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Job Photographs

  • A man is standing in the doorway of a large office building.  He is holding a television camera on his shoulder.

    Framing a shot.

  • A woman is sitting at a desk, in a busy office.  She is talking to a man sitting next to her.  He is holding a camera.

    Chatting with a producer.

  • A man is looking at a large television studio camera.

    Checking that studio camera equipment is properly set up.

  • A man is sitting at a lighting control desk, full of buttons and switches.  The room beyond is very dark.

    Operating the lighting desk.

  • A man is sitting at a large mixing desk, full of numerous levers and switches.

    At a local TV station, camera operators often have responsibility for other technical issues, such as operating control room equipment.

  • A man is standing outdoors, next to a car park.  He is holding a television camera on his shoulder.

    Camera operators work in studios and outside, on location.

  • Camera Operator

Camera Operator

Introduction

As a Camera Operator, you will use a camera to make a film, television programme or video. Before filming, you'll read through the script to plan camera positions. During filming, you will wear a headset and receive instructions from the director.

Also known as

  • Television Camera Operator
  • TV Camera Operator
  • Film Camera Operator

Video: - Ralph: Camera Operator

Video: - Steve: Camera Operator - Emmerdale

Video: - Catherine: Floor Manager/Camera Operator

Video: - Dishad: Writer, Director and Cameraman

Video: - Seamus: Lighting Cameraman

Work Activities

As a Camera Operator, you will compose and frame shots for film, television and video. Before filming, you will read through the script to plan camera angles. These are then discussed with the director.

During filming, you'll wear a headset through which you'll receive instructions from the director. You will learn how to position the camera precisely and focus the lens at exactly the right moment.

Film and Video Camera Operators have more opportunity to be creative than those working as part of a team in a multi-camera television studio. As an experienced Camera Operator, you might sometimes advise the director on the visual effect of various shots, to produce the most effective sequence.

In film, one of the top jobs is that of the Lighting Camera Operator. In this role you will be responsible for both the technical and artistic quality of shots.

If you work in regional, local television, it is likely that you will have to be a technical all-rounder - you'll need to carry out lots of different tasks in lots of different areas.

As an Outside Broadcast Operator however, you will tend to specialise in a particular area, such as music or sport.

Camera Operators sometimes have to travel and spend long periods away from home, especially if shooting a film on location. It is likely that you will work on a freelance basis.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

As a Camera Operator, you need:

  • A practical interest in photography, lenses, lighting and simple electronics.
  • The ability to compose skilful and artistic shots.
  • Excellent hand-eye co-ordination and good hearing and eyesight.
  • To be physically fit and able to carry heavy equipment.
  • The ability to work as part of a team and take direction.
  • Patience.
  • Personal resilience and self-sufficiency, if working as a freelancer.

Sound, editing and other technical skills may also be required in some jobs.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £19,000 - £21,500
  • With experience: £23,500 - £28,500
  • Senior Camera Operators earn £30,500

Hours of work

Camera Operators often work long and irregular hours, especially when working on outside broadcasts. Early starts, late finishes and weekend work may be required.

Where could I work?

Opportunities for Camera Operators are mainly in major broadcasting production centres such as London, Birmingham, Manchester/Salford and Leeds.

Employers include television, film and video companies. Many of these use freelance camera operators on a contract basis. Some large companies (for example, in manufacturing) have their own media production facilities. Pop videos and film and television commercials also require the skills of camera operators.

Self-employment

Opportunities occur for Camera Operators to work as self-employed freelancers.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised:

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

New entrants often start out in a Camera Assistant role. Many hold a relevant photography, film or TV qualification. Camera Operators are likely to start out in local television or with video production companies.

Many Camera Operators work on a freelance basis.

Training

As an aspiring Camera Operator, you should gain as much experience of filming as possible. You could also try to get a place on a training course provided by the industry, or apply for a relevant vocational course at college or university.

If you would like some training, the National Film and Television School offer a camera operators course. This course has been designed for inexperienced students to take the next step into the industry. The units you could be studying include:

  • the basics of operating a range of professional cameras
  • understanding the importance of framing and composition
  • understanding of how shooting in HD (high definition) differs from shooting on film
  • developing an individual frame and composition style
  • how to set up and shoot a scene
  • eye-lines, shot sizes, lens choices and camera mounts

Check the website for dates and availability.

Other courses could be available in your area.

A number of degrees, foundation degrees and HNDs in film and television production/media production are available.

Advanced Level Apprenticeships in Creative and Digital Media may be available in your area.

Work Experience

Previous experience gained in related areas, such as professional photography or lighting/sound technician work, are useful for this career.

Progression

With experience, camera operators can progress to senior roles and positions in national television and film work.

Qualifications

Entry requirements for training schemes vary. The majority usually ask for a good general education along with an artistic, technical and practical interest in topics such as photography, film, video, lenses, stage lighting and simple electronics.

However, as competition for places is so fierce, many successful applicants have qualifications such as A levels, a degree and/or technical qualifications.

Useful GCSEs include English, Maths and Physics.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Experience

Skills and abilities gained in related areas, such as professional photography or lighting/sound technician work, are useful.

Courses

Some colleges relax entrance requirements for applicants who have relevant paid or voluntary experience.

Training

Advanced Level Apprenticeships in Creative and Digital Media may be available in your area.

Further Information

Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 9178000

Email: info@skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk

Website: www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships

British Film Institute (BFI)

Website: www.bfi.org.uk

National Film and Television School (NFTS)

Tel: 01494 671234

Email: info@nfts.co.uk

Website: www.nftsfilm-tv.ac.uk

ScreenSkills

Skills for the creative industries

Email: info@creativeskillset.org

Website: www.creativeskillset.org

Creative Choices

Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills

Email: info@creative-choices.co.uk

Website: www.creative-choices.co.uk

BBC Careers

Website: www.bbc.co.uk/careers/home

Wireless Group

Irish enquiries

Email: info@u.tv

Website: www.utvmedia.com

ITV Jobs

Website: www.itvjobs.com

Guild of Television Cameramen (GTC)

Tel: 0300 1114123

Email: administration@gtc.org.uk

Website: www.gtc.org.uk

Guild of British Camera Technicians (GBCT)

Tel: 020 8813 1999

Email: admin@gbct.org

Website: www.gbct.org

Northern Ireland Screen

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Email: info@northernirelandscreen.co.uk

Website: www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk

StartinTV

Website: www.startintv.com

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

Wales Screen

Website: www.screenwales.com

S4C (Welsh Enquiries)

Address: Parc Ty Glas, Llanishen, Cardiff, UK, CF14 5DU

Tel: 029 2046 5533

Website: www.s4c.co.uk

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