CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 27, 2014
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How to Become a Camera Operator in the US

Camera operators play an important role in the creative and technical development of a film, TV program or news broadcast. They work with light technicians, sound recorders and other technical crew under the direction of a director to ensure they deliver quality in a timely manner. A successful career as a camera operator requires that you have the necessary technical knowledge and experience.

What are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Camera Operator?

The roles and responsibilities differ depending on the work environment and your specific assignment. Your responsibilities may include:

  • Positioning and setting the camera for planned shots
  • Preparing equipment required to execute shots as directed by the director
  • Requesting or outsourcing lenses, film, tapes or memory cards, camera stands and batteries
  • Cleaning and ensuring the safety of equipments on set
  • Controlling camera mobility on set
  • Advising the director on lighting and other shooting conditions when necessary
  • Organizing and labeling footage for the editing suite
  • Preparing a storyboard with the director before a production
  • Framing of shots when shooting

Qualifications

The following qualifications prepare you for a career as a camera operator:

  • A bachelor’s degree in film, television, broadcasting, electronic media or a related field
  • Industry experience as an assistant camera operator
  • Union or association membership although it is optional

Skills

Skills that will help you secure jobs include:

  • Experience with different cameras
  • Knowledge of lighting and set operations
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Physical and mental fitness
  • Understanding of editing and lighting techniques
  • Ability to follow instructions
  • A good work ethic and an ability to keep time
  • Good hand and eye coordination
  • Ability to work long hours
  • A keen eye with special attentiveness to detail
  • Creativity

Work Environment

Camera operators work on contracts, freelance basis or on permanent employment. In the early stages, work as many jobs as possible to expand your knowledge and grow your experience. As you grow, you can choose to specify in studio productions, news broadcasting or film.

Camera operators work in demanding environments that require you to work long hours. Flexibility is key as you may need to travel for extended periods or work over time. Physical fitness is also important as camera equipment is heavy and you will work on your feet all day. Every set demands that you remain creative and deliver quality images consistently. You need to think on your feet at all times and be able to adjust and keep up with the talent.

Salary

You salary as a Camera Operator will depend on you expertise and employer.

Entry level

 

$24,812

Middle level

 

$37,736

Successful

 

$53,279

Source: Camera Operator Salaries

Career Prospects

A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that job opportunities for camera operators will increase by 3 percent up to 2022, which is below the average for all careers. However, multi skilled camera operators are more likely to get employment.

Camera operators advance to become directors of photography or film directors, which puts them in charge of all pictorial aspect of a project or all creative aspects of a production respectively. Alternatively, you may become a producer and contract different personnel to work on different productions.

If you enjoy films and get excited about the technical aspects that go into the production of a film, you may consider a career as a camera operator.

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