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What Does a Board Operator Do?

A board operator manages the control panel for radio or television broadcasts, ensuring smooth transmission of audio and visual content. They balance sound levels, coordinate segments, and troubleshoot technical issues. Curious about the skills needed to excel in this role?
Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A board operator is a person who sets up and runs audio equipment, lighting equipment, and/or visual equipment used to tape or transmit radio programs, television programs, or live shows in a theater. He or she operates the control board or boards that allow for adjustment of audio or visual components. The board operator must be able to set up equipment and troubleshoot it once it is set up. During broadcasts, the operator must recognize necessary adjustments and make them in a timely manner, ensuring smooth transitions and seamless broadcasts.

The level of education necessary to obtain a job as a board operator can vary depending on the setting in which the operator will work. In some cases, no formal education is necessary, but a knowledge and understanding of the various components of an audio or visual system will be required. Many people interested in board operator positions take part in some sort of training program, which may be offered at a college or university, or by an audio or visual company. In some cases, a candidate for the job may learn how to use the equipment on his or her own, working for independent bands, artists, or broadcasters to learn the skills.

A board operator controls sound, lighting or visual equipment during the taping or live broadcasting of radio, television or theater programs.
A board operator controls sound, lighting or visual equipment during the taping or live broadcasting of radio, television or theater programs.

Board operator positions have declined in availability as systems become more automated, though many positions still exist where human intuition is desired or required. At radio stations, a board operator may run the controls when a DJ is not present; this position is usually a minimum wage or entry-level position, and it is likely the operator will work at non-peak hours, such as overnight shifts. Live shows usually require a board operator to be present so he or she can troubleshoot on the fly and address unforeseen circumstances.

Electric instruments and microphones can be plugged into mixing boards by using traditional music cables with quarter-inch plugs.
Electric instruments and microphones can be plugged into mixing boards by using traditional music cables with quarter-inch plugs.

Recording commercials or broadcasts for use at a later date can also be done by board operators. The operator will be responsible for producing a clear recording, as well as mixing and mastering the recording for use in broadcasting settings. This means the operator must set up microphones and other audio equipment, as well as video recording equipment when applicable. This can be a complex task, especially when recording a live musical performance with several performers playing at once; the operator will need to balance the audio signals to ensure each instrument or voice is heard clearly and in balance with other instruments.

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    • A board operator controls sound, lighting or visual equipment during the taping or live broadcasting of radio, television or theater programs.
      By: flucas
      A board operator controls sound, lighting or visual equipment during the taping or live broadcasting of radio, television or theater programs.
    • Electric instruments and microphones can be plugged into mixing boards by using traditional music cables with quarter-inch plugs.
      By: Alexey Laputin
      Electric instruments and microphones can be plugged into mixing boards by using traditional music cables with quarter-inch plugs.