything is working the way it should. The most exciting day is TX  day where I work alongside the rest of the production team and operate the graphics live on air. 

How did you get started in the media industry?

It happened by chance really, I volunteered for a few weeks at the World Athletics Championships in London 2007 and was placed in the media team. There I got to experience what goes on behind the scenes for the in-stadium entertainment and I was given the chance to operate the big screen graphics. After the event finished, I reluctantly went back to my old job but soon realised I wanted to work in TV. I applied for a job as a graphics operator at AE Live and I have been there ever since.

What training did you have before entering the industry?

Apart from my two weeks work experience at the World Champs I had no other training or experience before entering the industry. Prior to volunteering, I studied PE teaching at University and worked as a PE teacher before deciding I wanted a change of career. I’ve always had a huge passion for sport and still wanted to work in the sporting industry, but I wanted a career where I could travel the world and not work the typical 9-5.  It was daunting starting in the industry as a total TV newbie but I soon realised that my lack of experience/training wouldn’t hold me back and that to become a good graphics operator you don’t need years of industry experience.

Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

I absolutely love the fact that every day is so different and no job is ever the same. There are no set working hours or days of the week, I thrive off of having no routine to abide by and rarely ever have the dreaded Sunday blues. The social side of the industry is great, I love meeting new people as well as seeing familiar faces in countries all over the world. The travel is by far my favourite aspect of the job, it can be tiring and does take it out of you at times but having the opportunity to visit so many countries and watch sport for a living makes it all worth it. I feel very lucky to say that this is my job!

What piece of advice would you offer someone looking to explore a role similar to yours?

Have the confidence to enter the industry even if you have no prior experience in the TV industry. If you have a passion for sport, are switched on, enjoy working as part of a team and are happy to work hard then graphics is a great place to begin a career in sports TV. Before I worked at AE I had no idea that all these roles behind the scenes even existed, if you have the chance explore as many of the departments as possible as it really helps with understanding the bigger picture of how TV production works. It can be daunting entering the industry with no idea how it works, but it is actually totally normal and everyone else started in the same boat as you. So my advice would be to own your lack of knowledge and use it in a constructive way to learn as much as possible from people you meet and to open your eyes to all the different roles that are out there.