Careers in Digital Filmmaking and Video Production
There are multiple career options to choose from in the field of digital filmmaking and video production. Three common career options for you to consider are studio camera operator, cinematographer and videographer. Here's a look at each of these professions:
|Studio Camera Operator||Cinematographer||Videographer|
|Career Overview||Studio camera operators use one or several fixed position cameras, typically in a studio environment||Cinematographers are in charge of filming long and short motion pictures||Videographers typically film private events, like weddings and parties|
|Education Requirements||Typically, a bachelor's degree||A bachelor's degree is most common||Usually, a bachelor's degree|
|Program Length||Four years, full-time||Four years, full-time||Four years, full-time|
|Additional Training||On-the-job training||N/A||N/A|
|Work Experience||Varies widely; employers may request 3-7 years of experience||Varies widely; at least one year of experience is typically necessary||Varies widely; employers often require at least two years of experience|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||Slower than average growth (2%)*||Slower than average growth (2% for all camera operators)*||Slower than average growth (3%)*|
|Median Salary 2014||Roughly $48,080*||Roughly $57,210 (for all film and video editors)*||Roughly $59,429**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com (March 2016)
Studio Camera Operators
As a camera operator, you'll usually need to control one or a number of stationary cameras in a variety of studio environments. This work is often for television, film, advertising and web content. Usually, you'll simply be following the directions that cinematographers and directors give you. You'll often have a chance to set up and practice shots before executing them for the final product. If you work in live settings, you may need to carry heavy equipment and work in uncomfortable or dangerous situations.
Requirements for getting a position as a studio camera operator vary from job to job. Experience in the field often outweighs formal education. Overall, this tends to be a somewhat entry-level position that you may choose to use to build your resume and eventually work your way up to positions with more responsibility. An associate's or bachelor's degree in a film-related discipline can be mandatory for some jobs.
Here are some summaries of job advertisements for studio camera operators that employers posted online in December 2012:
- A cable sports network was searching for a jib camera operator in southern California. The primary duty was operating a jib camera in a studio setting, though some occasional live recording and editing work were also part of the job. Seven years of work experience and/or a degree in communications, broadcasting, engineering or a related field were required.
- In Virginia, a company was seeking a camera operator responsible for SD and HD sound and image. A college degree, three years of work experience and time spent as a director of photography (DP) were preferred. The position involved knowledge of various types of cameras, lighting standards and angles.
- A studio camera operator position in Phoenix, Arizona, required a high school diploma but preferred an associate's or bachelor's degree. The position involved taping productions for broadcast television and uploading videos to the organization's website. Experience working at a television station and doing video editing were necessary, and having worked with live productions and the Final Cut Pro software were desirable.
Your success as a professional studio camera operator largely depends on your demonstrable skills. Your portfolio and work experience can convey your abilities to employers. A solid way to gain experience in the field, build professional relationships and develop your portfolio is by completing an unpaid internship as a camera operator. Internships can vary from fashion film shoots to shoots for web series. While some internships may be (somewhat) long-term, others may last only a day.
Cinematographers are commonly in charge of an entire camera crew filming a motion picture. As a cinematographer, you'll give instructions to assistants and camera operators to get the shots that you want. Often, you'll determine the best kinds of cameras to use for a production and determine the angles of various shots. You could potentially use stationary cameras, moving cameras on track, cameras you mount on your shoulder and cameras mounted on cranes. Some cinematographers specialize in animation and visual effects.
As is the case for studio camera operators, job requirements vary widely in the field of cinematography. Experience is again commonly far more important than education or formal training in the field. An advanced knowledge of cinematography technology and a high level of industry software literacy are important. Usually, a position this high up requires a very strong portfolio.
Three summaries of positions relating to cinematography that were posted online in December of 2012 are:
- In Los Angeles, a company producing a commercial sought a cinematographer/DP. Experience with motion control rigs was necessary. This job lasted 2-3 days.
- An education production company producing iPhone and iPad applications was seeking a cinematographer/director/editor to work at least 50 hours a week directing and shooting shows in California. Candidates needed experience using editing programs like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and After Effects, as well as operating various types of cameras.
- An online broadcast and 3D media production company in New York City was seeking a cinematographer with at least one year of experience. The cinematographer's duties included organizing shoots, directing staff and filming. Knowledge of several types of cameras and job schedule flexibility were necessary.
There are a number of measures that you can take in order to stand out as a professional cinematographer. One tip is to learn to work with different cameras, like JVC, ED One, RED Epic, Phantom HD, Canon and Panasonic. Skills with several types of film, image and audio software, such as Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects and Avid Pro Tools are useful to have. It also can be important to have knowledge of different video codecs like H.264 and Apple ProRes.
As a videographer, you'll typically be in charge of film work at private events, like ceremonies and parties. You may work with specific companies and businesses. Often, videographers work in a freelance capacity or own their own business. In some cases, you'll bid on positions in direct competition with other videographers or videography companies.
Educational and training requirements for videographers vary a good deal. An associate's or bachelor's degree in videography, cinematography or a similar field may not only be a solid way to get your training, but also to legitimatize your resume. Some employers require a master's degree. Usually, your videography career depends more on you building your own business and maintaining your own clientele.
In December 2012, several videography job positions were posted online; below are summaries:
- A college in North Carolina was seeking a video producer with a master's degree in film and television production or a similar discipline. Applicants needed to be proficient in all steps of video production, from conceptualization to post-production, as well as capable of using various types of cameras and editing software.
- A strategic meetings management solutions and event management software company in Virginia sought a videographer with a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a similar field and 1-2 years of experience. The position required one to be responsible for video production from start to finish, including conceptualization, sound and lighting arrangement, shooting film and editing. Applicants were required to send in samples of short video work.
- In California, a Christian fellowship was seeking a videographer with a bachelor's degree in a communications or video-related discipline and at least two years of experience; an equivalent amount of education and experience was acceptable. Applicants with Final Cut Pro skills and certification were preferred.
As is the case for studio camera operators and cinematographers, many videographers are in charge of their own professional profiles. As a freelance worker or business owner, how you stand out is likely to be largely up to you. Picking a specific area of expertise can help. For example, if you choose to concentrate on weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and other life events, you can promote your videography skills directly to that market. As you gain experience and build a portfolio, you'll then have the word of mouth of your customers to help more jobs come your way.