Camera Operator Guidelines – All Cameras

Below are some general guidelines for Camera Operators and Jib Operators when shooting EFP (live multi-camera) events such as concerts or sports:

  • Tally Lights – Pay attention to your tally.  If you’re tally is on, your shot is live.  Once that light comes on, you are already committed.  Don’t abruptly change or try to reset your shot.  Keep your shot until the director is off of you and your tally goes off.

  • Return Video – Build a habit of constantly checking your return to see what the other cameras are shooting. If you notice your shot is the same as the camera that’s live on-air, adjust your shot (the Director doesn’t need 2 of the same shot, unless they ask for it). You can also use your return to coordinate framing between your camera and the camera that is live, or to match your zoom speed with the other camera, or so you know when to begin your move so you don’t start too early or too late, or to frame around any live graphics that the Director has up. Constantly checking your return is one of the best ways to grow as a Camera Operator or Jib Operator.

  • Between Shots – It’s important to move as quickly as you can between shots to eliminate down time.  Any time spent moving from one shot to another is time that the director doesn’t have a shot. It can be frustrating for a director to be left without a shot to go to because one of the cameras is pointing at the ground or at the wall while they’re looking for their next shot.  If you anticipate what’s about to happen, you’ll always be thinking one shot ahead, so you know exactly where to go next.

  • Getting Focus – To focus correctly, zoom all the way in, get your focus, then zoom back and frame your shot. When focusing on a person, focus on their eyes or hair.

  • Changing Focus – Always know what setting your focus is at and where to put it if you need to adjust.  For instance, if you are focused on a singer in the foreground, but you need to focus on a musician in the background, you would need to roll your focus away from you.  If you have a 2-shot, and 1 person is behind the other, you might need to split the focus between the two people.

  • Pick a Shot – If you’re not sure what to frame up on, pick something anyway and commit to it. For instance, if you have a shot of 2 keynote speakers on stage, and they both walk away in separate directions, pick one and follow them (unless otherwise directed). That way, the director always has a usable shot.

  • Empty Spaces – If you’re shooting a crowd or an audience, try to frame around empty spaces and empty seats to make the area look fuller. You can adjust the position of your camera, and even its altitude to minimize empty space.

  • Cheatsheet – Use a cheatsheet to remember shots or faces. Put the cheatsheet somewhere that’s easily accessible for you… maybe you can tape it or clip it next yo your viewfinder. For a lot of major league sporting events, the director will have cheat sheets available that show photos of the players and their jersey numbers.

  • Program Audio – When shooting live sports, listen to Program Audio if possible. It will take some multi-tasking on your part, but if you can pay attention to what the announcers are saying (while also listening to the Director), you have a better chance of getting the right shot at the right time.

  • Music Energy – When shooting live music, camera shots should move with the energy level of the music. On a high-energy, upbeat song, camera movements should be quicker and more deliberate than on a slower, more somber song, when the movements should be less invasive and more subtle.

  • Capture the Emotion – An extremely slow zoom-in on someone’s facial expression can help capture emotion.  This could be during an emotional music piece, or during an tender moment in the speaker’s message.

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