The master of light. The lord of the lens. The king or queen of the camera. The Director of Photography might not actually be called any of these things, but it’s still one of the coolest jobs on set. The DP has arguably as much influence on the visual style of the project as the director, with almost none of the responsibility. A good DP will have a telepathic connection to what the director envisions in a shot, but failing these psychic powers, should at least have looked at the storyboards for a basic idea.
The Camera Department
Have we reminded you recently that film is a visual medium? Because it still is. So there will probably be at least one camera on set.
Director of Photography | Cinematographer
It might be the case that you’re lucky to even have a camera and someone to hold it. However, if you have some room in the budget and you care about things like framing and angling, you can have a whole department to assist the DP. Everything from operators to people dedicated to just handling media.
Remember that really cool one-take shot in “Atonement” (DP: Seamus McGarvey)?
What about the one in “True Detective” season 1 (DP: Adam Arkapaw)?
Would you believe that someone actually had to move that camera around? Now, it’s not every shot that you’re going to have some incredibly choreographed sequence of events warranting the use of a Steadicam, but camera operators are nonetheless essential. From bread-and-butter movements like panning and tilting, to more run-and-gun types of operations like handheld or with the use of a stabilizer, basically any shot you see has one of these guys hanging just outside the frame.
Actors aren’t the only ones who have to hit their marks. Your first assistant camera operator is going to be pulling focus. Something like the last shot in this scene from “Road to Perdition” (DP: Conrad Hall).
Your second assistant camera operator is going to be responsible for marking talent, pulling lenses, keeping track of the equipment and clapping. No, not when the lead actor nails a great take (who needs to boost their ego anymore anyway? Just kidding, actors, you’re wonderful). With this thing called a slate. Here’s 2nd AC, Geraldine Brezca (Tarantino’s Camera Angel), slating for “Inglorious Basterds” (DP: Robert Richardson):
This position is kind of a hybrid production/post-production gig. In the days of yore you’d have a film loader running back and forth with reels of film in tow. Nowadays, your DIT is running around with memory cards – dumping footage, organizing them, maybe even applying LUTs to footage to prep the post-production team. Kind of a high-stress job, if you really think about it, because what happens if some of the files are damaged, or worse, lost? Well, so much for that day of shooting.