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Breaking Down Individual Roles in a Video Production Company

Jourdan Aldredge

Let’s run down the positions and roles you’ll need to fill to properly staff up a successful video production company.

A lot of video production companies start small, but that doesn’t mean starting a video production company is a small task. You obviously need a good deal of capital, gear, and equipment for sure. And if you’re going to scale your operation and take on bigger, more lucrative projects, you’re going to need people. You’re going to need to staff a proper team.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the individual roles that make up the staff of a standard video production company.

(It’s worth noting that these are “generalized” roles. As you build your company, you’ll no doubt create your own hybrid roles while also prioritizing what’s important “now” versus down the line.)


Sales/Client Manager

At a certain point, you’ll want someone to act as the point-person for your company. They’ll handle some networking, scouting, and actively work to secure new clients and projects. Often, this is the very figurehead of the company itself. It could be you, the founder, an original member, or someone with a sales background who likes the challenge of a good old-fashioned cold-call.

This role includes:

  • Cold-calls and networking.
  • Leading meetings and sales presentations.
  • Client management and communication.
  • Working to hit sales quotas.
  • Working closely with Project Managers/Producers.

Project Manager/Producer

Project Manager

The project manager puts the project together and keeps everything on schedule. Image via FrameStockFootages.

Once your sales staff has a new production locked down, you’ll need a dedicated project manager — aka a producer — to handle the business of actually putting the production’s pieces together and seeing it through to completion. Others will be involved, definitely, but your producer will play a key role in keeping communication clear and making sure everything stays on schedule.

This role includes:

  • Strong communication skills with client.
  • Pre-production skills for organizing a project.
  • Scheduling and budgeting skills.
  • Consolidating and organizing all the relevant footage and assets needed for a project.
  • Working closely with the director to finalize project scope, schedule, and budget.

Director

Any and every film and video project needs a solid director at the helm, someone who can visualize, communicate, and oversee every aspect of a project’s production from start to finish. The director can be a full-time, in-house employee or someone brought in (often at the request of the client) for a specific project. Either way, it’s the director’s ultimate responsibility to deliver a quality product.

This role includes:

  • A great deal of film and video knowledge into all parts of production.
  • Strong communication skills to work with cast and crew.
  • A creative mind and the ability to think quickly on set.
  • Working closely with the director of photography and the rest of the crew heads or members.

Director of Photography

Director of Photography

The DP oversees the camera department and works closely with the director. Image via gnepphoto.

A director of photography (DP) usually acts as the right-hand-person of the director and oversees everything in the camera department. The DP will work with the director on storyboards, shot lists, and shooting schedules as they plan a project out. Using all of the gear, equipment, and crew on hand, the DP is responsible for making sure every shot is of the utmost quality.

This role includes:

  • An expert understanding of different film and video cameras and gear.
  • A high level of knowledge into the art of cinematography, composition, and lighting.
  • Strong communication skills to work with the director and the rest of the camera crew.
  • Working closely with the camera operator, the gaffer/lighting department, and anyone else involved in getting a great shot.

Camera Operator

While it’s a role occasionally filled by the DP,  most professional video shoots have a dedicated camera operator (who sometimes works alongside an assistant camera operator). The camera operator physically operates the camera and related gear — tripods, gimbals, steadicam, etc. A follow focus or additional support would ideally be handled by an assistant when available.

This role includes:

  • Great knowledge of different cameras and related gear.
  • Strong camera skills for handling a camera, framing a shot, and setting focus.
  • Listening and communicating skills between the DP and any assistants.

Gaffer/Lighting Crew

Lighting Crew

Gaffers are in charge of the lighting department and crew. Image via gnepphoto.

A gaffer (also called the chief lighting technician) is the person responsible for the set lighting on a film or video project. Depending on the size of the shoot, the gaffer might be in charge of a lighting department and crew. The gaffer works with the DP and handles the set up, maintenance, and safety precautions for all the lighting on set.

This role includes:

  • Great knowledge of lighting gear and uses.
  • Strong safety protocols for properly setting up, using, and breaking down lights.
  • Communication skills with the rest of the crew and any assistants.
  • Working closely with the DP and director to modify lighting for each shot, as needed.

Audio Technician and Sound Recording

This is another role that involves a whole department on a big feature, but often just one or two people on a small project. An audio technician will be the person in charge of all the audio and sound recording on a project. Ideally, an audio technician will work with a boom operator (or other sound artist) to make the necessary decisions on what microphones to use and where to properly mix and record as needed.

This role includes:

  • Great knowledge of audio recording and sound design.
  • Familiarity with all manner of microphones and mixers.
  • Communication skills with the rest of the crew and any assistants.
  • Working closely with the director to make sure all the audio is recorded properly, as well as the DP to make sure no microphones are visible in any shot.

Editor/Editing Supervisor

Editor

An editor handles the footage in post-production. Image via FrameStockFootages.

Once production wraps, the project manager will bring all the footage and assets to an editor or editing supervisor who then puts together a post-production workflow. On many sets, a digital-imaging technician (DIT) will handle footage as it comes in and might even get started on a rough edit.

This role includes:

  • Great knowledge of relevant video editing platforms.
  • A strong understanding of editing theory and digital assets.
  • A creative mind for storytelling and problem-solving any issues with footage.
  • Working closely with the project manager, as well as any additional post-production roles like motion graphics and/or coloring.

Motion Graphics/VFX

In many of the production companies I’ve worked with, any animations beyond basic motion graphics (lower thirds, logos, etc.) were sent out to a motion graphics expert or VFX artist. Once complete, these additional graphics are sent back to the editor or editing supervisor to be included in final renders.

This role includes:

  • Background in motion graphics and VFX design.
  • Proficiency in advanced platforms like After Effects, Cinema 4D, Nuke, etc.
  • Working closely with the project manager or editing supervisor to go over any templates or storyboards, as well as providing feedback and reviews.

Colorist

Color Grading

The colorist works on the aesthetics of the final draft of a project. Image via FrameStockFootages.

Finally, in addition to motion graphics, advanced color correction and color grading would go to a separate specialist, sometimes just to speed up the workflow. The colorist works with the final draft of a project in order to lock down the designed color aesthetic and look.

This role includes:

  • Background in color theory and cinematic coloring.
  • Proficiency in color grading platforms like DaVinci Resolve, Red Giant Colorista, and/or Adobe Color software.
  • Working closely with the project manager and editing supervisor for final color corrections and grading.

Staff Up

Again, the roles above are common and generally accepted as best practice, but they aren’t carved in stone. Get imaginative when building your team, and find ways to cut costs without sacrificing the quality of your work. Ultimately, no matter what your org chart ends up looking like, just make sure it’s populated by creative collaborators you know you can count on.


For more film and video industry insight, check out these articles below.


Cover image via Aofchin