How to become a 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 16 mm and 35 mm 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.

Personal requirements of a Film and Television Camera Operator

  • Able to accept direction
  • Highly organised
  • Attention to detail
  • Patient
  • Able to work under pressure
  • Good communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Able to work as part of a team

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 in screen and media. 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. For more details, see Section 2. Ask your career adviser about the possibility of starting some of this training in school. 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. A number of institutions in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Film and Television Camera Operator

Film and television camera operators may perform the following tasks:

  • discuss with the director the types of film, video and lenses to be used, as well as focus and distance settings and camera angles
  • select and set up equipment and accessories
  • check that lighting has been organised or set up lights as required
  • view scenes through viewfinders, make final adjustments and photograph scenes
  • monitor equipment during operation
  • move cameras and adjust controls to follow the action of scenes being photographed
  • consult with other technical workers such as light or sound technicians to obtain required results
  • supervise assistants during the production phase.

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.

Specialisations:


Director of Photography

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.

Additional Information
A drivers licence is an advantage as camera operators are often required to drive to and from locations.
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