Director for Television:
In the television world, there are really two types of directors: Multi-Camera and Single Camera. Although there are many similarities, as well as a number of directors who can manage both types of productions, they require different sets of skills.
Multi-Camera productions are most often sit-coms and soap operas, as well as talk shows, sporting events and newscasts. Multi-Camera means just what it says – multiple cameras. Most multi-camera productions use three cameras that run simultaneously to catch various reactions in the same scene rather than having to run a scene over and over as is typical with most single camera shoots. Additionally, they are invaluable during live events because one camera can be focused on one individual or moment while the other cameras catch the reactions of other participants in that same scene or activity.
Multi-Camera productions are shot on both video and film, depending on the parameters of the production itself as well as the budget. The director of a multi-camera show will either direct the action from the stage floor or from a booth. In most multi-camera sit-coms like “Everybody Loves Raymond”, “Friends” and “Two and a Half Men”, the director will be on the stage floor so that they can interact with the writers and actors on the stage. In shows like these it is essential that the director provide acting and blocking notes as the production is shot to make sure he/she gets the ideal result.
Most live event, talk show and soap opera directors prefer to work in a video booth, where they focus less on the people in front of the camera and more on the direction of the cameras themselves. These directors will communicate any talent issues to a Stage Manager, who will in turn deliver the message to the appropriate person.
Single Camera Director:
Single Camera productions are shot much in the same way that a movie is shot. Single Camera productions usually refer to hour-long television dramas, made for TV movies and even some sit-coms like “My Name is Earl” and “Sex and the City.” “CSI”, “Heroes” and “Lost” are good examples of a typical hour-long drama that are shot in this manner. Directors of these productions treat each episode of these television series like a miniature movie. However, unlike directors of movies, single-camera productions must be shot in a given time line to insure they make a predetermined air date.
The director of a single camera shoot will tend to be as close to the “action” as possible. This way they can direct the actor(s) as needed throughout the duration of the shoot giving them actionable notes on their acting, blocking, dialogue or any number of things. The director is sometimes positioned near the camera watching the live action of the actor(s) or huddled slightly off camera with other key crew members (writers, producers, executives, etc.) watching on a monitor that is plugged into the main camera. This way they can be sure that the cinematographer is getting the proper shot.
The job of a Television Director can be highly stressful, but at the same time, can be extremely rewarding.