KAT HARDING - FREELANCE VIDEO TECH
When you’ve reached your career goal at the ripe old age of 35, where to next? That’s the question I sat down to discuss with Kat Harding, freelance video tech. The woman is an absolute machine. She’s got skill sets and experience that range from projectionist, media server programmer, director and camera operator to systems engineer and AV technical supervisor. Her resume reads like a festival line up. She barely stops to come up for air. And she is modest to boot.
So Kat, how did you get into AV? My love of AV started back in high school with cameras. I wanted to be a music video director. I had a little Sony Hi8 camera and was always capturing everything. Not that I did much with the footage.
After I finished school I took a year off and tried to figure out what I wanted to do. I did lighting courses, did some stunt training. I really wanted to get into the movies. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I was just trying different things.
Then I saw an audio engineering course at SAE and I thought I’ll give this a go. It was all live recording and it was kind of cool but I didn’t see myself doing it for a career. I had more fun setting it all up rather than operating it.
I saw a job advertised for an AVPS at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. I had no idea what that was, but thought I’ll give it a go. I had no experience, I was coming in fresh, but they were happy to take me on and train me up. I was there for 9.5 years and worked my way up to a senior tech role and Production Supervisor.
What was the next step from there? I built many connections in the industry outside of BCEC, one in particular was with TDC. was working with them on the 2013 series of Big Brother and then had the opportunity to move to Sydney with them. I spent over 2 years fulltime with them and learnt a whole new world of video.
What was one of the highlights from that period? It would have to be building projections for Vivid, some of which have gone onto winning industry awards.
... I get my inspiration from working with people who are passionate about what they do and motivate me.
What’s the best building to project onto?
MCA in Sydney, the location and scale of the building is ideal for the impact of building projection.
What is the weirdest thing? Projecting onto a 5 storey high, 70 metre long gra ti artwork in Melbourne for White Night in 2015. Definitely the weirdest and also my favourite building projection that I’ve worked on.
Tell us about your festival work? I work for various festivals like Splendour, Falls Festival, RnB Live and Groovin the Moo doing various roles including camera op, directing and RoboCam op. In 2017 I was RoboCam op for LCD Sound System and got on really well with the touring director. Which then lead to the following year working with Vampire Weekend at Splendor and Fuji Rock in Japan. Being on stage at Fuji Rock with over 50,000 people in the crowd, it was insane. It would have to be one of my favourite experiences in my career.
Where have some of your other networks taken you? Building networks in the industry is extremely important, one example was from when I worked at the Entertainment Centre in Brisbane back in 2011, I was able to be introduced to the Vice President at the Colosseum in Las Vegas and was able to do a venue tour when I went on holidays to see one of the shows there. Once I was there, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to tour and do concert work.
So when I came back I contacted the Colosseum again and asked if I could come over and do an internship. It’s unpaid, but that was fine as I just wanted the experience. They said sure, come over we’ll intro you to the video guys and you can hang out with them for five weeks. First job they gave me was like an initiation. We were doing the section in Celine Dion’s show where it’s a hologram, and my job was to twin two projections and clear the stage within 30 seconds before getting crushed by the stage lift. It was awesome and insane but I nailed it. As much as I enjoyed the intense pressure of that task I preferred sitting in the engineering seat next to the director for the rest of my time there.
And how was Celine? After the first show, I said “I will stop bagging her out, she’s amazing”. Her shows are mind blowing. Things I’d never seen before, with automation, projectors and screens being controlled by media servers. I went back again in 2018 for Elton John’s last shows as a resident at the Colosseum. Again, not necessarily an Elton fan, but these are iconic people. And last year I had my ultimate icon moment, I got to work on Janet Jackson’s show. My whole reason for being in this industry was to work on her show. So now, cool, tick that off the list, I can retire.
What’s the next thing to tick off the list? I don’t think I’ve come down from that yet. I’m content now. I’ve peaked early. I really want to do more camera directing. My end goal will be touring camera director.
It’s a pretty impressive list of people you’ve worked with. Yeah, it’s a good list. But there are other people who’ve done great things. But this is my little list and it’s pretty cool.
What other work do you do? I work with the media server team for the Australian Open and Laver Cup, some of my favorite teams of people to work with. I also love being a touring technician either as camera op, projectionist, system tech, engineer, led tech or whatever the role they need me for.
Has any show gone hideously wrong? Not really. I trust the systems. Projector lamps go, LED screens lose a panel, I’ve lost power – but nothing disastrous. You’ve got your backups going. You try to have the confidence. But the key is to remain calm.
How do you think you learnt to stay calm under pressure? I think it’s lots of corporate jobs, you learn how to handle the intensity. You can’t be too comfortable and content. If you don’t have just a little bit of nerves, something will be sure to go wrong.
So what are some future trends to keep an eye out for? Technology is always evolving at a rapid pace. I am keen to see what capabilities media servers will have in the future.
Do you have a role model? Not really, I get my inspiration from working with people who are passionate about what they do and motivate me.
You’ve done so much, where do you find the energy? I’m driven by the joy of it. I love what I do and that motivates me every day.
Any advice you’d give women coming into the industry? Don’t be scared. Come in knowing you’re equal. I never felt like I was missing work because I’m a woman. Be comfortable with who you are, know you can do what the guys can do. Come in and just be powerful.
There’s been times when I’ve doubted myself. There’s been times when I’ve faced some challenging circumstances and not wanted to work in this industry anymore. But I just make sure I surround myself with respectful people.
Any parting words of wisdom? Always feel confident in what you are doing. Even if you have a little bit of doubt in your mind, show confidence. Always check your backup lines. Don’t get so stressed out by it all. Don’t worry if you make a mistake, we’re all human. Don’t take it personally if equipment fails. Move on. Stay calm.
Do you have a superpower? Not at all, I’m just another video tech.