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Camera Operator

Requiring a director’s vision and a cinematographer’s eye, a camera operator is a hands-on role in film and video production. Camera operators literally keep the production rolling and navigate how a scene is shot.

What Does a Camera Operator Do?

Whether movie set, television or commercial shoot, directors and cinematographers (also called the director of photography or DP) rely heavily on the camera operator. On most productions, the DP doesn’t touch the camera. This is why the camera operator must intimately know the equipment selected for a production.

A camera operator has a unique position in taking instruction from the director and DP that must be relayed quickly to a camera crew. For each scene, the director and the DP devise a plan for conveying a mood or emotion. The camera operator then executes on that plan, using technical skill and their personal style to get the desired footage.

While revered within the industry and a close proponent to directors and DPs, camera operators are not always recognized in the public eye, at least not in the way a director, cinematographer or editor may be. The reward is good pay and being at the frontline of the action with actors and sets in getting that perfect shot.


While not all members of the production team may have a film school degree, it is practically industry standard for camera operators. A camera operator’s job entails skillful equipment handling, as well as knowledge of film stocks and lighting. Depending on the size and budget of the production, camera operators may even have a team of assistants to manage.

Nature of the Work

Being a camera operator can be a high stress position, often with physically demanding maneuvers when a director needs them. That is the main role of the camera operator to get the footage the director needs. This requires consulting with the DP, so there is a chain of command to understand. Being a successful camera operator usually requires having good working relationships with DPs.

Though the work is fast paced, the end result is adding richness to a film with masterful camera work. Camera operators have a direct and significant impact on a production.

Start Toward Your Future as a Camera Operator

With state-of-the-art campuses online and in San Francisco, Academy of Art University’s School of Motion Pictures & Television prepares students to enter the industry. Students in the film school have incredible opportunities to share their work with the top professionals in the field. Each year, Academy of Art University rolls out the red carpet for such luminaries as Tippi Hedren, Robert Butler, Steve McGlothen and others during the Epidemic Film Festival.

The school offers accredited Associates (AA), Bachelors (BFA) and Masters (MFA) degrees in fields such as Acting, Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting.

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