Camera Operator (Studio/Outside Broadcast)
What you do in the job?
Studio/Outside Broadcast Camera Operator is a senior role within TV camera departments, but responsibilities vary greatly depending on the type of production. You will cover all types of outside-broadcast and studio-based programmes. You will operate one of several cameras capturing images simultaneously (multi-camera shoots), which involves receiving camera directions (usually over a headset) from the Director, who is based in a “gallery” (production area) away from the location or set. You must have excellent technical skills and expertise, and there is some scope for creative input. Some Studio/OB Camera Operators are employed in staff positions, but many are freelance, and shift work and unsocial hours are often involved.
What is the job?
You would ensure that cameras and associated equipment are rigged for the required set-up. Camera Operators must be able to multi-task,watch,listen and think on your feet whilst carrying out complex technical tasks. You may have to supervise Assistants to move the camera, and carry out simple camera fault-finding. Camera Operators may work closely with performers, giving constructive advice in order to achieve the required picture composition.
On multi-camera shoots, whether they are OB productions or studio-based programmes, Operators receive instructions from the gallery about where to position the camera, and how to frame shots and move the camera during the recording. These instructions may be very precise or merely indicative of the types of shot required, depending on the production and the Director. Camera Operators must be able to translate these instructions into carefully framed and composed shots. On most productions, a team of Camera Operators is led by a Camera Supervisor or Senior Camera Person, who is responsible for overseeing the work of the other Camera Operators and any Camera Assistants working on the studio floor or OB location. Programmes shot by multiple cameras are usually broadcast live, or recorded “as live”, and Camera Operators' work can be very intensive, sometimes stressful, and often exhilarating.
What qualities are required?
Camera Operators in any television genre require great technical ability, industry-gained craft skills in camera work, and a working knowledge of how camera equipment works. Diplomacy, leadership and communication skills are essential, in order to liaise effectively with other members of the crew, production staff and performers. On multi-camera shoots, the ability to take direction and to work as part of a team is crucial. As the decision-making process may take some time, patience is also essential.
Key Skills include:
ability to carry out instructions with great accuracy and attention to detail;
ability to frame and compose shots and perform camera moves with precision and speed;
in-depth knowledge of the principles of camera work;
good IT Skills;
knowledge of the relevant electronics;
excellent communication, interpersonal and diplomatic skills;
good colour vision, and excellent hand-to-eye co-ordination;
physical stamina for working long hours and moving heavy equipment;
knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
How you start and where you can go with it?
Although specialist technical production courses and some training schemes offer a good basic grounding in the skills and knowledge required for this role, intensive industry experience is the key. Most Camera Operators begin their careers as Camera Trainees, and work their way up through the ranks of the camera department over several years.
Training and qualifications
No specific qualifications are required to work in this role. Studio/OB Camera Operators usually learn most of their practical skills through hands-on experience on the job. However, continual professional development is vital, especially as technology is changing rapidly. Useful advice and information can be gained by studying trade journals, attending exhibitions and joining industry forums. Basic stills photography, which develops visual and composition skills, provides a useful starting point in training for this role.
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