A videographer is the person who produces, records or shoots moving pictures on video tape. The word comes from ‘video’, Latin for “I see” and the suffix “-er”. There are many different careers you can pursue if you’re interested in being a professional videographer such as film director.
The “how to become a videographer without a degree” is a question that many people have been asking themselves. There are ways to become a professional videographer without having to go through college.
We’re back with another installment of our So You Want My Job series, in which we speak with guys who work in coveted positions and ask them about the realities of their employment as well as tips on how men might achieve their goals.
A brilliant video engineer is at the heart of every outstanding event. One like Scott Goegebuer, a well-known video engineer, projectionist, and technical director who has worked on projects ranging from Michael Jackson’s memorial service to the Academy Awards. Scott provides us a wonderful glimpse into this intriguing and vital behind-the-scenes work. Scott, thank you for a fantastic interview!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself (e.g., where do you come from?). What is your age? Describe your job, including how long you’ve been doing it, and so on.
I reside in Long Beach, California, and am 45 years old. I was born and reared in Buckley, Washington, in the Pacific Northwest, in the foothills of Mt Rainier, approximately an hour north of Seattle. I met my wife Tracy when we were both freshmen in high school, and we’ve been together for nearly 30 years, 25 of them married (we had to finish high school before we married), and we have three children.
I was a professional bass musician in Seattle during the grunge era when I was in my twenties. It was a thrilling moment to be in the music industry. I decided in my thirties that I needed to pursue something more serious since I had two children at the time. We relocated to Southern California in 1993 for a business opportunity, but it didn’t work out owing to unanticipated circumstances. I ended myself here after a succession of odd jobs. For the last 14 years, I’ve had a good career.
In video, I work as a projectionist, an engineer, and a camera director/technical director.
I estimate that I do 80% of my job as a projectionist. It’s a pretty private operation that no one thinks about. When you go to a concert and look at the screens, you’ll see that there’s a projectionist working to make everything appear good. There are giant screens all around the set if you watch award programs, game shows, or some of the performance-type reality shows (I’ve done The Oscars, Directors Choice Awards, Kid’s Choice Awards, ALMA Awards, “The Next Best Thing,” “The One,” “Rock Star: Supernova,” “20Q,” “Stand Up 2 Cancer,” etc.). There’s a high probability I’ll be in charge of those projectors.
There’s a lot more to it than most people think. These items may be massive, and I have to manage a staff of stagehands to have them properly hung on the truss in the appropriate positions. Then I’ve got a lot of work to do to make them appear good. When you view a screen on TV or at a concert, two projectors are pointed at it, flawlessly merged into one picture. This is for maximum brightness due to stage lighting, but having them exactly aligned and matching the colors correctly and in a timely way is where I make my money. After getting into this, I discovered that I had a keen eye for color contrasts.
As an engineer, I set up camera control and cameras, then matched the colors and rode the iris to maintain the light consistent for the cameras throughout the performance. To keep scopes matching, I need to be able to read them. This is quite accurate. Typically, for a broadcast, a truck arrives with all of the necessary equipment already installed. It’s like working in a mobile studio, and it’s a lot of fun.
Then I have the greatest fun as a director. I’m the one who directs the camera shots and keeps the show moving. This is a very creative and fulfilling work, but it is also the most stressful.
2. What inspired you to pursue a career as a video projectionist and engineer? When did you realize you wanted to do it?
Surprisingly, this was never anything I intended to accomplish. I had aspirations of being a rock star. I don’t know anybody who says to themselves as a child, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a video projectionist.” I kind of stumbled into it, and it turned out to be a fantastic career. When I was working as a cameraman, I made the first deliberate choice I ever made. I saw that the backstage crew (director, engineer, and projectionist) were paid far more than I was. That’s when the determined parent in me took over, and I resolved to learn all I could about other parts of video.
It satisfies the part of me that desires creativity, as well as the portion that wants to utilize my intelligence and be a decent provider for my family. I’m quite happy with what I’m doing now, and I look forward to coming to work every day. That is something that not many people can say.
3. What should a guy do to prepare for a career as a video projectionist and engineer? Is it something you could study in school? Is it possible to work as an apprentice and learn the ropes?
This business may be entered in a variety of ways. Some individuals actually go to school to learn how to accomplish this. They attend lessons in television and film production. That’s a good place to start since you’ll be able to acquire a lot of guidance and information that way.
Also, it astounds me how many individuals went to film school and are now utilizing their camera skills to pay their bills in the live event industry. They all believe they are the next Spielberg and carry a screenplay with them. Almost all of them are eager to get out of this job, create their film, and become renowned. They have no idea how much pleasure they are losing out on. They’ve never been taught to be present in the moment.
The most typical technique to get into this field is to simply call video production businesses and begin working as a grunt. Building screens, transporting wire, hanging draperies, loading and unloading vehicles, and pushing road boxes are all part of the job. There is a lot of possibilities here if you are determined to learn new things, work hard, and pay attention.
The majority of individuals begin tiny. Working in a hotel’s AV department is also a fantastic way to learn the fundamentals; some individuals like it so much that they never quit. Early on in the process, I became freelance. I’ve never worked as a staff member for a hotel or a video production firm. Those places, on the other hand, have hired me as a freelancer to work for them.
The basic truth is that, like every other degree of accomplishment, this is difficult work. You must work hard in order to improve and get better employment. This is not a business for slackers.
4. How do you get your foot in the door and start doing gigs?
After my company failed, I took a job at Starbucks to supplement my income. I met a frequent client who came in to take a break from video editing. We chatted, and he revealed that he created video scrapbooks for the Los Angeles Police Academy’s trainees. I thought it sounded intriguing, so I persuaded him to give it a go. I was a natural in front of the camera. I believe it has something to do with my years as a musician. I really feel that one work inspires the creation of another. We performed some work with a projectionist, and I got him to teach me certain skills, and then he began employing me for bar mitzvas on a regular basis. Yes, I began modestly. I became freelancing after meeting a few more individuals and worked hard to learn more. I obtained business from the folks I met while studying. I was on my way after a series of recommendations.
Some folks, unlike me, never leave the employment side of things and become independent. Going from having a steady wage to earning your own path requires a significant leap of faith and trust.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to job advancement. I just took advantage of any chance that presented itself. The idea is to seize the chance and make it your own. Don’t be frightened of achieving your goals! Many individuals are in this situation. After you’ve demonstrated your competence to someone, they could offer you a go at something more difficult. Then you’re suggested as a man who can deliver, and you’re referred again, and again.
Working on the Academy Awards.
5. How did you get from doing local events to touring with Santana and performing at the Academy Awards?
As I already said, I took advantage of every chance and made it work. Now, I accept that being in Southern California affords me more possibilities, but they are the same opportunities that other people in L.A. have but don’t take advantage of or are frightened to convert into something fruitful for them.
My chance at the Oscars came as a result of a recommendation. I’d been doing it for a few years at this time. I was working a lot of business events and Hollywood parties. I was always performing larger and bigger performances. The production business that was conducting the projection for the Oscars required a new projectionist, so they contacted some of the other places where I had previously worked. In Los Angeles, I’ve built a solid name for myself. I received a glowing recommendation. I was able to secure the job/opportunity and make it work. I had the skill set to be successful because of all the effort I had put in to improve.
The Santana tour came highly recommended as well. I was engaged for Michael Jackson’s return tour rehearsals by the same people that hired me for the Santana tour. Regrettably, it never made it out of the Staples Center. You can see my screens hanging on each side of the video wall in some of the images in the movie “This Is It.” I also performed the memorial ceremony shortly after he died. That was the single largest global broadcast I’ve ever worked on (so far). After all of that work, I’ve become something of a household name, and I’m getting requests for high-profile, demanding assignments.
6. Is there a lot of rivalry in the video engineer field? What makes the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t?
In my business, there are a lot of brilliant individuals, yet we don’t actually compete with one other. That is, at the top end of the shows where I work. In fact, we often recommend each other for jobs. We’re not union members; we’re all self-employed, and we all keep an eye on each other.
That said, I, like everyone else, am extremely picky about who I recommend. Referring someone who can’t deliver might be damaging to your reputation.
All of the traditional norms are followed by the most successful persons in our field.
Know what you’re doing and strive to enhance your skills. Always act in a professional manner. Put forth your best effort. Keep your clients satisfied at all times. You are your product, thus people skills are important.
Be truthful. This is a huge one; if you’re a shyster, you’ll earn a bad reputation that will follow you around for the rest of your life. Recognize and appreciate the value of your reputation. It takes time and effort to nurture.
I constantly emphasising the importance of hard effort. There are no alternatives. Hard effort on the job, but also hard work to learn more about your art, hard work to manage your money, hard work to keep an eye out for the next job, and hard work to make customers pleased so they will call you back. I know it’s cliched, but slackers get weeded out, particularly in Hollywood.
7. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
There are a few positive aspects to this. One of them is that there is always a sense of accomplishment. With previous employment, no matter how well I performed today, it was back to square one the next day. This is a project-based business. You go on to the next job after the previous one is completed. You’ve completed your task. It’s a fantastic sensation. There are seldom two that are precisely alike.
I also get to travel all around the nation and the globe, meeting some incredible individuals.
8. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
Traveling is a two-edged sword. Visiting different nations is exciting, but leaving your family may be difficult. In addition, aircraft flights and rough hotel mattresses may rapidly become tiresome. To be honest, it’s not that horrible; there are many worse positions to be in.
On the road with Carlos Santana.
9. How do you strike a balance between job, family, and personal life?
That may be difficult. It’s difficult not to accept every job that comes your way. I don’t receive paid vacation days, sick days, or health insurance as a freelancer. It’s all on me, or more really, us, since my wife and I are a true team. We’ve gotten into a good rhythm with it. When a project comes together, it may be all-consuming at times. When it’s finished, though, I’ll have time at home on weekdays that most people don’t. I take roughly a week off every month on average. When you add up the weekends, I simply get them all in a row, as do most others.
I also don’t live on the road like some of my peers, particularly concert tourers. Because of my family, I chose this option. I seldom leave the house for more than two weeks. I don’t want to go on a six-month rock and roll tour. Hey, I’m 45 and have a family, so I’ll delegate it to the twenty-somethings.
Living and working in Southern California also allows me to work closer to home than other folks in other places. I get to do things like game shows and award shows. L.A. is a destination city for business gatherings, therefore a lot of work comes here.
Being self-employed also allows me to have more control over my schedule, allowing my family and me to travel more often and at times of the year when most people don’t. So far, my wife and I agree that the family time has been superior than when I worked a nine-to-five job.
10. What is the most common misunderstanding about your job?
People believe it’s all about the parties and the glitz. Yes, there is glitz and shine, but I put in a lot of effort. These shows don’t just happen.
They also have no idea what degree of ability is required. Anyone can aim a camera, but only a professional can make it appear good.
11. Do you have any further advice, recommendations, observations, or anecdotes to share?
One of the many positive side effects of this is that my children have learned that you don’t have to work for someone else or have a traditional “career” to be successful. My two eldest children are adolescents who are quite forward-thinking and determined to go their own way. I enjoy that our family has been free to live on our own schedule and in our own manner.
In terms of anecdotes, if I start sharing tales, I could write a book (which isn’t a terrible idea). I’ve worked with presidents, music stars, sports stars, movie and television stars, and projects for some of the world’s largest corporations, and I constantly remind myself that I stumbled into this business by mistake. I think I’ve learnt not to be frightened of success when an opportunity presents itself.
To become a videographer, you need to have an education in film and video production. There are many ways to get your degree. You can go to school or work for someone who has a degree in the field. Reference: what education is needed to become a videographer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What qualifications does a videographer need?
A: To be a videographer, you must have creativity and technical knowledge. You should also know how to use your camera in order to capture the best images possible. Other qualifications include being patient, understanding of types of cameras and lenses, as well as knowing their uses for different types of photography including stills and video production.
Do videographers make good money?
A: In the United States, videographers typically make $40/hour on average. There are many factors that go into how much a videographer can earn per hour such as location and experience.
Is it hard to learn videography?
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