Optimization Of Camera Operator Settings

More than Just Pressing Record: What a Camera Operator Really Does

Probably not.  Unless you are interested in becoming the person responsible for those images being recorded, edited, and presented to the world for viewing, chances are you just sit back, eat your popcorn, and enjoy the storyline; and that is exactly the goal of those behind the scenes.

The images that appear in movies, on television, and in videos (even those streaming online) come from the hard work of a camera operator.  Images are recorded to inform and entertain, and are intended to hold an audience’s interest throughout the entire production.

What is a Camera Operator?

Camera operators are people who capture a wide range of material in the form of images to be used on television shows, motion pictures, music videos, documentaries, new stations, sporting events, and so much more.

Studio Camera Operator

Typically working in a broadcast studio, studio camera operators record their subjects from a fixed position such as a stage or set.  As an entry-level position, the director usually guides the camera operator as to what the shot order is, what the angles should be, and who to focus on at any given time.

Electronic News Gathering Operator

This camera operator is normally found working with a reporting team.  They follow reporters who are delivering breaking news stories and often film the stories live as they unfold live

How to Become a Camera Operator

What is a Camera Operator?

While the Director and the Director of Photography set up the mood and the style for each shot, the ones who are hands-on behind each shot are Camera Operators, who combine their technical knowledge with creative input to make sure each clip is a perfect fit for the final product.

Camera Operators work under the Director and Director of Photography and often work closely with technical departments to include sound and lighting. Camera Operators work across a variety of mediums recording moving images. They create the film for music videos, corporate productions, films, TV programmes, and commercials. In this article, we will be discussing what responsibilities you can expect from this role, and the key skills you will need to become a Camera Operator

What does a Camera Operator do?

Camera Operators usually start working in early pre-productions, attending technical recces with other Heads of Department. They execute the instructions of the DoP and the Director while being responsible for their Assistants and Trainees. If and when technical issues arise, the Camera Operator is responsible for resolving these problems.

After shots have been rehearsed and the camera has been positioned by the DoP, it’s the Camera Operator’s responsibility to take care of all aspects of the operation of the equipment. Importantly, they will follow a camera script adhering to the directions of the Director. To stay ahead in this role it is important to study scripts before filming to ensure the smooth running of the production.

Camera Operators have the responsibility of setting up the equipment before any shot and of keeping everything ready for any last-minute changes. They also oversee the work of their Assistants and Trainees in maintaining and preparing the equipment.

Camera Operator

What Does a Camera Operator Do?

The Camera Operator helps the Director of Photography and Director shot design each take while operating the camera. They also act as an additional set of eyes for the Director of Photography regarding lighting and focus. Typically, their work only takes place during principal photography.


Most Camera Operators begin by jumping straight into being an Operator. It’s possible to be a 1st Assistant Camera first but they’re seen as two different jobs. The best way is to start working on smaller projects and then move up as a reputation is built.

Education & Training

Duguay says, “There isn’t specific training for becoming a Camera Operator but understanding how a camera works wouldn’t hurt.” Most of the time, the 1st Assistant Camera preps it for them and it’s just up to the Operator to run the gear while filming.

What Skills Do You Need?

It helps to work as a 1st Assistant Camera for a few years before operating but this isn’t a requirement. Many people jump straight into working a camera, however, having a deep knowledge of the camera systems will let the Camera Operator anticipate problems and proactively fix them.


“The best Camera Operators have a keen sense of detail and thick skin,” says Duguay. There are always a million different things that could be problematic for each shot including various pieces of equipment left in the background, the Boom Operator’s microphone, and the Actor’s hair and makeup issues.

Television camera operator

While many television camera operatives have a degree, it’s more important to have a showreel to demonstrate your passion for photography

As a television camera operator, you’ll work with digital, electronic and film cameras and produce required shots by combining the use of complex technology with creative visual skills.

You may work on a variety of programmes, for example studio or outside broadcast programmes, television dramas, commercials, documentaries or news. You may use one of several cameras or a portable single camera (PSB).

You could also specialise in one or more of the following areas:

studio – you’ll follow a camera script, which gives the order of shots. This is practised at rehearsal and cued by the director during recording. The skill lies in interpreting what the director wants and acting quickly and effectively to achieve it.

outside broadcast (OB) – working as part of a team of camera operators filming live events, such as sporting and ceremonial occasions and music performances

on location – you’ll find more opportunities for creativity on location, through suggesting shots to the director.

As a television camera operator, you’ll need to:

assemble, prepare and set up equipment prior to filming, which may include tripods, monitors, lighting, cables and leads and headphones

offer advice on how best to shoot a scene and explain the visual impact created by particular shots

plan shots, for example when filming an expensive drama scene, such as an explosion, there may be only one chance to get things right, so shots need to be meticulously planned beforehand

practise the camera moves required for pre-arranged shots

study scripts

find solutions to technical or other practical problems (for an outside broadcast, for example, the natural light conditions need to be taken into account when setting up shots)

be prepared to innovate and experiment with ideas

work quickly, especially as timing is such an important factor

take sole responsibility in situations where only one camera operator is involved in the filming

keep up to date with filming methods and equipment

repair and maintain equipment

demonstrate a good awareness of health and safety issues

drive crew, actors and equipment to and from locations

Film/​Television Camera Operator

Film and television camera operators use digital and film cameras to record events and scenes for television, movies and videos.


Pay for film/television camera operators varies depending on experience and the type of production they are working on.

Recommended pay rates (based on 10-hour days) for camera operators on New Zealand feature films and television series:

Video split operators, clapper/loaders and second assistants usually earn between $30 and $50 an hour.

First assistants/focus pullers usually earn between $55 and $66 an hour.

Experienced camera operators can earn between $64 and $120 an hour.

Film/television camera operators may do some or all of the following:

carry and set up cameras and equipment such as lighting rigs and kits

work with and follow the instructions of the director

operate cameras to film or record the action

keep the camera in focus.

Directors of photography may do some or all of the following:

study scripts and interpret how scenes should look

select suitable cameras and equipment

decide on the location of cameras and lights

direct camera and lighting crew during filming

work with the director and editor during editing.