Job Profile of a Television Camera Operator

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If you have a steady hand, a good feel for technical equipment, and an eye for creativity, a career as a television camera operator may be right up your alley.

The typical responsibilities of camera operators include reacting immediately as action takes place and making sure the action being shot is framed properly. A camera operator works with a cinematographer, who helps create the appearance and theme of the program by adjusting lighting, deciding on film stock, choosing which lenses are used, and making sure the project follows the director's original vision. Camera operators often meet with camera assistants, directors, editors, and actors to confer on plans for editing, filming, and improving scenes.

Camera operators with the most experience and the most advanced computer skills will have the best job opportunities, according to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. The handbook also notes that some camera operators are given responsibility for their own editing.

Television camera operators shoot a diverse range of material, including news, sporting events, television series, music videos, training sessions, documentaries, and studio programs. Most camera operators are employed by large cable and television networks, local affiliates of television networks, independent television stations, or smaller, independent production companies.

Some camera operators work with stationary cameras or those mounted on a track, shooting the scene from different directions or angles. Others sit on cranes and record the action, while steadicam operators wear a harness and carry the camera on their shoulders. Studio camera operators typically videotape their subjects from a fixed position and work in a broadcast studio.

News camera operators, also known as electronic news gathering operators, follow events as they unfold, and work as part of a reporting team. They frequently travel and may work in dangerous surroundings, covering natural disasters, military conflicts, accidents, or civil unrest. They usually work under rigid deadlines and often stand or walk for long hours in various types of weather carrying heavy equipment.

Some camera operator positions require a bachelor’s degree, and most camera operators obtain postsecondary training at colleges, universities, photographic institutes, or vocational schools, all of which offer courses in videography and camera operation processes and techniques.

Those seeking a career in camera operation may want to join audio-video clubs, find employment in video and camera stores, and subscribe to videographic magazines and newsletters. Camera operators often first serve as production assistants, setting up cameras, lights, and other equipment, and learning how production works.

Employment of camera operators is expected to grow by 12% over the next decade due to the rapid growth of the entertainment market and new made-for-Internet broadcasts that will crop up as Internet media expand.
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