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At first glance, the job of being a camera operator seems relatively simple if you only think in terms of a person pointing a camera at a subject and filming. Instead, the field of filmography is a rich and complex one, where there are many different duties for camera operators at a wide range of skill levels. Similarly, the technology involved can be very involved and sometimes requires years of training and on-the-job experience.
A camera operator can work in television, motion pictures, for other types of video-producing firms, or independently. Some of the jobs require a post-secondary education or several years of previous camerawork, while a few will hire and train without previous experience. The latter situation is rare however, since the job of being a camera operator is competitive with many people applying for relatively few jobs. Most of the time, those who are hired will be the people with the most on-the-job experience, who are adept at more skills than simply filming, such as editing and using computers and video software. These jobs can also require travel, and sometimes require the operator to work under dangerous circumstances. A camera operator must be cautious when traveling to hostile parts of the world, working near dangerous animals, or when filming people who not want to be filmed.
The types of cameras that are used by an operator differ depending on the medium they are filming. A camera operator who films motion pictures, also known as a cinematographer, must use several different types of cameras depending upon the shot to be captured. He or she must also know all the technical aspects of how to move the camera in relation to the subject, for example by using cranes or tracks. It is also essential to be able to communicate clearly with others working on the film, in giving, receiving and executing orders. The same is true in the case of those working in television, and creativity is also required in both types of media.
Independent camera operators often will be contracted out to film events such as weddings, parties, conferences, instructional videos and more. These videographers can work alone or with a group of others and also must be in charge of all business aspects such as promoting their business, collecting payments, copyrighting their work and keeping track of finances. Some also might say that anyone who films anything that is posted on the Internet can be considered to be independent videographers.
Salaries for camera operating positions are competitive with most other job markets, and job growth in the industry is expected to keep rising. Many secondary and post-secondary schools offer training in different types of camera work for those who seek to learn how to be a camera operator. Also, because of swiftly changing and growing technology, it is essential for camera operators to stay current on industry trends and to learn new skills as they arise. This is especially true of digital film work and editing that can use computers and software to film and edit.