Working with Second-Camera-Operators

Info on what AW-trained Second Camera Operators will know and expect.

Download this 25 page (1.98Mb) PDF workbook. Print in B&W and add notes while watching the video.


144Mb; 29’27”


Watch the SDLP and then complete the following assignments.

Assignment 1

Select a Second Camera Operator.

Action item: Decide who the SP wants to approach to be their Second Camera Operator (SCO).

Action item: Decide if the SP wants that person to undergo training (recommended). 

Remember that how this individual performs as a SCO directly impacts the SP’s assessment and thus their fee for each shoot! SP’s need to decide how much they’ll be paying this person, and on what terms. 

Inform the Trainer of the decision around SCO selection.

If the SCO is taking part in the training, complete parts two and three of the assignment. 

Assignment 2

The Shoot Producer has an orientation meeting with the SCO, connects and bonds, and performs some exercises to establish expectations.

Arrange to meet with SCO ahead of their first shoot day – around one week before the SP’s first GGT3 shoot is recommended (too much before that, and they may forget what they learned; much later, and there’s not enough time to find someone else if the SP decides they are not suitable).

The SCO must have completed and passed all five of their SDLPs before the orientation meeting with the SP meet (that is, the section for SCO’s on the GGT3 page).

No models are required on this day.


Make nice with SCO, and deliver camera-based training.

It’s possible the SP is meeting the SCO for the first time, or at least, for the first time in this context of them being a Second Camera Operator, so allow some time to “get to know you”. Ideally, the SP will be working with this person regularly long into the future, so it’s worth spending time on starting off on a solid footing.

Perhaps a meal together, or some activity. The SP shares their background and involvement with, and asks about the SCO’s. 

We strongly recommend the SP sets their working expectations including:

  • Arrival and departure times
  • Phone policy on-set
  • Notice period if unavailable for a booked shoot
  • Behaviour on-set
  • Treatment of the SP’s equipment equipment
  • Reimbursements
  • Payments (rate, method, timeframe)
  • Anything else that’s important to the SP…

(Note that these are all the Shoot Producer’s responsibility – the SCO is a subcontractor to the SP – not to BV).

Instead of just reading off a list or rules and regulations, a useful approach is to ask a series of open ended questions to the SCO, for example, “Imagine you can’t make it to a booked shoot. When’s a good time to let me know that?”. A conversation about the expectations is more likely to be remembered and followed.

Shoot Producers might want to also make a formal Contracting Agreement with the SCO, or at least provide a list on paper they can take home and read.

Camera familiarity

Introduce the SCO to the camera they will operate, let them handle it as much as possible. Ask questions about their experience, and understanding of the lessons they have completed – use the same words and concepts.

Familiarise the SCO with:

  • Where the zoom control is (so they know what not to wiggle!)
  • How to adjust exposure (with a mnemonic, if possible, like “Roll wheel up to increase the brightness”)
  • How to ensure ND filter off
  • How to check the camera is on auto focus 
    • How to put it back on, if accidentally ends up on manual focus
  • Where to plug in their headphones 
    • How to check the monitor volume is turned up to max
    • Experience the “super-human hearing” that this setup enables
    • Remind SCO that what they hear is what customers will hear
    • Make some handling noises so the SCO can identify them
  • Practise reading settings out together as the SP and SCO do at the start of the video recording session. 

Let the SCO practise with the camera – the SP identifies an item to frame up (say, a chair) that will need an exposure adjustment from the previous capture. The SCO works to frame it artfully and in correct exposure. Repeat several times, until the SCO is comfortable adjusting exposure and framing promptly.

Practical assignment 

The SP acts as a camera operator in this scenario, along side the SCO-in-training. The subject can be any static subject in the room (a bowl of fruit, for example).

Ask the SCO to capture a steady, correctly-exposed, sensibly-framed and in-focus clip on the video camera, where they start wide on the subject, then move in to capture a CU. Meanwhile, the SP does the opposite (CU to wide) once the SCO has stopped moving. Work to ensure there’s always one camera with a solid shot of the subject (wide, or CU).

Of course, this is the process described in the SDLP, and this pattern plays out many times in every GGT3 shoot.

Do it several times, begin by saying out loud the communication between camera operators (eg, “Do you have a good frame?”, “Hold it, I’m repositioning now…”), and when solid, do it several times with hand-signals only. 

Check the footage of the SCO from the final “perfect” take. Check the exposure, framing and audio on the clip is suitable (be especially sensitive for handling noise). It may be necessary to give feedback and repeat the exercise several times.

When the SP feels comfortable that the SCO understands what is needed and can execute camera movement and communicate smoothly using hand-signals with the SP in a shoot day, the assignment is passed!

Update the Trainer to SCO the results from this day (if on this training day the SCO fails to complete the assignment or the SP find there’s not a good working relationship, this individual is discounted as a SCO option). 

Assignment 3

On-set, with models, final practise with cameras.

Organise for Model Liaison team to advise models of SCO’s first day, and that some additional time is necessary after lunch, for final training of the SCO. Models will be clothed, and be asked to hold some positions during this training.

Note that models are not paid additional money for this, as the exercise only takes 20 minutes, and no footage recorded will be published.

At the start of the shoot day, remind the models that this will happen before the video is shot.

This training should be done after lunch (so models are rested), but before the models go to shower (so the SP has time to look through the test footage the SCO captures, and to talk to the SCO about it). 

Brief the models using phrases like this;

  • Jack is learning to be a Second Camera Operator
  • He’s done a bunch of online training with the company
  • He and I did a session the other day to practice
  • Now we need to do a short practise with real models – you guys!
  • You’ll be clothed, and this footage won’t be published – it’s just so Jack and I can practise coordinating our camera movements with sign language
  • Get into doggy pose together, then change to 69 position – I’ll tell you when to change
  • You guys don’t need to interact sexually, in fact, you can just chat!
  • But, ignore us!
  • I’ll check the footage Jack shoots, and we might need to do it a few more times
  • Then, you guys will shower, and we’ll start the video shoot!

Final on-set assignment for SCO’s on their first shoot day:

  • Video lighting is set up and on
  • In shoot space, models are clothed, in doggy position
  • SP and SCO have video cameras recording
  • SP directs models to start in doggy, and hold position (SCO close, SP wide)
  • SP directs models to switch to 69
  • SP and SCO both shoot CU and wide of 69 sex act, changing camera positions during the sex act
  • Once the exercise is done, SP checks media captured by SCO, giving feedback 
  • Repeat if necessary

After the shoot day, update the Trainer on how the SCO did with this on-set assignment, and how they went in the shoot proper.

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