The job of running a camera for film or television productions can mean different things depending on the type of production. However, whether the camera is placed in the field or in the comfort of a studio or sound stage, the job has a common set of duties. The successful camera operator consistently exceeds the expectations of directors and producers in key areas.
Camera operators must have a thorough knowledge of their gear. The modern high-definition digital camera has more in common with a computer than with the film or video cameras of 20 to 30 years ago. The operator should know the exact placement and operation of key controls. She should also be familiar with the menu system and how to customise its funcions to provide imaging options unique to the specific production.
An effective camera operator knows how to compose a shot creatively by following the basic rules of photography. The operator must be able to place the subject intuitively in the correct frame space in relationship with other objects.
To ensure the best image quality, the operator must keep the camera in focus (unless the director calls for a soft or de-focused effect) and use the correct exposure. Most importantly, the camera operator must make sure the video camera is recording or the film is rolling when the director calls for action.
In addition to having the correct focus and exposure, modern cinema or television productions call for the camera to be in constant movement. The camera operator is expected to move the camera with a fluidity that makes the camera an extension of himself. The operator may move the camera by himself or while working in conjunction with other crew members operating equipment such as cranes, dollies or track systems.
Other Duties as Assigned
Unless the film or television production has a large budget, the camera operator often has other responsibilities. He is often expected to function as a gaffer (lighting operator), grip and audio operator. The duties usually include making sure all the gear required for the production is moved to the location and set up. For example, the operator ensures that microphones are properly placed for audio recording, power cords reach all the recording equipment and the lights provide the right mood for the director.
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