A Day in the Life of James Fishwick, Senior Avid / EVS Technical Support Engineer for Gravity Media in Ash Vale, Surrey

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James Fishwick2

One of the best aspects of my role is the range of projects. We do a lot of different work, including big events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cup. We support and supply Avid editing equipment suites for the French, Australian and US Opens, and Wimbledon. Then there’s the light entertainment shows, where we may do a record in an Avid system for the client to take away and edit at their own post production house. Sometimes, we provide on-site support for those types of systems as well. 

In 2019, our biggest job was hit show The Circle, screened on Channel 4 in the UK and on Netflix in the US. I worked on the project from July through to December, building a fully redundant “Clustered” Avid Interplay System and 500TB of on-site Avid NEXIS storage, with more than 30 Edit Suites attached. Alongside were 10 Loggers using EVS IPDirector and 10 EVS XT-3’s capturing 40 incoming streams.

My role involves travelling at least once or twice per month. Time away is anywhere from a couple of days to a week but for the Olympics, we’re out of the office eight weeks straight. I’ve done some great jobs abroad, they tend to be the most interesting, but if in the office – we are based in Ash Vale, in Surrey – we supply edit suites for ITV drama shows. So while I might be in the office at the start of a normal day, I could end up in a film studio by the end of it.

No two jobs are the same at Gravity Media and the work is often challenging, requiring lateral thinking. You may need to get a bit creative with the kit, or it might be the client changes their mind at the last minute, or needs more in terms of kit than expected. The office is really good at letting us get on with it, although support is offered.  A lot of clients, you get to know them well. 

My role is similar to that of a tech support engineer or post production engineer, but more involved. We take ownership of projects from beginning to end. We will liaise with the clients for requirements, spec the system, build the system at base to test it, box it up, take it to the site, install it and then support it from there, prior to de-rig once the job’s complete.

About 20 staff are based at Ash Vale, situated in fairly close proximity. It’s great to be able to just go and talk to someone, rather than have to spend all day emailing. 

There’s a good team mentality at the office. On the tech side of things, we help each other out. If one of us is stuck on a job, the others are contactable and willing to give advice. 

Everything is built around PC and Mac operating systems, so for my job, you have to be an expert in both. Good basic networks knowledge is essential. I started as a runner for Input Media in 2007 – now part of Gravity Media – and worked my way up. 

The ability to keep calm in high pressure situations is useful in my job. It also helps if you’re a good communicator, able to clearly explain to the client how long things will take and what’s achievable. A big plus is if you’re able to think on your feet. No matter what happens, the show has got to go out. You’ve always got to find a way to make it work. 

What advice would you give a job seeker who’s thinking about applying for a job with Gravity Media? 

They need to be keen. They should be willing to ‘muck in’ and help, especially on a de-rig, even if it’s boxing up cables. They must also be prepared to spend time away from home. We do a lot of travelling. Scotland and around the UK usually, but it can be further afield, such as for the Olympics, FIFA World Cup or Rugby World Cup. Spending time away from family is hard, and the job can involve long hours, sometimes at short notice. It’s good fun seeing other countries, though. 

When you tell people about your job, what’s one thing that surprises them, or gets them excited about the work you do? 

People tend to think of the job as being quite glamorous but often we are actually in a carpark or a small room backstage somewhere. So yeah, I was at the World Cup but I was in a carpark, inside a truck, watching on small monitors. Saying that, we do get access-all-areas passes at some really big events, which is nothing to complain about.  

What is your most favourite project you have worked on with Gravity Media?

A couple of years ago we did a BBC project called Big Blue Live. It involved setting up five edit suites in California, next to Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was just me on my own out there. I set up and supported the edits suites, two ingest stations and an EVS network as well. I was out there for about seven weeks in total but once the gear was set up, it was primarily a support role. Nothing went wrong, thankfully, and I got to spend seven weeks by the beach in California.