A camera operator, sometimes informally called a cameraman, is a professional operator of a film or video camera. In filmmaking, the person designing the lighting is the cinematographer or director of photography, who is also informally called a "cameraman" though it is a different job. A camera operator in a video production may be known as a television camera operator, video camera operator, or videographer, depending on the context and technology involved, usually operating a professional video camera.
The camera operator is responsible for physically operating the camera and maintaining composition and camera angles throughout a given scene or shot. In narrative filmmaking, the camera operator will collaborate with the director, director of photography, actors and crew to make technical and creative decisions. In this setting, a camera operator is part of a film crew consisting of the director of photography and one or more camera assistants. In documentary filmmaking and news, the camera is often called on to film unfolding, unscripted events. In 2006, there were approximately 27,000 television, video, and motion picture camera operators employed in the United States.
Important camera operator skills include choreographing and framing shots, knowledge of and the ability to select appropriate camera lenses, and other equipment (dollies, camera cranes, etc.) to portray dramatic scenes. The principles of dramatic story telling and film editing fundamentals are important skills as well. The camera operator is required to communicate clearly and concisely on sets where time and film budget constraints are ever present.
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