Camera Operator Guidelines – Hard Cameras

Below are some general guidelines for Hard Camera Operators when shooting EFP (live multi-camera) events such as concerts or keynote presentations:


  • Flexible Lead Room – The amount of lead room in a shot should be adjusted based on the angle of the person being shot. If the person is turned 90-degrees to the camera, there should be a lot more lead room in the frame than if the person is turned only at a slight angle. If the person is facing you, it’s ok to center them in the frame.

  • Anticipate Movement – Learning the body language of the speaker on stage will help you to anticipate their movement. Notice how they shift their weight before they turn or walk in a certain direction. The more attentive you are to their subtle body movements, the easier it will be to keep them in your frame as they move around the stage.

  • Consistent Framing – If the person you’re shooting walks towards you or away from you, you may need to zoom in or out accordingly in order to keep the framing consistent. For instance, if you have a head-to-toe shot and you don’t zoom out as they walk toward you, you’ll begin to cut off their feet.

  • Frame Around Other Cameras – Try to minimize showing other cameras in your shots. This can happen if a jib or handheld camera moves into the frame of another camera. If a camera appears in your shot, smoothly make necessary adjustments.  At the same time, the handhelds and jibs need to be aware of your framing in order to avoid crossing into your frame.

  • Adjust Remote Handles – Hard Camera Operators can make things easier for themselves by adjusting the remote handles on the tripod to their liking. In some situations where Camera Operators rotate, it’s important for each one of them to feel confident with their handlebar adjustments. After all, they will be holding those handles for nearly an hour straight, so comfort and ergonomics are important things to consider.

  • Head Room – It can feel natural when you’re starting out to put a person’s head in the vertical center of the screen. Fight that temptation. A person’s head should always be at the top of your frame. As they move, you will have to constantly adjust your shot to keep good framing and composition.

  • Unlock the Tilt – There’s no need for the tilt or pan of the tripod to be locked unless there is no one operating the camera. It is popular for beginner Camera Operators to lock the tilt while they’re shooting a “talking head” at a podium. It’s important for a camera operator to have complete control over every function of their camera at all times… especially if their shot is live or in ISO. That way, they won’t miss critical moves or surprise adjustments.

  • Shots Capture Music Movement – Live music has movement in it. You can capture that movement visually by moving during the music, and holding your shot static in between songs. If your shot is live when a song begins, smoothly begin a move. If your shot is live when a song ends, smoothly end your move.

  • Wide Shots During Music – Traditionally during live concerts, a wide shot will zoom in during the intro of the music, and zoom out at the end of the song. The wide shot usually maintains a useable ISO at all times to give the Director something to bail to if needed.

  • Direct the Audience’s Attention – Something that can come natural to some camera operators, but not obvious to others: as your shot changes during a move, you will need to physically adjust your camera to direct the audience’s attention to a solid focal point. For instance, if you start zooming in from a wide shot, you can’t just zoom straight in and never adjust your pan and tilt. Instead, deliberately pick out a person or object to zoom in on, and as you’re zooming, force the audience to focus on that person. Keep your framing and composition as you do your move.

  • Pan Ons – Panning onto a musician while the director cross-dissolves to your camera can be a creative transition during a soft song. But be careful about starting your move too far off the person you’re panning to. Otherwise, the transition effect could be lost. Pan-ons should only be used during a transition, not as the main part of a shot.

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