Studio Camera Operator

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Studio Camera Operator


Studio camera operators work in broadcast studios, usually filming subjects from fixed positions. They operate television cameras and related equipment to record news, live events and studio-filmed television productions. They use specific cameras, lenses and lighting techniques to create a desired look for a television show or newscast. They usually sit behind the camera lens and try to compose moving, yet still pictures (the camera does not move, but the people do). With experience, studio camera operators learn how to manipulate the camera to produce altered effects. Studio camera operators meet with producers, directors, electricians, actors and editors on a daily basis to discuss the shooting schedule, any problems and future improvements.

Studio camera operators study technical aspects of filming by reading charts and computing ratios to determine variables such as lighting, shutter angles, filter factors, and camera distance. Many will walk around a set with a 35 mm camera taking pictures to determine the best lighting and camera angles. Studio camera operators may use different techniques in filming such as zooms, fades and blurring of the background, with a close up focus, however in news casting, the filming is often straight filming.

Camera operators may adjust the position and controls of photographic equipment and select cameras, accessories, equipment, and film stock to use during filming. They also trouble shoot for potential problems and to determine filming and lighting requirements.

In television news programs, the camera operator is usually the first person on the scene, making sure that all the visual components of the story are captured accurately and interestingly. Stations usually pair up a camera operator with a reporter. Since broadcasts are filmed live on the air, there is no room for mistakes. Most studio camera operators are responsible for setting up the audio equipment and making sure the reporter's voice will be heard clearly on the tape when it is broadcast. Some may also be responsible for camera maintenance and buying film, lenses or other special parts for the camera. These operators will have to work within a set budget and keep inventory.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Studio camera operators need to have excellent motor (hand-eye) coordination, good vision and hearing and a great deal of stamina. They should possess an interest in electronics and new technology. Studio camera operators must remain alert while performing routine, repetitive tasks and respond quickly if any problems occur.

They should enjoy working with a crew of people and be able to clearly communicate ideas and take positive and negative feedback. Finally, they should enjoy operating, testing and maintaining camera equipment.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Confer with director and electrician regarding interpretation of scene, desired effects, filming and lighting requirements
  • Read charts and compute ratios to determine variables, such as lighting, shutter angles, filter factors, and camera distance
  • Check all film that is loaded in the camera to make sure it has been properly threaded and zeroed
  • Make sure there are no flares in the camera lens and that it is properly scrimmed
  • Set the camera eyepiece focus to the proper diopter setting for the operator's eye
  • Make sure the camera speed is correct prior to each take
  • Make sure the camera shutter is in the proper position and that light is not leaking into the camera
  • Make sure the proper lens, matte and cam are positioned on the camera
  • Indicate to the boom operator when the microphone is in frame and give him limits so he can get in as close as possible
  • Focus camera on news reporters or actors
  • Make minor electronic adjustments to cameras
  • Maintain and store camera equipment
  • Studio camera operators work in television studios or sets. Many studio camera operators work rotating eight-hour shifts which means that they may be required to work afternoons, evenings, weekends and holidays. Coping with tight schedules and deadlines can be a stressful part of the job. Studio television camera operators may be required to lift heavy equipment.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Studio camera operators work for television networks, stations and studios. They either work as freelancers or on contract with a station or studio. Once they gain experience, TV camera operators will be able to get jobs based on the name that they build for themselves.

  Long Term Career Potential  
The broadcasting field is very competitive so inexperienced camera operators must be willing to start at the bottom of the ladder. Once they have gained experience, studio camera operators can move to positions in larger stations and become more specialized. Experienced studio camera operators can advance to technical supervisory positions and, if they have the necessary ability and experience, eventually become directors or producers.

Freelancing has become the trend for people seeking or continuing careers as camera operators. Contract employment can also be found in producing in-house programs such as corporate videos. Some studio camera operators may decide to move into still photography, or go into location camera filming. Since they are already equipped with technical skills, they can move into any broadcasting technical positions involving cameras, including editing in film.

  Educational Paths  
The majority of studio television operators have a university degree or college diploma in broadcast journalism. Those wishing to work for news stations will require formal training. On-the-job training is still a great option for this industry. Aspiring camera operators should volunteer at television stations to learn first hand from experts. Also, this will help people decide if they truly wish to pursue this profession.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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