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10 Ways an Experienced Cinematographer Can Make a Big Difference
Want to know how to make a camera operator laugh (or better yet roll their eyes)? Tell him or her that you heard a client say one of these four classic statements:
“We don’t need to hire a camera operator for our corporate video shoot.”
“I know someone who runs the camera at my church who will do it for less money.”
“Or I can just use my iPhone – there’s not that much difference in quality anyway.”
“Even if we shoot this ourselves, it can be fixed in post right?”
In reality, anyone who has worked on a corporate video shoot is acutely aware of the value of an experienced camera operator. But if you could use some ready-made supporting arguments the next time you hear someone downplay the importance of a camera person, here are ten of them:
1. Instead of knowing ‘just enough to get the job done,’ they are always honing their craft so they can do the job better.
If there is any talk of a new camera, camera accessory, or piece of video technology, camera operators will want to try it out (and often already have). It’s a core competency in their field to be well-versed in the latest advancements in videography; after all, it makes them more appealing to potential clients and sets them apart from your standard church videographer. Plus, if they just wanted to rely on their current skill level instead of continuously learning new things, then they would stick to shooting weddings (or church services).
2. They know how to compose shots so that they look visually attractive instead of hopelessly awkward.
There are plenty of amateurs who can fit the necessary people and objects into a shot or scene. But professional camera operators are always cognizant of the balance and visual composition of their shots. They know how to frame a shot so that it exudes stability and order, and they can also draw the eye of the viewer to a specific area of the shot for dramatic purposes or to emphasize a particular element. (No more awkwardly composed shots!)
3. They know a great deal about lighting each shot properly.
Because of budget constraints, many crews don’t have a dedicated lighting technician that can correctly illuminate the scenes of a corporate video. As a result, that role generally falls to the director and/or the camera operator. An experienced camera operator not only can provide proper lighting for basic setups, but they also have the knowledge on how to avoid shadows, work with natural and artificial light, and make novice on-camera subjects look attractive and flawless. They also have the ability to expose a shot, making sure just enough light (or not too much light) floods the scene. The last thing a client wants to see is underexposed or overexposed footage – because fixing that in post will not be pretty.
4. They’re not chained to a tripod; they can execute moving shots smoothly and effortlessly.
One drop dead giveaway of amateur camera people is a lot of shaky handheld footage. You’ve seen it –bouncy, uneven, gives you a headache just watching it footage. But pans, zooms, tilts, and tracking shots are much harder to pull off than they look. Sure, most skilled camera operators possess the special equipment needed to deliver smooth moving shots (like Steadicams), but they’ve also probably executed these shots hundreds of times even without a fancy stabilizer – so there won’t be numerous retakes on shoot day due to cameraperson jitters.
5. They are exceptionally knowledgeable about their equipment in order to adjust settings or accessories to create special effects.
Anyone can point a camera at something and press Record. Experienced camera operators can alter their cameras’ aperture sizes, f-stop settings, lenses, or filters to achieve a desired look or mood. These subtle “tricks” are often the difference between mediocre video and footage that grabs and holds the attention of the viewer – which is precisely what corporate clients want their videos to do.
Don’t settle for an amateur.
6. They have the ability to work independently or on a team.
Thinking about hiring the guy who videotapes church services to shoot your corporate video? There’s a good chance he’s used to working solo instead of as an integral part of a team. A highly-professional camera operator has the interpersonal skills to work with new people in an efficient and amicable manner in order to accomplish the same goal. But they don’t need to be baby-sat if the producer leaves them to the task either. That’s not always a given when you bring in a camera person who doesn’t have corporate video shoot experience.
7. They can offer creative input to help the finished product look its best.
Of course, experienced camera operators realize that the director calls the shots (literally) when making a corporate video. That said, good directors consider the creative suggestions of their crew – and because the camera person has the best view of every shot, he or she is perfectly positioned to provide thoughtful input into how to improve what the camera sees.
8. They can serve as an extra set of eyes for the director.
On a more practical level, camera operators are experts at spotting what should not be in a shot – anything from a stray cable or an unwanted boom mic to some sweat on a spokesperson’s brow or an extra piece of string on the CEO’s necktie. Since the director is responsible for dozens of components for each shot, he or she will appreciate it when a camera operator catches what would have been a conspicuous mistake (which might have necessitated one or more retakes).
“Umm… maybe we should take that “12 Days Since Our Last Injury Accident” sign down off the wall…”
9. Their speed and efficiency help the crew get more done on shoot day.
Even if you could find someone with decent camera operator skills, he or she would probably take more time than usual setting up each shot because he or she doesn’t have the benefit of repetition and experience. And when you have a tight schedule and limited hours for the availability of a site, talent, or company officials, speed is a sought-after asset worth paying a little extra.
10. They give you more usable footage.
Skilled camera operators tend to deliver high-quality camera footage – and little else. They don’t keep the camera running or moving around between shots, and they make sure that all elements of the footage (sound, lighting, white balance, etc.) are perfect every time. This reduces editing and logging time for the post-production personnel, which in turn means the client pays for fewer man-hours after the shoot is done.
Good camera operators may not be worth their weight in gold, but they’re pretty close. So while there may be aspects of a corporate video that can be turned over to company employees, camera operation should not be one of them – unless you don’t mind a finished product that looks less than superb.
Need an experienced camera operator for your crew? Get a quote from us today!
Walter Corbett csc says
Nicely done Debbie!