What is a Camera Operator

What is a Camera Operator & What Role Do they Have on Set?

What is a Camera Operator? This blog should answer this question in detail. Acting as direct support to the Director of Photography and the Director, Camera Operators play a vital role on the film set and must carry out the directions of the director to portray the creative vision through shot composition and development. Camera operators are responsible for moving the camera through the set to maintain proper narrative flow of a feature film.

Camera operators utilize the camera’s eye piece to assess each element of the performance through the lens ensuring the art direction, lighting, composition, and camera movement properly come together to create the unique cinematic experience viewers crave.

camera operator - Beverly Boy

Directors often request a specific camera operator for their film. The camera operator then makes initial recommendations as to the rest of the camera and grip department resources. Operating a camera is a highly physical and artistic position that can be extremely demanding on heavy film days. Camera operators will often spend 12-14 hours a day on set and may be required to travel abroad spending long periods of time away from home.

Camera Operator’s Job Duties

 Camera operators come into the production at the end of the pre-production stage of the film. Budget permitting, the camera operator will attend the technical recces with other department heads and will continue to work alongside the Director of Photography, the Director of Grip, the 1st Assistant Camera, 2nd Assistant Camera and the Camera Trainee.

Camera Operators Responsibilities

Following rehearsal, the Camera Operator and the Director of Photography determine camera positioning, proper lenses for the shoot and what supporting equipment should be included. Working as the liaise between the Grip and other department heads, the camera operator helps to inform them as to the impact camera movement and positioning will have on their workload.

Operators are responsible for ensuring camera equipment is properly prepared for the shoot and that proper camera operation takes place during the shoot. This allows the Director of Photography to focus heavily on lighting and the visual style of the shot. What is a Camera Operator? an essential player in a film crew.

bbp crew camera op

Camera operators prepare camera and related equipment for set-up, staying abreast of any potential last-minute changes that are required of them. Multi-tasking and a strong ability to closely pay attention and carry out complex technical tasks on the fly are key responsibilities of the camera operator.

Working directly with the Director, they ensure every detail of the shot is in order and, when necessary, they make suggestions on creative improvements or adjustments that could be made to improve the film. Camera operators are also responsible for monitoring the logistics of moving the camera and they supervise camera maintenance work that the Focus Puller and 2nd AC perform.

Camera Operators Communication Duties on Set

Camera operators inform performers on what acts can and cannot be seen by the camera. Director of Photography’s sometimes operate the camera on small or low-budget films, but camera operators often specialize in the operation of precision equipment including Remote Heads and Steadicam.

Most camera operators will work in television drama, commercials, and promos. However, in films that have a larger budget, camera operators continue to hold a crucial role in connecting the creative ambitions of the director and other departments to ensure the desired result.

bbp crew 3 camera ops

Camera Operator Skills

Camera operators must have technical skills and a creative knack.  They must be able to effectively operate the camera to produce the results desired by the director of the film. Essential skills include working knowledge of camera systems, understanding of lenses and various camera support equipment, and an understanding of accessories that can assist in the film production such as remote focus systems, video senders and receivers, and various other equipment. Camera operators make practical decisions in filming and must use their creativity to ensure adequate production. What is a Camera Operator? here are a few essentials that will explain.

cam op on set

Camera operators must:

  • Possess a solid sense of visual composition and understand the role of perspective and movement in film.
  • Have great coordination and strength to hold a camera for several hours a day.
  • Recognize the value of combining creative ability and technical skills to produce top quality results.
  • Pay close attention to detail and have strong communication skills.
  • Be able to work with a team and collaborate with others to achieve desired results.
  • Have working knowledge of Health and Safety legislation procedures.

WorkBC’s Career Trek does a great job breaking down the experience on set in this video



film crew positions

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