Getting to Know the Camera Crew
What does the camera crew do?
The camera crew is responsible for setting up and operating the camera. They work closely with the lighting department to ensure each shot works within the overall vision for the project.
There are two types of productions: single camera and multi-camera. Single camera productions use one camera at a time, which is the standard for films (We Have A Ghost, Creed III, The Underdoggs), dramatic TV shows (Extrapolations, True Lies, The Company You Keep), and some half hour series (Loot, Girls5Eva, The Crossover). Multi-cam shows are mainly sitcoms (That ’90s Show, Raven’s Home, Night Court) that use three or more fixed cameras at once, allowing the camera crew to capture multiple angles in one take.
Camera crew roles
Director of Photography
The director of photography (also called the DP or cinematographer) is the head of the camera and lighting crews. They work closely with the director to design each shot and make decisions on what lens, filter, and lighting to use to achieve the desired look.
While filming, the camera operator is the person who physically controls and moves the camera. They work with the director of photography to ensure each shot meets the director’s vision.
Steadicam operators are camera operators trained to use a specialized camera called a Steadicam, which is attached to the operator with counterweights or gimbals. This allows the operator complete freedom to smoothly follow the actors throughout the scene and over uneven surfaces.
First Assistant Camera
First assistant cameras (1st AC or focus puller) are responsible for maintaining and pulling focus while filming a scene. They also put together the camera at the beginning of the day and take it apart when filming has finished.
Second Assistant Camera
The second assistant camera (2nd AC) labels and operates the clapper/slate for every take. When shooting on film, it’s their job to load and unload the film in the camera. They also maintain the records and paperwork of the camera crew.
Digital Imaging Technician
A Digital Imaging Technician’s (DIT) role can vary depending on the production, but they work closely with the DP on camera settings, on-set color correction, and data management. The DIT also helps watch for boom shadows, unwanted reflections, and other issues to ensure the shot is clean and free of mistakes.
Working with the camera department
Stand-Ins work closely with the director of photography, camera operator, and assistant cameras. A single camera Stand-In’s primary responsibilities deal more with lighting and camera setups, while multi-cam Stand-Ins often run through an entire episode in place of the principal actor to determine camera blocking.
As a Background Actor or double, your interaction with the camera varies from shot to shot. In one scene you may be tasked with crossing the camera and in another, a Steadicam operator may walk by you as they follow the principal actor through a crowd scene. Whatever the case, always pay close attention to the instructions given to you so you know what’s expected of you in the scene.
Want to learn more about how film departments influence background work? Check out our articles Background Actors and Sound in Movies and TV Shows and How Production Design Influences Background Work.