Ever watched the credits at the end of a movie and wondered what all of those people do?

Well, here’s your answer. Below is a simplified list with a real world description for most of those positions.

Director of Photography

A good DP or Director of Photography can be an invaluable tool to you. They are responsible for the overall look of your vision and the translation of that look to the Gaffer. There are two types of DP’s, ones that only look at the picture and tweak it while having someone else operate the camera and ones that operate the camera themselves. I prefer the later. The reason being that on most independent film experiences you will not have the money to hire separate DPs and Camera Operators.

Camera Operator

This is the person who physically moves the camera in the scene. Many are a DP in their own right and sometimes have equally as good of credits. There are also many who are Assistant Cameramen working their way up into the next level of their career.

1st Assistant Cameraman

This position is an important position in the fact that anything that has to do with a piece of equipment on the camera, setting up the camera, changing a lens or pulling focus has to do with this person. On smaller jobs I have also used the AC as the loader for the film.

2nd Assistant Cameraman

This position involves assisting the 1st AC. The tasks usually include preparing camera equipment that will be used in the next scene or moving camera equipment to the next location that will be needed in the next scene. Having a 2nd AC can save you a lot of time in the long run as it frees up your 1st AC to concentrate on the scene at hand.

DIT or Digital Imaging Techs

On sets that involve HD, 2K or 4K cameras or cameras that do not involve film there is often a person called a DIT. They are in charge of shading and coloring of the camera and anything that is technically involved in the look as it refers to settings in the camera or the shader.

Clapper/Loader

This is usually two separate positions on a larger set and is the person in the camera department who is in charge of putting the clapper in front of the camera and also is in charge of loading the film into the camera. On a smaller project the 1st Assistant Cameraman or the 2nd AC may take on these responsibilities.

Tip#1:

Your DP will have a light meter with him that he uses to measure the amount of light on a subject. I have always found it helpful to have extra batteries for this on hand. It’s little things like this that are always forgotten by all parties and cause precious minutes of down time while shooting. That being said, pack a few extra batteries for that emergency situation.

Tip#2:

On your independent film you may not be able to pay for all the positions needed in the camera department. Call a nearby film school and see if they have a student who would like to come out and learn. Sometimes just an extra hand that can go and grab a case that is needed in the camera dept. can help out tremendously and save you lots of time. This gives that person a learning experience and you free help.

Tip#3:

Make sure that you do not talk to or distract the loader when they are “in the bag” or changing a roll of film. This is a delicate process and, when the loader is distracted, they could accidentally expose the film or uncoil the roll.

I prefer the same guy doing both jobs. That’s one less meal and one less guy you have to pay for. Many good DP’s are operators and actually prefer operating the camera themselves. Now I am not suggesting that the DP who does not operate is not valuable. Quite the opposite. If the DP does not have to operate then they have more time to concentrate on the look and in turn may give you a better picture because of only having to focus on one thing. It has been my experience though that you will get a great look from a DP/Operator.

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