Camera Operator (pre-rec)

The role of a camera operator is to use the camera to capture the action occurring and what is happening including interviews, B-Roll etc.

The Camera Operator, who can also be referred to as the Director of Photography (DOP), is in charge of capturing the on-going action. Often led and directed by the producer they should utilize the camera equipment to create effective cinematography that will be used within the post-production process.

Whilst prior knowledge of the camera and equipment used can be beneficial, experience is especially important as the best way to familiarise yourself with the equipment required to be used as the camera operator is by actually using it. Therefore, if you are not entirely familiar with the equipment, ensure that you schedule some time prior to the shoot to acquaint yourself with the camera. Furthermore, before the shoot ensure you communicate with the producer to gage an idea of exactly what you are shooting (i.e sit-down talking head, news report etc) as well as the type of footage they need and what style they are looking for so you are best prepared for when you are shooting. It is also helpful to look at the weather forecast prior to shooting as well as take into consideration the time of the day of the shoot and whether it is taking place inside/outside so you can pre-empt the lighting conditions and how best to deal with them.

During the shoot, you will likely be required to carry and take care of the camera equipment. If there is an interview being filmed you will be required to set up the shot, likely with the camera onto a tripod, in the most effective setting possible, positioning both the camera and contributor to create something visually appealing and effective.

Whilst filming the interview you will have to keep watching to ensure nothing disturbs the shot and requires a re-shoot, for example if a boom microphone is being used you will be required to ensure it doesn’t enter the shot and signal the boom operator if it does.

As a camera operator you will likely have to react quickly to unforeseen situations and circumstances, whether that be ongoing events that occur and you need to quickly capture or changes to weather conditions etc. Additionally, as mentioned prior, your ability to quickly adapt and problem solve will be aided by your knowledge of the camera - however every experience is a learning experience so don’t worry too much! Just ensure you communicate with your crew throughout shooting and don’t panic if an issue does arise.

Additionally, you will likely have to shoot some B-Roll that can be used within the edit. Whilst you can ask your producer for some direction, it is partly your responsibility to get a range of different shots (from wide shots to close-ups) and plenty of footage to aid the editor within post-production. Some of this footage can be shot on a tripod, particuarly pans, which should be shot very slowly as they can always be sped up during post-production. A lot of the B-Roll however, will likely be shot handheld so try to have a steady hand and experiment with some pull focuses. Additionally, when taking a shot leave a few seconds more before you stop recording which will again benefit the editor significantly during post-production.

Responsibilities of the Role:

  • Familiarise yourself with what the producer is hoping to capture

  • Liaise with the producer some cinematography visuals that is similar to what the producer is hoping to achieve within the production

  • Awareness surrounding the various camera settings/elements including ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance

  • Awareness of what Kit is being used for the shoot so able to use the equipment to capture the best footage (i.e appropriate lenses etc.)

  • Familiarise yourself with the camera you are using on the shoot

  • Carry the camera (and, if using, the tripod) between shooting locations

  • Set up the Tripod (if using) and mount the camera to it

  • Setting up the Shot (particuarly for an interview) and ensuring the producer is happy with it

  • Taking care of Kit

  • Capturing the on-going surrounding action

  • Capturing relevant and plentiful B-Roll

  • Ensuring the camera is capturing the content successfully (i.e. SD Card etc)