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Outline Of Duties: Operator

Until the beginning of the 60s, it was taken for granted that the profession of operator was part of the team on German feature film productions. Working as an operator was, thus, with good reason a part of ones training to become a cameraman.

But, with the decline of the German film industry and the blossoming of the Young German Cinema, this profession practically vanished from the crew lists for German feature film productions. Nowadays, the hiring of an operator is more the exception.

There is no recognised professional training for operators in Germany. Thus, if one follows the "classical path" of training, the operator should have worked beforehand as a clapper-loader and 1st assistent cameraman (focus puller) on feature films.

The operators area of responsibility covers:

extensive knowledge of technical equipment: innovations, possibilities for application, effects, and an understanding of the scale of expense for the desired effect.
technical cinematographic skills.
breaking-down of scenes into set-ups and their technical realisation.
knowledge of visual and film aesthetic methods.
knowledge of film editing.
mastery of camera and action axis.
basic understanding of dramaturgy and working with actors.
the setting up of the image.
acquaintance with various formats, mainly because of the selection of different aperture sizes, depending on the later markets for the product (cinema, TV) and the deployment of various focal lengths.
supervising the setting up of the camera dolly. In certain circumstances, involvement in the planning of - and arrangement of supply of special equipment.
monitoring of lighting to prevent unwanted light sources (lamps), shadow from camera, cables, etc.
involvement in the coordination of movements by the camera and actors.
overview of the order of editing (especially with non- chronological shoots).
coordination of scene with other departments involved (set design, make-up, costume, sound, etc.).
final check on scene before clapper board used.
evaluation of the scenes shot after filming.

The operator is the only person to have seen the finished shot before the rushes!



The activity at the Steadicam-operator is a separate profession within that at director of photography. People have been aware of it for some time in the USA, and now increasingly more here in Germany are coming to realize that using Steadicam "on the side" will not lead to the desired results or to ones which adequately show off the equipments possibilities.
The prerequisites for following this profession are largely identical with those for the operator, i. e. comprehensive knowledge of creation of an image, breaking-down scenes, optical axis, and of editing techniques are indispensable. Working with Steadicam cannot be learned from an instruction manual. Numerous visits to Steadicam-workshops as well as regular and intensive training with the equipment is absolutely imperative.

The fact that Steadicam is often only used on a one-day basis and then in teams that have already worked together for some time, means that a particular flexibility and experience is demanded of the operator: he must be able to fit in with the filming in the shortest time possible and also be able to work creatively with director and cameraman. The Steadicam-operator should be in the position of making suggestions, on request, for camera movements, since, as a specialist, he will best know the equipments universal possibilities as well as its limits.
Unconventional solutions for lighting are often necessary because of the near limitless mobility of the system; he should, therefore, also be able here - when required - to help the cameraman, i.e. he must have solid knowledge about lighting a set.

In recognition of the particularly complex nature of this profession, the bvk has set particularly strict standards for the listings in the following section Steadicam-operator. The colleagues appearing here all possess the required knowledge, have extensive practical experience and are justifiably known as Steadicam-operators.