What Does a Camera Operator Really Do? Watch the Legends Tell It Like It Is

Three camera operators tell their stories, one frame at a time.

Ever heard of a "famous" camera operator? Not really, right? That's because they're consistently overshadowed by a distinct chain of command. In the process of crafting a shot, you've got your director with a vision, your DP setting up the course for that vision, and then you've got the guy who physically translates that vision to the camera. How that guy decides to get there however, is arguably one of the most important decisions made on set.

"As a camera operator, you’re setting up a shot and you say, "Okay, the shot starts here and it ends there..." Everything in the middle, all those thousands of choices, are ours. Thats what we do — we fill in the gaps." 

Camera operator Mitch Dubin works almost exclusively with Steven Spielberg, which means all that movement during the storming of the beach of Normandy in Saving Private Ryan can somewhat be credited to his actions. He defines his role clearly and concisely: "As a camera operator you’re setting up a shot and you have a finder and you're putting down marks and you say, 'Okay, the shot starts here and it ends there...' Everything in between, all those thousands of choices, we make those are ours. That's what we do  we fill in the gaps."

Those choices include what to keep inside and outside of the frame, which the frequent David O. Russell collaborator Dave Thompson likens to a form of editing: "What we do is editing as much as it is composing or creating."

The video, also featuring Steve Fracol (Songs of AnarchyScandal) was shot earlier this month in Canada at Story Summit 2016, and provides some truly unique insight on what too often seems to be the unsung hero of the movies.      

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The guys who cam oped this video yikes. no joke my biggest fear is gaffing a Roger Deakins interview

March 23, 2016 at 1:55PM

Max Ciesynski