Film and video editors and camera operators manipulate images that entertain or inform an audience. Camera operators capture a wide range of material for TV shows, motion pictures, music videos, documentaries, or news and sporting events. Editors organize the final productions from the many different images that camera operators capture. They collaborate with producers and directors to create the final production.

Duties

Film and video editors and camera operators typically do the following:

  • Shoot and record television programs, motion pictures, music videos, documentaries, or news and sporting events
  • Organize raw film footage into a continuous whole
  • Collaborate with a director to determine the overall vision of the production
  • Discuss filming and editing techniques with a director to improve a scene
  • Select the appropriate equipment, from the type of lens to the appropriate lighting
  • Shoot or edit a scene based on the director’s vision

Most camera operators have one or more assistants working under their supervision. The assistants set up the camera equipment and may be responsible for its storage and care. They also help the operator determine the best shooting angle and make sure that the camera stays in focus.

Likewise, editors usually have one or more assistants. The assistants support the editor by keeping track of each shot in a database or loading raw film into an editing bay. Assistants also may do some of the editing tasks.

The increased use of digital filming has changed the work of a large number of editors and camera operators. Many camera operators prefer using digital cameras because these inexpensive instruments give the operator more flexibility in shooting angles. Digital cameras also have changed the job of some camera assistants: instead of loading film or choosing lenses, they download digital images or choose a type of software program to use with the camera.

Nearly all editing work is done on a computer, and editors often are trained in a specific type of editing software.

The following are examples of types of camera operators:

Studio camera operators work in a broadcast studio and videotape their subjects from a fixed position. There may be one or several cameras in use at a time. Operators normally follow directions that give the order of the shots. They often have time to practice camera movements before shooting begins. If they are shooting a live event, they must be able to make adjustments at a moment’s notice and follow the instructions of the show’s director.

Cinematographers film motion pictures. They usually have a team of camera operators and assistants working under them. They determine the angles and types of equipment that will best capture a shot. They also adjust a light in a shot, because that is an important part of how the image looks.

Cinematographers may use stationary cameras that shoot whatever passes in front of them, or they may use a camera mounted on a track and move around the action. Some cinematographers sit on cranes and follow the action. Others carry the camera on their shoulder while they move around the action.

Some cinematographers specialize in filming cartoons or special effects.

Videographers film or videotape private ceremonies or special events, such as weddings. They also may work with companies and make corporate documentaries on a variety of topics. Some videographers post on video-sharing websites for businesses. Most videographers edit their own material.

Many videographers run their own business or do freelance work. They may submit bids, write contracts, and get permission to shoot on locations that may not be open to the public. They also get copyright protection for their work and keep financial records.

Many editors and camera operators, particularly videographers, put their creative work online. If it becomes popular, they gain more recognition, which can lead to future employment or freelance work.

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Work Environment

Film and video editors and camera operators typically work in studios or in office settings. Camera operators and videographers often shoot raw footage on location.

Film and video editors held about 28,100 jobs in 2012. About 47 percent were employed by motion picture and video industries and 10 percent worked in television broadcasting. About 24 percent of editors were self-employed in 2012.

Camera operators held about 21,400 jobs in 2012. About 28 percent worked in radio and television broadcasting, and another 28 percent worked in motion picture and video industries, and about 22 percent of camera operators were self-employed in 2012.

Film and video editors work in editing rooms by themselves for many hours at a time. Cinematographers and operators who film movies or TV shows may film on location and be away from home for months at a time. Operators who travel usually carry heavy equipment.

Some camera operators work in uncomfortable or even dangerous conditions, such as severe weather, military conflicts, and natural disasters. They may have to stand for long periods waiting for an event to take place. They may carry heavy equipment.

Work Schedules

Work hours vary with the type of operator or editor, although most work full time. Those who work in broadcasting may put in long hours to meet a deadline. Those who work in the motion picture industry may have long, irregular hours while filming, but go through a period of unemployment after their work on the film is complete and before they are hired for their next job.

Education and Training

Film and video editors and camera operators typically need a bachelor’s degree in a field related to film or broadcasting.

Education

Most editor and camera operator positions require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to film or broadcasting. Many colleges offer courses in camera operation or video-editing software. Coursework involves a mix of film theory with practical training.

Camera operators must have an understanding of digital cameras and editing software because both are now used on film sets. Most editors eventually specialize in one type of software, but beginners should be familiar with as many as possible.

Personality and Interests

Film and video editors and camera operators typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Creating interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Creating interest which might fit with a career as a film and video editor and camera operator, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Film and video editors and camera operators should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Film and video editors and camera operators must communicate with other members of a production team, including the director, to ensure that the project goes smoothly.

Computer skills. Film and video editors must use sophisticated editing software.

Creativity. Film and video editors and camera operators should be able to imagine what the result of their filming or editing will look like to an audience.

Detail oriented. Editors look at every frame of film and decide what should be kept and what should be cut to make the best content.

Hand–eye coordination. Camera operators need to be able to move about the action while holding a camera steady.

Visual skills. Camera operators must be able to see clearly what they are filming.

Pay

The median annual wage for film and video editors was $51,300 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,660, and the top 10 percent earned more than $119,250.

The median annual wage for camera operators was $40,300 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,610, and the top 10 percent earned more than $86,000.

Work hours vary with the type of operator or editor, although most work full time. Those who work in broadcasting may put in long hours to meet a deadline. Those who work in the motion picture industry may have long, irregular hours while filming, but go through a period of unemployment after their work on the film is complete and before they are hired for their next job.

Job Outlook

Employment of film and video editors and camera operators is projected to grow 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

Job growth is expected to be slow in broadcasting because automatic camera systems reduce the need for camera operators at many TV stations. Because of the public’s continued strong demand for new movies and TV shows, companies are hiring more people as the motion picture industry becomes more productive.

Production companies and video freelancers are working within new content delivery methods, such as mobile and online TV, which has led to more work for operators and editors. These delivery methods are still in their early stages, yet they provide an opportunity for operators and editors to showcase their work.

In broadcasting, the consolidation of roles, such as field reporters who edit their own work, may lead to fewer jobs for editors at TV stations. However, more editors are expected to be needed in the motion picture industry because of an increase in special effects and content.

Job Prospects

Job openings are projected to be in entertainment hubs such as New York and Los Angeles because specialized editing jobs are needed there. Still, film and video editors and camera operators will face strong competition for jobs. Those with more experience at a TV station or on a film set should have the best prospects.

For More Information

For more information about film and video editors and camera operators, visit

Motion Picture Editors Guild

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