What is a Camera Operator?

Also known as: Electronic News Gathering Operator, Cinematographer, Studio Camera Operator, Television Camera Operator, Video Camera Operator, Professional Video Camera Operator, Camerawoman, Cameraman.

A camera operator is someone who records images that entertain or inform an audience. Camera operators capture a wide range of material for TV shows, motion pictures, music videos, documentaries, and news and sporting events. Most work in the motion picture industry or television broadcasting.

What does a Camera Operator do?

A camera operator will typically do the following:

  • Choose and present interesting material for an audience
  • Work with a director to determine the overall vision of the production
  • Discuss filming and editing techniques with a director to improve a scene
  • Select the appropriate equipment, from type of camera to software for editing
  • Shoot or edit a scene based on the director's vision

Many camera operators have one or more assistants working under their supervision. The assistants set up the camera equipment and may be responsible for storing it and caring for it. They also help the operator determine the best shooting angle and make sure that the camera stays in focus.

The increased use of digital filming has changed the work of many camera operators. Many prefer using digital cameras because these instruments give them more angles to shoot from. Digital cameras have also changed the job of some camera assistants: instead of loading film or choosing lenses, they download digital images or choose a type of software program to use with the camera.

The following are examples of types of camera operators:

Studio camera operators
- work in a broadcast studio and videotape their subjects from a fixed position. There may be one or several cameras in use at a time. Operators normally follow directions that give the order of the shots. They often have time to practice camera movements before shooting begins. If they are shooting a live event, they must be able to make adjustments at a moment’s notice and follow the instructions of the show’s director.

Electronic news gathering operators
- work on location as part of a reporting team. ENG operators follow events as they unfold and often record live events or breaking news. To capture these events, operators must anticipate the action and act quickly to shoot it. They sometimes edit their own footage in the field and then send it back to a studio to be broadcast.

- film motion pictures. They usually have a team of camera operators and assistants working under them. They determine the best angles and types of cameras to capture a shot. They may use stationary cameras that shoot whatever passes in front of them or a camera mounted on a track that moves around the action. Some operators sit on cranes and follow the action. Others carry the camera on their shoulder while they move around the action. Some cinematographers specialize in filming cartoons or special effects.

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What is the workplace of a Camera Operator like?

Electronic news gathering operators usually travel locally and may have to stay overnight to cover a major event. Cinematographers and camera operators who film movies or TV shows may film on location and be away from home for months at a time.

Some camera operators work in uncomfortable or even dangerous conditions, such as severe weather, military conflicts, and natural disasters. They may have to stand for long periods waiting for an event to take place. They may carry heavy equipment.

Work hours vary with the type of camera operator, though most work full time. Those who work in broadcasting may have to work long hours to meet a deadline. Those who work in the motion picture industry may have long, irregular hours while filming but go through a period of unemployment after their work on the film is complete and before they are hired for their next job.



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Further Reading

  • Camera Operator careerplanning.about.com

    If you were to visit the set of a movie or television show, you would see the "cameraman" filming the action.

  • How To Become A Better Camera Operator filmcameracourse.wordpress.com

    Being a professional camera operator is a highly skilled job, which requires many qualities. It’s not just a case of just looking down the viewfinder and shooting.

  • Camera Operator Facts work.chron.com

    The images that appear in movies, on TV and in videos come from the work of camera operators. They often perform their tasks under instructions from a director. The pictures may entertain or inform, but must compel an audience to watch.

  • How Do I Become… A TV Cameraman www.theguardian.com

    Filming is neither fun or glamorous, says cameraman Joel Shippey, which is why you need commitment, the right attitude and a love of people.

  • 10 Tips For Shooting Steady Hand Held filmcameracourse.wordpress.com

    Hand Held shooting is a skill that all camera operators need to develop, and for all the film directors out there, this is also useful stuff to know because it’s always good to appreciate the camera operator’s challenges when shooting.

  • Life As A Television Camera Operator eyesay.hubpages.com

    I have been asked several times now what it means to be a camera operator. What it means and what the job is, are two completely different questions, I'm going to answer the first one.

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