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A Great Camera Operator?


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#1 John Thomas

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 05:14 PM

What's important to a cinematographer? What makes an operator really great? Do you work more in the British system, or do you as the Director of Photography set every shot to the finest detail. Do you prefer not to have an operator? Who needs one? What's your ideal situation?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 05:32 PM

For me, it's a great benefit to have a seasoned operator behind the camera. I can concentrate more on discussing set-ups with the director, other departments, etc. so it's a better management of my time.

Plus a good operator can contribute creative ideas, spot potential problems, find solutions that I wouldn't necessarily have thought of.

But to me, the most important quality of an operator is having a sense of when and where to point the camera when something unexpected happens, when a shot has not be thoroughly rehearsed, etc. And having a certain musicality to how they operate, understanding just how fast to pan, tilt, etc.

I worked with a great operator on "Big Love", Bob Edessa, and a great Steadicam operator, George Billinger (who has worked on many of the Speilberg/Kaminski features.)

Bob has learned that I like certain optical "mistakes" (reflections, flares, glints, shadows, hot spots, etc.) so he often comes up to me between takes and we talk about whether something should be fixed, rather than assume I want it fixed.
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#3 James Brown

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 01:18 AM

Oliver Stapleton has a great little story on Operating here http://www.cineman.c.../operators.html
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#4 John Thomas

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 05:10 PM

Oliver Stapleton has a great little story on Operating here http://www.cineman.c.../operators.html


Very nice, thanks James
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#5 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 17 March 2007 - 08:59 AM

For me, having a camera operator is indispensable. I believe the job of the Director of Photography and that of the Camera Operator are two distinct positions, at least on the types of shows I work on and the method with which I choose to work.
What makes an operator really great is the way they can seamlessly integrate their own aesthetic with those of the Director and the DoP and the way in which they can do that and go almost unnoticed at the same time. A great operator almost needs to be invisible.
I try not to micromanage the camera operator and nitpick framing. When there is a visual element that needs to be included in the frame from a story standpoint or when I think it is compositionally important I will let the operator know. But I think great operators are great because they can find the frame themselves even if the parameters of the shot have been decided by the director and/or the DoP.
Sometimes I set the shot physically with the camera, other times I lay out marks with the dolly grip using my finder, letting the assistant know the focal length that I have chosen, and then I let the operator take it from there, finessing the elements of the shot if need be.
I am fortunate in that I have worked with and continue to work with operators who I consider to be great.
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#6 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 17 March 2007 - 04:41 PM

....and a great Steadicam operator, George Billinger.....


Wow, there's a name from the past.
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#7 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 17 March 2007 - 07:08 PM

I prefer to do all my own camera stuff, as long as I'm not directing. Thats pushing it a little bit. I find that it gives me more controll over the shot.
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#8 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 01:44 AM

Wow, there's a name from the past.

How so?
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#9 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 02:23 AM

How so?


Back in the FilmFair Days.
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#10 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 01:34 PM

Back in the FilmFair Days.

Could you be more cryptic? I have no idea what FilmFair Days is...
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#11 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 19 March 2007 - 02:31 PM

Could you be more cryptic? I have no idea what FilmFair Days is...


FilmFair was a commercial production house that existed from the late 50's early 60's all the way trhough the early 90's. Over the final years they had five different commercial production companies under one roof.
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Aerial Filmworks

Ritter Battery

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Tai Audio

Paralinx LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Metropolis Post

Opal

Abel Cine

Gamma Ray Digital Inc