Film/Television Camera Operator
Pay for film/television camera operators varies depending on experience and the type of production they are working on.
There are no specific entry requirements to become a film/television camera operator. However, a relevant tertiary qualification in film, television or video production is useful.
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a film or television camera operator. However, English, maths, media studies, digital technologies, drama and photography are useful.
Most camera operators are freelancers, and in a freelance world you live on the reputation of your last job. So you need to get on with the clients and production companies you work with
Film/television camera operators need to have a good level of fitness as they stand for extended periods and carry heavy camera equipment. They also need to have good hearing and normal colour vision.
Camera operator jobs: What do they do? What do they get paid? How do I become one?
Camera operators play a vital role in filming TV, film and online productions and are in charge of – as you might have guessed – cameras. But what do camera operators do? What makes a camera operator stand out? How do you become a camera operator? What do camera operators get paid?
What do camera operators do? And who do camera operators work with?
Camera operators are responsible for operating a variety of technical equipment including mobile mounts and digital, electronic and film cameras. They work with the film’s director and director of photography to achieve the desired visual style of the production. Camera operators work in close collaboration with the camera department as well as occasionally engaging in dialogue with the actors.
When do camera operators start work?
Camera operators start working near the end of pre-production. While they sometimes have a hand in planning and preparing scenes, they are mostly responsible for making adjustments to the camera based on the elements affecting the shot after the director and DP block the scene.
Types of camera operators
There are a variety of camera operators who work across the world in countless capacities. Some capture music videos, others risk their lives in war-torn areas, some shoot sports and others work on movie sets.
Can I be a camera operator?
Camera operator certainly do a lot more than push buttons and it takes a lot of determination and resilience to become one. The job is physically demanding and usually takes place far from home, sometimes for weeks or months on end.
How to Hire a Camera Operator
A camera operator performs the most basic and essential function in any video production—making sure footage is captured. While a director is in charge of the creative vision of a production, the camera operator is the finely tuned instrument that gets the job done. Experts in angles, focus, motion, and lighting, camera operators know just how to carry out a director’s grand ideas and turn them into a reality. Hiring a quality freelance camera operator will make any simple production look professional and outstanding.
What to Look For
No matter what their credentials are, freelance camera operators will have a showreel to display their talent—education matters little compared with showing actual work. When you sit down to interview a potential freelance camera operator, you should be looking for a couple specific things in his or her showreel
Know What You Need
Since freelance camera operators essentially work to carry out someone else’s ideas, they won’t require much beforehand such as a script or a meeting with the cast members. If you want to have all your bases covered however, you’ll want to ask them if they have all their own equipment or if you will need to provide any. Part of this comes down to the types of shots you want them to capture. For instance, a good freelance camera operator should have his or her own camera and simple crane jibs.
How are the shots focused?
Almost the entirety of a freelance camera operator’s job consists of taking clear, focused shots. The creative direction of the reel isn’t really important here, whether it is good or bad. If the shots are focused well, telling the visual story that should be flowing naturally, chances are you’ve found a good freelance camera operator.
How does the camera track movement?
Capturing motion is another quality you should look for. If the movement does not stay properly framed throughout the shot, you may want to look for someone else.
How to become a Film and Television Camera Operator
Education & Training for a Film and Television Camera Operator
To become a film and television camera operator you usually have to complete a VET qualification. Applicants may be required to attend an interview and/or submit a folio of work. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a film and television camera operator through a traineeship in Media. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10. Alternatively, you can become a film and television camera operator by completing a degree in creative arts, media, screen production, or film and television. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education with English. Applicants may be required to attend an interview and/or submit a folio of work. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.
Working conditions for a Film and Television Camera Operator
Film and television camera operators work as part of a team and are often required to work long and irregular hours, including nights and weekends. They may need to travel to remote areas. Work can take place indoors and outdoors.
Employment Opportunities for a Film and Television Camera Operator
Camera operators may be employed by television broadcasters and film companies. The demand for camera operators depends on levels of investment in film and television production, as well as the introduction of new technology. Competition for entry-level positions is strong and people appointed have usually been employed in some other aspect of film and television production. Promotion to the level of camera operator depends on demonstrated skills and proficiency, as well as full knowledge of the various types of cameras used.
A director of photography oversees the lighting and camera crew in the film production unit. They instruct camera operators on camera set-up, angles, distance and movement, then signal cues to start and stop filming. After each day’s filming, the director of photography checks the ‘rushes’ (the scenes shot that day) and decides whether re-filming is necessary.
Film and Television Camera Operator
Film and television camera operators set up, position and operate equipment in studios or on location to photograph or record people, events and scenes. Film camera operators use 16mm and 35mm film cameras or digital video for motion pictures, whereas television and video camera operators use cine-electronic television or digital video and video cameras for direct telecast and recording.
FILM CREW RULES FROM A VETERAN CAMERA OPERATOR
Get out before you get in.
Simply loving movies is not enough to sustain anyone for decades of long days, missed holidays, and unpredictable income. If any skill other than filmmaking comes easily to you go for that. It will probably be an easier life path than the film slog. If this is your only calling, welcome to the club.
Put the silver marker & Criterion DVD away.
A strong work ethic and set etiquette is extremely important when working around strangers and celebrities. Asking for photos or signatures on-set is distracting and unprofessional. Pro Tip: The sooner you can get comfortable acknowledging famous people as simply other human beings, the closer you are to really learning something interesting about them.
One of those Production Assistants will be your boss someday.
Treat all crew members with respect. People move quickly in the film industry: today’s PA might be tomorrow’s Executive Producer. Bring Your A-game to every job because it’s habit forming and you never know who’s watching. Pro tip: use a printed call sheet on-set rather than using your distracting phone. Even if you’re doing work and checking the call sheet on your phone, other people on set who see you staring down at the screen might think you’re texting. With a printed call sheet there’s no question that you’re focused.
Don’t dress like a pirate.
Working in an industry without a dress code is great, but it’s no excuse to look and act like a salty sailor. Inspire confidence in your employers with your appearance and communication. If you’re new, a clean shave (for the dudes) or neat hairdo (for the gals) and a collared shirt is a good start. The idea here is that if something goes wrong on set and the Director or Producer is pissed off and looking around for someone to blame you want them to look at you and see a calm, cool, professional. Your clothes and appearance can make the difference.
Never back out of a shoot.
Freelancers naturally develop a mercenary instinct to follow the highest bidder. But a key to long-term survival in film production is to value your relationships with good people more than a big paycheck. Never sign up for a shoot and then skip our in favor of a larger paycheck. Doing that is the best way to make enemies and build a bad reputation. Pro Tip: Expect loyalty on both sides of the relationship. A boss who will fight for your rate is worth following.