Video camera operators operate television, video, or motion picture cameras, which they use to capture many different types of material, including television series, studio programs, news and sporting events, music videos, motion pictures, documentaries, and training sessions. The images they capture either tell a story, inform or entertain audiences, or record an event.
Video camera operators work under a variety of different titles. Videographers record images on videotape and are often employed by independent television stations, local affiliates, large cable and television networks, or smaller, independent production companies. Studio camera operators videotape broadcast studio anchorpersons and other subjects in fixed positions. News camera operators capture live, newsworthy events as part of a reporting team, and may edit their own footage on location. Cinematographers film motion pictures, and may specialize in filming cartoons or special effects. Steadicam operators carry a mounted camera on their shoulders, allowing them to move around action and capture it in clear images.
Video camera operators need to be accurate, patient, and detail-oriented. They must have quality eyesight, strong hand-eye coordination, and artistic aptitude. Because they are constantly working with people, they need to have well-developed interpersonal communication skills. Sometimes they are required to hold cameras by hand for extended periods of time, so they must have a certain level of physical fitness. Those who own their own business or freelance need business skills such as knowing how to submit bids, write contracts, get permission to shoot on non-public locations, obtain releases, and price their services.
In 2002, video camera operators earned a median annual salary of $32,720. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $14,710, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $65,070. Median annual salaries in motion picture and video industries were $41,440, and $25,830 in television broadcasting.
Training and Education
Video camera operators usually enter the occupation through either on-the-job training or formal education. Some positions require formal education, which can be obtained through vocational schools, colleges, universities, or photographic institutes. Bachelor’s degree programs provide an especially well-rounded education. It is also important for those interested in the occupation to subscribe to videographic newletters and magazines, join clubs, and apply for internships.
Once hired, entry-level video camera operators learn skills such as setting up lights, cameras, and other equipment, or adjusting cameras and deciding what material to capture. In the film and television industries, they are usually hired on a project basis on the recommendations from others in the industry. As they gain experience, video camera operators can advance to more rigorous assignments, to positions with larger or network television stations, or to director of photography positions within the motion picture industry.
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In 2002, video camera operators held about 28,000 jobs. About 20% were self-employed.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of video camera operators is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Growth will be caused by rapid expansion of the entertainment industry, especially motion picture production and distribution. Computer and Internet markets will also continue to grow. Growth will be tempered by the increased foreign production of motion pictures. Opportunity will be best for those who are the most creative, motivated, and adaptable.