Camera Crew Breakdown: Jobs and Responsibilities
A film production’s camera crew is responsible for setting up and using the camera. Here are the responsibilities of each crew member.
The camera is the most important tool on set. Without a camera, there is no movie. The director is in charge of a film set. The senior creative crew member after the director is the director of photography, who will achieve the look of the film using the various departments they manage. Among those departments is the camera crew.
Director of Photography
The director of photography (DP or DoP) manages the camera department, lighting department, electrical, and grips. They are the chief of the camera crew. The film’s director will tell the DP how they want a shot to look. They will then work with these departments to choose cameras, lenses, filters, shot composition, light design and setup, and any necessary gear.
The camera operator, or cameraman, is the person who actually operates the camera. They are the person behind the lens and controlling the camera. This position varies on every set and for every shot. A director may assume this position for certain shots, but the director of photography is typically the camera operator. When a DP is the cameraman, they are typically referred to as a cinematographer.
Cinematographer and director of photography are used interchangeably. The director of photography in the credits is the chief cinematographer. The best DPs are invited to be part of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC).
If the DP has assigned another person to run the camera, or if multiple cameras are being used at once, the other cameramen are simply called camera operators.
First Assistant Camera (1st AC, Focus Puller, Assistant Cameraman, B Camera)
The first assistant camera is in charge of the camera department. During a shoot, the 1st AC is responsible for keeping the camera in focus. This gave rise to the name focus puller. They are in charge of the maintenance and care of all cameras. During pre-production, the 1st AC will go to rental houses to test gear and make sure everything is ready on schedule.
On-set, the 1st AC will build the camera, swap lenses, and move it from shot to shot. They are also responsible for updating the dope sheet. The dope sheet is a camera report that lists scenes that have already been shot. If shooting on film stock, the list will also contain the contents of each exposed reel.
Most notably, the 1st AC should not look through a lens. They must be able to keep focus by paying attention to the distance between a subject and the camera.
Second Assistant Camera (2nd AC, Camera Loader, Clapper Loader)
The second assistant camera works directly with the 1st AC. The 2nd AC operates the clapperboard at the beginning of each take. They also load film stock into camera magazines if there is no film loader on set. They note when film stock is received, used, and sent for development. The 2nd AC also oversees the transportation of camera equipment from one location to another.
The second assistant camera will also tape down camera marks, the points where actors will perform. They update camera reports with camera settings, like aperture and focal length. This is recorded for any future pick-up shots or reshoots.
Loader (Film Loader, Digital Loader)
The loader is responsible for the actual medium that the camera shoots on, whether film stock or digital cards. Historically, the film loader was responsible for putting film into camera magazines. They would go into a dark room to open light-tight canisters of film stock to load into the magazine. They would then give the magazine to the 2nd AC, who would put it on the camera. When the 2nd AC finished a reel, the film loader would then take the footage back to their dark room or tent. The film loader puts the footage back into the light-tight canister and labels it for transport to the development lab.
A digital loader works with memory cards, rather than film stock. Digital loaders manage inventory and back up footage. They work alongside the digital imaging technician to manage the digital data. The position is not very common on set, as 2nd ACs typically manage memory cards and give them directly to the DIT.
Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)
The digital imaging technician is responsible for image quality control, on-set color correction, and managing a production’s workflow. The DIT manages all data and file distribution. They receive the camera’s memory cards and immediately dump and backup footage. They then send uncompressed files to the editors and make compressed file dailies for the director. DITs have a deep technical knowledge of all things digital like cameras, codecs, laptops, monitors, and more. Check out the constantly evolving role of a DIT.
The Steadicam operator is a specific camera operator that uses a Steadicam rig. Steadicam is a trademarked camera stabilization rig; the term should not be used to describe other types of stabilization devices like the MoVI and Ronin. The Steadicam operator wears the system on their body, which allows them to balance the camera while in motion.
Camera Production Assistant (Camera PA, Camera Intern, Camera Trainee)
The camera production assistant helps the camera crew with any necessary duty. They are on set to learn by assisting every position listed above. Any camera intern will want to learn some camera crew slang, courtesy of Evan Luzi at The Black and Blue.
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