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Television, Motion Picture, Camera Operator and Editor Career and Job Information

Television, Motion Picture, Camera Operator and Editor Career and Job Highlights

  • Workers gain training through either formal education or on-the-job supervision
  • Important characteristics are high levels of creativity, imagination, and technical awareness
  • Competition will remain at high levels
  • Approximately 20 percent of cameramen are self-employed

Television, Motion Picture, Camera Operator and Editor Career Overview

Television, motion picture, and video camera operators film images in order to entertain audiences and record an oven or story. Film and video editors edit film, video, and soundtracks for studio industries. Often camera operators will edit material themselves.

Technical skills and high levels of creativity are important in creating quality programs. A good feel for choosing appropriate material and equipment will assure quality production.

Camera operators use different types of cameras in order to capture whichever material is appropriate. Events range from studio programs, television series, motion pictures, music videos, or news and sports events. A camera operator may also shoot a private event using film or videotape. Local and independent television stations or large television and cable networks often employ videographers, who shoot images using videotape. Studio camera operators typically shoot subjects inside of a studio, while news camera operators, or electronic newsgathering operators, work in a team to shoot and relay live events for broadcast.

Cinematographers work in the motion picture industry to shoot movies, commercials, or television programs on film. They use a variety of techniques and camera positions (by mounting the camera on either a stationary or moving track) to capture different styles of still or panning images. The ability to innovate different styles of shots has been enhanced with the expansion of digital camera use. Some cinematographers shoot images using moving cranes; while steadicam operators handle the camera using a harness to capture a more realistic feel. These camera operators often collaborate with other technicians, directors, editors, actors, and assistants to find better ways of filming.

Television, Motion Picture, Camera Operator and Editor Training and Job Qualifications

Candidates for camera operating positions should have good technical and creative skills. Workers gain their experience through formal training offered by many colleges and institutions or on-the-job supervision.

Many vocational institutes, universities, and colleges offer courses in related videography or camera operation. Courses cover all technical and artistic topics. A bachelor’s degree is recommended in order to cover all areas, including business that might be related to the trade.

Those interested in camera operation should look for knowledge and experience in a variety of places, including clubs, through part-time employment in a studio, or by subscribing to magazines and newsletters.

Entry-level jobs in this field may entail assisting with camera or lighting scheme set-up. Employers hire people who come with strong references and recommendations from other technicians, including directors and cinematographers, who are familiar with the job candidate’s work. Camera operators usually begin in smaller studios and markets and work their way up to larger ones.

Camera operators should be artistically coordinated, patient, detail oriented, and have solid interpersonal skills. They should also be able to hand hold a camera for an extended period of time.

Freelance camera operators should have the appropriate business skills in order to handle all contract, permission releases, sales, finance, and copyrighting obligations associated with their independent work.

Advancement takes place after sufficient experience is gained. ENG operators may advance to a wider market. Camera operators may move on to becoming directors of photography at a large television station or movie studio. Others move into the educational field where they teach at universities, film or technical institutions.

Television, Motion Picture, Camera Operator Job and Employment Opportunities

Careers in video, motion picture, and television camera operation have large appeal and will thus continue to be highly competitive. Job demand for these positions is typically much higher than supply. Individuals who achieve salary positions or who are successful in freelancing are typically the most business adept, creative, and inclined to adapt to changes in technology. Competitive job candidates also usually have some related job or work experience.

Employment rates are projected to grow along with the average rates for all occupations. Job growth will likely come from the growth in motion picture entertainment. Movies will become more widely produced and distributed, especially through the use of interactive Internet production and services. Foreign production will also take place, slightly diminishing U.S. job growth. An increased number of camera operators and editors will likely be needed to assist with Internet entertainment broadcasts and programming. Consumers can download these images over the Internet or receive them via compact disc in the mail. Television and radio broadcast employment is also projected to rise.

Historical Earnings Information

Approximate annual salaries for all camera operators ranged from $15,000 for the bottom ten percent to $65,000 for the top ten percent. In 2002, middle earnings ranged between $21.000 and $51,000. Salaries in the motion picture industry were generally higher than those in the television and radio broadcasting industry.

Approximate annual salaries for video and film editors range from $20,000 for the bottom ten percent to $78,000 for the top ten percent. In 2002, middle earnings ranged between $27,000 and $55,000. Editors in the motion picture industry earned an approximate $41,000.

Many camera operators are freelancers whose salaries vary from year to year. Freelance camera operators have to provide their own equipment and thus have more expenses than camera operators employed by a studio. Operators often are members of unions such as the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.