Sep 7, 2012

What a camera op wants from you

Almost every step of the way, TV is always a collaboration. I’m going to write a few posts to help you put yourself in other people’s shoes and, hopefully, help your production run a little smoothly as a result. In this post I start with the relationship with your camera operator… here’s what they want from you…

A phone call…

Just a quick heads up in the run up to the shoot… where will it be happening, what’s involved, who’s taking part and notice of anything out of the ordinary. For example, asking them to hire in some specialist kit the evening before the shoot is less likely to yield results than a few days before. At this point you can also give them…

…an idea of the story…

Not every last detail and everything that has happened in the set-up to get you to where you are now but the top-line of the story. Then on location as you move onto each set-up let them know how each sequence/contributor fits into the overall idea.


It’s what you’re paid for! Give your crew some idea about the style you like and want or even what you don’t want. Don’t be afraid to step in… you’re wasting time (and breaking his or her back, if working hand-held) if you don’t call “cut” if a sequence isn’t working.

…but not too much…

You might have strong ideas on style or a very definite vision for some of your sequences. But let your camera man or woman get involved too. They can help you achieve your vision if you listen and let them have some input too.

Reasonable working hours…

We’re all under pressure to keep doing more for less but working people excessively won’t give you the best results. Make sure that early call time really is necessary then try to stick to your wrap time. And if it is a tough day, a tea-break and proper lunch break will keep everyone on side.

A thank-you…

Not just at the end of a shoot (naturally), but give them a quick call or send an email from the edit for some feedback… if it’s not all good, make it constructive. And if something could be down to a camera fault tell them as soon as possible, because some other poor production team could also end up suffering the same issue.

All the above apply to the relationship between camera and director. But there are some things that other members of the team can help with as well…

Schedules – include a post code for the sat nav and directions for the last mile or so – for every location and hotel.

Hotels – ask for your camera ops room (and possibly sound recordist) to be near to reception. They always seem to end up carrying kit to a room so far from the front door that it has a different post code!

Tripod – runners/researchers/directors/presenters/anyone – give ‘em a hand lugging the tripod or other bits of kit and the day will be so much more pleasant.

Labels – get someone in the office to pre-print some tape labels. It saves so much hassle and reduces the chances of a tape-labelling cock-up (or worse).

If you have any tips to add, please get in touch – I’m more than happy to add more or better ideas.

Comments are closed.

Andrew Painten | 07931 353515

Andrew Painten

Hello. I'm Andrew Painten a freelance television Producer/Director.

Click here to view my CV and list of credits.

If you have any questions or would like to book me for your production, please contact me.

Latest availability (via Twitter)