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Kathleen Gray's work

Kathleen Gray

BSc (Hons) Live and Studio Sound

Graduated 2013

Kathleen Gray

My love of outside broadcast (OB) and the industry stemmed from working in Solent's OB truck at festivals.

I loved the hands on practical lessons being taught in the classroom and then backed up on the road at sports events, conferences and festivals to solidify the theory, and learnt the operational skills required to step out of uni and into work. Doing the course I did, you get the chance to explore multiple areas of an ever-changing industry.

After I left uni, I started working for NEP UK as a multi-skilled operator on programmes like The Magaluf Weekender and Big Brother. Six months later, I became a trainee vision engineer, and have worked my way up over the last few years to become a Guarantee Broadcast Engineer. Now I regularly operate as the Engineer-in-Charge on a variety of projects, including Sky Football and ITV’s Love Island.

My career highlight so far has been being part of the host broadcast team for Wimbledon and the IAAF World Championships last year. My biggest long-term achievement would be having been part of the core team for the last three years on Love Island – being involved in the planning, rigging and implementation of designs. All of these jobs are derigs (all loose kit that we build into the necessary system requirements), which adds a unique challenge.

Every day is different – while onsite, rigging would normally involve opening the trucks, configuring the router and mixer for the appropriate job, and then making sure that all the equipment is working correctly, so that everything is up and running for when the production teams arrive.

If you’re trying to get into the industry, ask lots of questions when you’re starting out. If you show you’re keen to learn, engineers will impart as much information on you as possible! The more they teach you, the more pressure you will take off them, so they can leave you to get on with tasks they then don’t have to do.

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An example of Jack Threlfall's SFX styling

Jack Threlfall

BA (Hons) Special Effects

Graduated 2015

Jack Threlfall

How did Solent prepare you for your career? 
During my second year at Solent I was given the opportunity to design and build an animatronic robot for a prank show pilot for E4. I had about a week to make it. It took a few sleepless nights but it was finished in time. The client loved it, and most importantly it worked on the day. I was hidden under a desk controlling the animatronic to match a live feed being played in by a comedian who was pranking the public. It was a good laugh and E4 gave the show a chance. It was a hit, and even had a second series. The robot I designed became the mascot of the show and was all over the advertising campaign; I couldn't believe it! I watched the show with all my friends every week.

This work experience prepared me for my career in the film & TV industry. I learnt the importance of time management. I also had to quickly learn a lot of coding and animatronic techniques to make the robot; plus that all-nighters are sometimes necessary! It was my first time on a set of any kind. I learnt to keep calm and sort issues and I got to meet people in the industry who taught me the ins and outs of the television industry. 

My work experience with E4 helped me get my foot in the door, and I'm so glad I was given the opportunity.

Tell us a little about your career story so far.
Straight after university I got a job at a prosthetic lab where I built prosthetic limbs for the NHS. During my time at the limb lab, myself and my course mates started an FX team as we worked well together at university and wanted to continue to do so in the real world. We’ve exhibited our work at a number of film expos and galleries and on the back of this, we've been involved with many independent films and projects, most recently a film called Dear Air, which was shot in a plane.

After working at the limb lab, I got the opportunity to work on CBBC series Scream Street, which was amazing. I recently worked at a prop house where we made a huge float for Manchester Pride 2017 for the Coronation Street cast - it was Grease themed. After that I worked on CBBC's Clangers, making props and set dressing. I have some more work in the pipeline coming up soon. 

What is a typical working day for you? 
I'm freelance so every day is different. If I'm working at a studio, I'll get my brief from the art director and make props all day. Or if I've been hired to make props or prosthetics on my own, I'll go to my workshop and build all day. If I am doing neither of those two I'll go to my workshop and build recycled guitars, which I sell at Makers Markets. I like to keep myself busy.

What’s your career highlight so far? 
Seeing my name for the first time in the credits for something actually on TV was an amazing feeling; the hard work was worth it!

What tips would you give to someone wanting a career in your industry?

  • Draw. If you don't, start. If you do, do more. Do the same with sculpting - they go hand in hand.
  • Post your work on social media - networking is very important in this industry.  Meet as many people interested in film and TV as possible, as you'll be surprised at what may come of it. It's not what you know, it's who you know (unfortunately). 
  • Be ready to give up sleep every now and then, it'll get intense.
  • Be positive on set and don't be seen not doing anything.
  • And most of all, have fun!
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James Williams's work

James Williams

Course BSc (Hons) Media Technology

Graduated 2014

James Williams

When I was looking at universities, no other university was able to offer the same level of support in setting me up for a job in industry at the end of my studies.

The vast number of work experience opportunities, combined with highly relevant teaching units and access to industry standard facilities made finding my first job remarkably straightforward for me.

Working at Glastonbury in 2014 as the outside broadcast unit manager was a stand-out highlight. We had a complicated rig to put in place for the headline Saturday night act (Fat Boy Slim), which, when we pulled it off, was a triumph for all that were involved. We operated with such professionalism and had an absolute blast. Truly awesome. The previous year we also had our Rudimental footage played on BBC 3, which was another personal highlight of mine.

Being able to walk into an interview and have a grounding in the terminology and the fundamental principles that underpin the technology gives an instant leg up on the competition.

Combine that with the industry work experience - which I would encourage every student to take up when offered - your potential employer will recognise they have a well-rounded starting point in you as a candidate.

Once I graduated, I was lucky enough to secure a place at Arqiva, the UK infrastructure company that operates the terrestrial TV network Freeview, on their graduate programme, where I quickly worked my way up to become a Platform Developer working on OTT (over the top) products and services - live streaming and video on demand (VoD). Here, my career highlight was live streaming the FIFA club world cup and building a live to VoD system from scratch in two weeks flat! I have recently made the hop to a new position working at Amazon Video.

I’d recommend this course if you’re interested in the technology behind media production and distribution. From festival production, livesound and lights, TV studios, and transmission technologies - the course covers all aspects of the TV (and radio) eco-system.

If you’re trying to get into the industry, be open to new things. I originally started my course at Solent on the Sound Engineering course, but after doing a summer internship at Ericsson (offered by the uni) I decided to change to broadcast, and can honestly say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

Do work hard at your studies, but enjoy Southampton too, and ALWAYS get involved in the work experience that comes your way. You won’t know you love something until you try it, and likewise what you think you like you might actually end up hating in reality – so find out now what it is that gets you out of bed in the mornings!

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Christian Lowes's work

Christian Lowes

BSc (Hons) Sound Engineering

Graduated 2014

Christian Lowes

This course is for you if you have a love for everything sound - from being an avid music listener to a musician who wants to get behind the glass, or if you're very interested in the technology used within the field of audio engineering.

What's your favourite Solent memory?
My favourite course based memory is using the hemi-anechoic chamber to investigate analogue turntable distortion from large sound systems. This included me maxing a speaker stack to around 100db, and using a laser vibrometer to measure the vibration of the turntable. My favourite social-based memories are the stream of parties throughout the first and second years; you end up meeting so many great people.

Tell us a little about your career story so far.
Well, after university I joined the luxury home automation market. This includes aspects of residential audio visual systems, as well as advanced home automation. I started as a system designer at a small London-based firm, where I developed my design knowledge and skills by being thrown in at the deep end. Once I’d learnt as much as I could I moved onto Fusion Automation Ltd, one of the UK’s leading firms within the luxury home automation market, once again as a system designer, until my skills were moved to another role within the company as technology and design consultant.

What is luxury home automation and AV?
It’s the design and installation of technology systems within private or commercial buildings that require everything to be centralised, easily controllable, hidden and have that 'wow factor'.

Tell us about what you are doing now and what it involves.
I’m currently working on a range of private residential homes and commercial schemes. My typical working day is broken up into consultancy jobs and installation jobs. I will start by answering any emails relating to both consultancy and installation, attend some design team meeting either on-site or remotely. I may then head back to the office to complete design documentation. These are either in the form of drawings, schematics or RIBA stage technical specifications, for tender purposes.

What’s your career highlight so far?
Being involved in a £100 million private property that featured on a television programme about the rich and famous. I’d watched it years before and marvelled at the sheer size and grandeur. To end up working as the lead technology consultant on the exact property that I saw on that specific TV programme was incredible.

What tips would you give to someone wanting a career in your industry?
If you’re looking to enter the industry, I would look up CEDIA, which is the largest industry body within AV and home automation. They have a range of free white papers and guides of how to design, install and understand the best practices. Some of their content is free, some you do have to pay for, but if you’re keen to enter the industry, this early knowledge will provide valuable in future interviews.

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One of Rachel Forrester's pictures

Rachel Forrester  

BA (Hons) Television and Studio Production  

Graduated 2014

Rachel Forrester

What’s your favourite Solent memory?
My favourite Solent memory is pretty much every time I was in studio. Solent has an amazing studio, which operates like the real thing, run entirely by the students. Our third year studio series project, High Stakes, was a lot of fun to work on every week and I loved working with the whole class in the studio. The sense of achievement after we had finished our seven episodes was amazing.

Tell us about what you’re up to now.
I’ve been running in television now for around a year and a half, and in that time worked on shows like Top Gear, Great American Railway Journeys, The Big Family Cooking Showdown and Strictly Come Dancing 2017.

On Strictly my week consisted of ordering everything for the Friday rehearsal and live Saturday recordings and prepping the dressing rooms and studio for show days. Show days themselves were long busy days, making sure all professional dancers and celebrities were fed and in the right place at the right times in the right outfits. Keeping the crew happy was key. It was also my job to look after the gallery, sound and lighting departments.

What's your career highlight?
There are so many highlights it is hard to choose! I think my career highlight has to be either driving a Porsche to Germany and all the travelling with Top Gear, or filming on the edge of the CN tower 1,168ft above Toronto and crossing America with Great American Railway Journeys.

The television industry is constantly changing and evolving. It's an exciting time to be in the industry, which is embracing social platforms and pushing the boundaries of what TV can be.

What tips would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

  • My top tip is to keep going and take every opportunity. The world of TV is very competitive with a lot of very talented people. It took about six months of constant CVs and applications before getting my first contract.
  • Take every little day running job or experience opportunity at Solent - experience is what gets you work.
  • If you’re looking to get into television, try the Facebook group ‘People looking for TV work: Runners’. This is a great resource that has helped me get several jobs since leaving Solent.

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Torrin Holland's work

Torrin Holland

BSc (Hons) TV and Video Production

Graduated 2013

Torrin Holland

There’s always two sides to uni: the work, and the personal. I’m happy to say that there was never a dull moment in either. Solent is placed perfectly in the middle of Southampton.

Before I joined I remember being nervous thanks to my autism, but the staff and people I met during my time at Solent really made me feel comfortable.

The course allows you to be flexible with what you want to do. You can focus on post production (editing and graphic design), production (being part of the filming crew, either on a small shoot or ranging up studio work), or, if you’re like me, you can train in all areas. Above all, it allows you to get hands on with different equipment that professionals use, and gives you access to professionals offering tips and advice.

The course was the perfect gateway to where I am now. Without it, I doubt I would have made it in the video world. I’d recommend it to those who enjoy the idea of expressing their creative ideas through video, either online or in the broadcast realm.

After leaving Solent, I freelanced for a number of companies for two years, doing a variety of things. I was very lucky to work for the Holiday and Cruise channel, and got to go to Canada for a week to film and edit a televised advert. It was very nice to see it on TV when it aired!

After those two years, I finally found a long term job at Sony as their only in house video content producer for the whole of Europe. I create a variety of content that is used across many different platforms, including social and instore. To have this kind of responsibility and trust is amazing, as my work is very much at the forefront of our marketing team.

If you’re trying to get into the industry, never give up. There were times where I thought I wasn’t going to get anywhere, and it’s normal to feel like that. We’re only human and sometimes things take time. The important thing is not to let it cloud you. If you want this career, you have to work, and work hard for it. I was taking jobs left right and centre even if it wasn’t my forte, just to make sure I made contacts and learnt as much as I could.

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