Film and Television Camera Operator

Film / television camera operators film events or scenes for television, videos or movies. Usually they work under the direction of a film production manager or film director.

Film / television / video camera operators operate television or motion picture cameras to record scenes for television broadcasts, advertising or motion pictures.   They confer with directors, sound and lighting technicians, electricians and other crew members to discuss assignments and determine filming sequences, desired effects, camera movements and lighting requirements.  They study scripts to interpret what the scenes should look, select which cameras and equipment are most suitable and decide on the location of the cameras and lights. They set up the cameras and equipment, such as lighting rigs and kits, and then work with and follow the instructions of the film director. They need to adjust the positions and controls of the cameras, printers and related equipment to change focus, exposure and lighting, and operate zoom lenses, changing images according to specifications and rehearsal instructions. Cameras can be used in any of several different camera mounts such as stationary, track-mounted or crane-mounted.

Other tasks are to test, clean, maintain and repair broadcast equipment, including testing the microphones to ensure they are in proper working order, receive raw film stock and maintain film inventories, reload camera magazines with fresh film stock, download exposed film for shipment to processing labs, label and record contents of exposed film and note details on report form and view films to resolve problems of exposure control, subject and camera movement changes in subject distance, and related variables.

Camera operators who film current affairs and documentaries may work independently, without direction from a director, and operate the sound and lighting equipment themselves.

Film / television camera operators need to have technical skills in order to operate camera equipment. They also need creative ability to advise on the best way to film a scene. 

Film / television camera operators should know how to operate film and video cameras, and should keep themselves up-to-date with new filming methods and equipment, and stay current with new technologies in the field by reading trade magazines. They also need to know about exposure, focus, colour and lighting. It is important that they understand the whole filming process and how the tape will be edited.

Personal Requirements

  • some creative and artistic ability
  • good eye for detail and atmosphere
  • work well under pressure, especially when filming for live television
  • quick reactions
  • patient, efficient and reliable
  • able to work within time and budget constraints
  • good communication and people skills
  • physically fit and have a strong back and legs
  • good hearing, hand-eye coordination and normal colour vision

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: BA Fine Art or Drama - RU, UJ, US, UFS, UP, UCT, UKZN, UFS, Wits.

Diploma: Various relevant diplomas and courses, such as Photography - CPUT, DUT, TUT, NMMU, VUT.
Private institutions also offer courses in Photography, e.g. Intec, Kondor, City Varsity.

Skills are gained on the job. Most film / television camera operators start off as camera assistants until they gain enough experience on the set and progress to operating the camera.


  • television companies
  • film companies
  • video production houses

Further Information

National Television and Video Association of South Africa (NTVA)
P O Box 16140
Vlaeberg, 8018
Tel: (021) 424-7575

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work within a film producing company or television company, as a gofer or assistant to a cameraman, for example
  • make an appointment to speak to a camera operator about this type of career
  • useful experience for film / television camera operators includes using home video cameras, photography, working backstage in a theatre, working for a production company, film-making and video or television work

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