Exploring the role of Camera Operator with Peter Berglund

05 Jan 2017

3 mins
Iron Man
Iron Man

BAFTA crew member Peter Berglund is a camera operator and visual effects specialist who has worked across film and television for over 20 years. His credits include Iron Man, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and Navy drama U-571. With much experience behind the camera and in the world of filmmaking in general, Peter has compiled his top tips to help students transition into a role as a camera operator.

1. First things first - Read the script. Then read it again. Talk to the Director of Photography (DP) about what his plans are and what his take on the script is. Even if it's a bad script, it's still a job, and you have to get inside it as much as you can, so do your homework!

2. Get prepared - Go to the camera preparation sessions, meet your Assistant Cameramen (AC) and make sure you've got the right tripod heads and hand-held configurations figured out - it will save a lot of time and stress you don't need on the shoot.

3. Know your limits - Before the cameras roll, take a good look around the set. How far can I pan left before seeing a lighting stand? How far right? Up? Down? Know where the limits are and make a mental mark in your head. Check for tape marks, water bottles, anything that shouldn't be there - you'll be amazed how often you see things that other crew don't see. Most of the time no-one else is thinking about that stuff, but it's your job, so take the time.

4. You're only as good as your crew - If there's a bump in the camera track or if a shot is out of focus, then the editor will not use that shot. It's your responsibility to work with the grips (lighting/rigging technicians) and camera crew to create the best shot possible. Help the focus puller by giving any relevant info you can, e.g. "When she turns her head, I'll pan over to the guy with the hat". Or, if you're going to search for the right shot while filming, tell them that. This kind of information is a very helpful thing for everyone.

5. Have fun and enjoy what you're doing - Have fun with the crew, the cast, and everyone! It's the best job in the world, most of the time. Learn from mistakes and use that knowledge to help you be a better operator in future.

If you have a film made by young people aged 5 - 19, you can enter it into the Into Film Awards before 31 January. The Awards celebrate the work of young people throughout the UK, culminating in a ceremony at the famous ODEON Leicester Square in London. This is your opportunity to shine a spotlight on your students' hard work.

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