A camera operator performs the most basic and essential function in any video production—making sure footage is captured.
While a director is in charge of the creative vision of a production, the camera operator is the finely tuned instrument that gets the job done.
Experts in angles, focus, motion, and lighting, camera operators know just how to carry out a director’s grand ideas and turn them into a reality.
Hiring a quality freelance camera operator will make any simple production look professional and outstanding.
What to look for
No matter what their credentials are, freelance camera operators will have a showreel to display their talent—education matters little compared with showing actual work. When you sit down to interview a potential freelance camera operator, you should be looking for a couple specific things in his or her showreel:
How are the shots focused?
Almost the entirety of a freelance camera operator’s job consists of taking clear, focused shots. The creative direction of the reel isn’t really important here, whether it is good or bad.
If the shots are focused well, telling the visual story that should be flowing naturally, chances are you’ve found a good freelance camera operator.
How does the camera track movement?
Capturing motion is another quality you should look for. If the movement does not stay properly framed throughout the shot, you may want to look for someone else.
Know what you need
Since freelance camera operators essentially work to carry out someone else’s ideas, they won’t require much beforehand such as a script or a meeting with the cast members. If you want to have all your bases covered, however, you’ll want to ask them if they have all their own equipment or if you will need to provide any.
Part of this comes down to the types of shots you want them to capture. For instance, a good freelance camera operator should have his or her own camera and simple crane jibs.
Questions to ask a potential candidate
What is your availability?
Freelance camera operators may be required to work all sorts of random hours, during holidays or any other time.
What is the most important skill a camera operator can have?
Camera operators should know their skillset and how valuable good focus and motion capturing is.
Tell me some different ways to focus a camera lens
Test your potential hire to see if they know their stuff. While you’ll be able to see their work in their showreel, knowing they can explain their craft will let you know their quality.
Tell me some different angles from which a shot can be taken
Again, have them reassure you they know their stuff.
Have you ever had a disagreement with a Director?
A freelance camera operator is the hands and feet of the director. If your potential hire doesn’t play well with others, you might need to go with someone else.