Is this role right for me?
To do this role, you will need to:
What does a Camera Operator do?
Camera Operators carry out the Director of Photography’s (DoP) and Director’s instructions for shot composition and development. They are usually the first people to use the camera's eyepiece to assess how all the elements of performance, art direction, lighting, composition and camera movement come together to create the cinematic experience.
Camera Operators usually start at the end of pre-production and attend technical recces with other Heads of Department. They work closely with the Director of Photography, Director and Grip, and are responsible for the First Assistant Camera (1st AC), Second Assistant Camera (2nd AC) and the Camera Trainee.
After the Director and DoP have rehearsed and blocked the shots, the Camera Operator and DoP decide where to position the camera and what lenses and supporting equipment to use. Camera Operators liaise with the Grip and other Heads of Department, and keep them informed about how the position and movement of the camera might impact on their workload.
During shooting, Operators are responsible for all aspects of camera operation, enabling the DoP to concentrate intensively on lighting and overall visual style.
Camera Operators make sure the camera and equipment are prepared for the required set-ups and ready for any last-minute changes. They must be able to multi-task and to watch, listen and think on their feet while carrying out complex technical tasks.
They liaise closely with the Director, fine-tuning the exact details of each shot, suggesting creative improvements or alternatives. They supervise the logistics of moving the camera, and oversee the Camera maintenance work carried out by the Focus Puller and the 2nd AC.
Camera Operators work closely with performers, guiding them on what can and cannot be seen by the camera. As DoPs now also operate the camera on smaller films, many Camera Operators specialise in the operation of other precision equipment, such as Remote Heads or Steadicam. Most also work on commercials, promos and television drama.
The DoP or Director often asks for a specific Camera Operator, who in turn makes recommendations about the rest of the camera and grip departments.
The work is physically demanding, and requires high levels of strength and stamina. Hours are long (12-14 hours a day) and some foreign travel may be required, involving long periods spent away from base.
What's the best route in?
You can expect to begin your career as a Camera Trainee or Runner, progressing to 2nd AC and, as you gain more experience, to 1st AC. You will have to continually build upon your experience and competence when operating a variety of cameras in order to achieve the role of Camera Operator.
Where might this role take me?
From here, you may move on to become a DoP.