Jeff Tong is an LCC MA Graphic Moving Image 2012 graduate. He is now a Playout Director at Red Bee Media. From a young age Jeff developed a desire to work in TV broadcasting, and his course at LCC enabled him to transition from his background in static graphic design to motion graphics. Whilst this shift in his practice was a subtle one, Jeff knew that he needed a dynamic portfolio that would demonstrate his ability to work under pressure, and within a time-based environment.
We asked Jeff to catch us up on what he’s been doing, and tell us how London College of Communication helped him get there!
Tell us a bit about your job at Red Bee Media.
My role as a Playout Director in its simplistic terms is that I ensure TV programmes make it onto TV for the nation to watch, and that the TV channel that I am responsible for runs smoothly and adhering to the schedule. I also protect the channel from any breakdowns or interruptions to its transmission, or if it does happen during broadcast, react accordingly and with urgency. It does mean I need about twenty pairs of eyes though to monitor all the TV screens and the innate ability to know how much time has elapsed to ensure I don’t miss any transitions, but I have never been bored at work.
How did your course here at LCC lead you to the Red Bee role?
Before studying at LCC, I had completed a Graphic Design degree with the aim to work within the TV broadcasting industry. At the time, the majority of my portfolio was static design (books, print, branding) and lacked any strong pieces of motion graphics. To demonstrate to Red Bee that I was passionate about broadcast design I had to demonstrate the ability to work in a time-based manner, in addition to applying brand strategies and strong graphic design skills. This is where the MA Graphic Moving Image course really helped further my skills into this realm and proved to Red Bee I had potential within their company. The course aided my job application immensely, gaining employment immediately after graduation and an internal promotion after six months.
What has been your most challenging moment working in Playout so far?
My most challenging time was when I first started out as a Playout Director; I was looking after channels that broadcast in South Africa. We are all trained on obituary procedures in the scenario that we lose a royal/world leader figure which includes changing the TV schedule and modifying channel branding at very short notice. No one in my suite had ever experienced this situation yet two weeks into my training during my night shift, Nelson Mandela passes away. Needless to say it was a very stressful time but I was told by the client the execution was seamless *phew*.
What is the most satisfying element of the role?
When I was a Media Management Operator for the main BBC channels, it meant that I got to watch programmes before they aired. MasterChef, the Apprentice, Sherlock…we already knew how it all ended! That or telling my family “I was responsible for that programme making it on TV”. As a Playout Director essentially I do watch TV for a living which satisfies the inner child in me.
What are your professional plans for the future?
One day I wish to be a Live TV Director, working on entertainment programmes or big music/sporting events. The live element is very appealing, having that extra pressure where anything could happen. You are effectively the eye of the viewer; you choose what they watch, you create the visual experience and unfold the story for them.