Unscripted TV

Camera supervisor

Camera supervisor

What does a camera supervisor do?

Camera supervisors are responsible for the entire camera department on multi-camera shoots. Multi-camera shoots involve several camera operators working as a team to capture the same material at the same time but from different angles. They take place in studios or on outside broadcasts.

Before filming begins, camera supervisors usually meet the producer and director to establish their requirements and attend any site visits or technical planning meetings and rehearsals. They consider how many people will be on screen and in what location, and therefore what equipment and crew will be needed. This could include specialist kit and skills, such as those of a jib operator (skilled at working with a camera attached to the end of a very long arm) or a Steadicam operator (who attaches the camera to equipment strapped to their body to achieve long, fluid camera movements). 

Camera supervisors work within a budget to provide the best technical service for the production with the resources available. They often suggest and hire camera operators they work with regularly or have worked with before. 

During a recording or live programme, camera supervisors respond constantly to the director, communicating the director’s vision and ensuring the crew are all performing their allocated tasks. It’s their responsibility to raise any concerns relating to the health and safety of the crew.

What’s a camera supervisor good at?

  • Photography: have a good eye and understanding of composition, light, colour, focus and framing, skilled at camera work, lighting and establishing a style for a production.
  • Technical knowledge of cameras: stay up to date with the latest technology and have an in-depth understanding of how all camera equipment works, limitations and selecting the best options for different productions
  • Problem solving: be resourceful and find effective solutions to technical problems and challenges, often across multiple input from a variety of locations at one time
  • Leadership: communicate and give instructions effectively, make good judgement calls, have a good understanding of all crew roles
  • Communication: share how to achieve a series style with your crew, who are often in different locations, collaborate effectively with other departments to ensure the visuals meet requirements

Who does a camera supervisor work with?

Camera supervisors manage the team of camera operators, grips and assistants required on a production. They work closely with the director and their services are often requested by directors or producers after establishing a good working relationship on previous productions. They may also form long-lasting collaborations with certain companies and broadcasters. They have regular contact with production management regarding equipment hire, scheduling and contracts. Camera supervisors can be on the staff of a studio or broadcaster, but can also be freelance.

How do I become a camera supervisor?

Camera supervisors lead the camera crew on a multi-camera production and understand all the different roles as they will have worked in most before becoming the boss. This often involves working as a camera assistant and then a camera operator. The Guild of British Camera Technicians runs a trainee scheme. It may also be possible to get into this role by working through the lighting department: you could start in more junior roles such as being a spark or a lighting console operator.

At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in a combination of subjects that includes art, art and design, graphic communication and photography, along with maths and physics.

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:

  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
  • NCFE Applied General Certificate in Art and Design
  • UAL Applied General Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Production
  • BTEC National Diploma in Photography OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology

Get an apprenticeship:
An apprenticeship is a job with training, so it’s a great opportunity to earn as you learn. You’re unlikely to find an apprenticeship as a junior camera operator. However, you might want to find another apprenticeship with one of the broadcasters, as this is a good way into the industry. Go to ScreenSkills information on apprenticeships for the main apprenticeship schemes in television. Alternatively, you might find a role as a photographic assistant within another industry, such as advertising. This can help you develop your skills which you can transfer to TV at a later point. Check out What’s an apprenticeship?  to learn more about apprenticeships and Find an apprenticeship to learn how to find one in your region, or approach companies directly.

Work for an equipment company:
Contact an equipment rental company like Panavision, Provision or ARRI Rentals. Ask if you can become a kit room assistant. That way you will get to learn more about the kit and build up contacts.

Get a degree:
It’s not essential to have a degree in order to become a camera supervisor. There are, however, degree courses that specialise in television production and photography that you might consider. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in unscripted TV or search for "camera". We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the unscripted TV industry.

Get work experience:
Try to get work experience by writing to local production companies and asking if they offer any. Keep an eye out for work experience opportunities at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and the PACT Indie Diversity Training Scheme.

Take a short course:
Hone your skills in camera supervising by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills to see if there is one about camera or camera work.

Get to know people in the unscripted TV industry by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest in and knowledge of the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to Network well to learn how to do this.

Network online:
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making unscripted TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales ScreenNorthern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.

Search for jobs:
Research unscripted TV production companies that you’d like to work for and watch the programmes that they make. Regularly check their websites and job listings websites to see if they are advertising for roles. You can also send in a short speculative letter with your CV to the production manager. Register your CV on websites like The Talent Manager, which is used by most broadcasters and independent production companies when looking for staff. StartinTV offers tips on creating your CV and attending interviews, as well as some advice for your first day working in TV.

You might also be interested in…

Being a director or lighting director in the unscripted TV industry. You might also be interested in being a director of photography in film and TV drama.

Further resources