Camera operators in the television, film and video industries use video and film cameras to produce images that inform, entertain or tell a story. Cameras are also used to record events. Video and film editors edit film and video for cable, broadcast television and film industries.
Camera operators use video, film or television cameras to tape a variety of visual material, including motion pictures, television series, documentaries, news, sporting events, music videos and training sessions. Film and video editors produce these types of programming and edit together many different shots to create a continuous program. Most editing work can now be done on the computer, thanks to advances in digital technology. Many in this field work at independent television stations, local television stations, large television and cable networks or independent production companies. Some even have their own business and do freelance work filming special events, such as graduations, weddings or parties, or filming short videos for companies to post online.
Camera Operators and Editors Job Responsibilities
Cinematographers film motion pictures for the entertainment field. They use motion picture cameras to film and create movies, television series and commercials. Cinematographers may use several cameras at once, in different positions and locations. Cameras can stay in one place and shoot whatever action takes place, or the camera can be mounted and the camera operator can shoot different angles or directions. Some camera operators use cranes so that they can position themselves higher and shoot unique angles; others film video and action scenes by carrying a camera on their shoulders with the help of a harness. Camera operators often work with a director of photography to discuss different ways to film, edit and improve scenes.
Creating professional-quality movies and videos requires technical skill and creativity. Camera operators must come up with ways to present the material in an interesting way, use equipment appropriately and be able to steady a camera to ensure smooth, unshaky camera images.
Training and Education Requirements
Camera operators and editors generally learn about camera operating and editing through training at colleges, universities or film schools.
Many universities, community colleges, technical schools and film schools offer camera operation classes. Basic courses cover equipment, techniques and processes. Understanding of computer technology and digital cameras is very important. Bachelor’s degree programs provide a well-rounded education, and are often required for employment.
Those interested in camera operating positions are recommended to read industry-related magazines, join clubs and associations and seek internships at television and cable networks, studios or audio-video stores.
Many camera operators start out in the film industry as production assistants and learn the workings of the industry. They learn to set up equipment such as lights and cameras. As they learn new skills, they may be asked to adjust cameras or provide input on what images to shoot and how to edit them. A good work ethic and reputation is important to succeed in this industry, as producers and directors will often recommend camera operators and editors to others.
Besides education and skill, camera operators need excellent vision, hand-eye coordination and artistic ability. They need to be accurate, good at communicating and able to shoot video and film for extensive periods of time. Those who operate their own businesses or do freelance work also need business skills, since they will need to be able to write contracts, calculate bids and obtain permission to shoot at specific locations and to use people or images in videos.
Camera Operators and Editors Salary and Wages
Annual salaries for camera operators range from $29,020 to $59,970, with the average at $41,670. Those in the film and motion picture industries earn more, with wages averaging close to $80,000. Film and video editors can expect annual salaries between $33,060 and $77,700, with the average at $50,560. The highest earners made more than $112,410. Job growth is expected to be average. There is a lot of competition as many people are attracted to the industry and these types of jobs. Those with advanced degrees and computer skills will be given more opportunities.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Camera Operators and Editors Certifications
The National Court Reporters Association offers a certification for those interested in becoming video specialists in the legal field. Camera operators would videotape court hearings and depositions. Certification requires knowledge in video recording production, post production, legal and office procedures and ethics.
Camera Operators and Editors Professional Associations
The Society of Camera Operators (SOC) is an association that recognizes and nurtures excellence in the camera operation field. It encourages development of both technology and production methods that will help their members excel. The SOC sponsors workshops, seminars and showcases to increase the skills and knowledge of their members. There are also several unions available to camera operators, including those who work freelance.