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Watch: What Does a Camera Operator Do?

A reader, Dylan Toombs, passes along this video shot earlier this month at the The Banff Centre for Story Summit 2016 and featuring his interviews with three top Hollywood camera operators: Mitch Dubin (Saving Private Ryan, Bridge of Spies), Steve Fracol (Songs of Anarchy, Scandal), and Dave Thompson (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook). At the head of the video, Dubin offers perhaps the most concise description of the camera operator’s job that I’ve every heard, and the rest of the short, four-minutes-and-change interview contains other perceptive insights into how these three men view the nature and definition of their job.

One phrase you don’t hear uttered in this video is “director of photography,” however. In the independent realm, many DPs also operate; indeed, for most producers, it’s a bit of surprise when, when you start making union films, you learn that you have to hire an operator. For the point of view of a cinematographer who had to grapple with his own first union job and the realization that he had to hand the camera over to someone else for the first time, read Sean Porter’s “The Union Between DPs and Operators” in his regular column, Things DPs Don’t Talk About.

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