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EDUCATION ( PART 2 ) Peter Leverick Founder member ITTP Cameraman, DOP, LD, Film Skills Trainer IT’S ALL A NACK OR IS IT AN ACT? CAMERA OPERATION In Part 1 (issue 110) I addressed the practical skills required by Camera Operators aspiring to enter the Broadcast TV market. A good camera operator also needs to have good artistic senses and abilities. Like practical skills this is something that is acquired through training and practice. As with all training and practice the trainee needs to have access to a good trainer and the time to observe & practice. Trainer input alone does not make a good cameraman; a Trainer should give the student an understanding of what is required through explanation and demonstration, from that point on, it is down to the student to watch high end Broadcast output and practice/practice/practice what he or she sees and has learnt. This in turn means that the Tutor should possess these skills and the teaching establishment must have all the professional kit, otherwise the training can lapse into theory, and sometimes non-contextual theory. It must be said that these days’ a fair amount of Broadcast output itself falls very short of the standards required, and therefore a fair amount of discernment is required when selecting your Continuing Personal Development viewing. As I mentioned in Part 1, many of the programme makers (Directors, Cameramen, Editors, even Sound Recordists) disregard what they should have been taught in the name of ‘art’ or fashion, or in the case of a BBC flagship Documentary series that went out a couple of weeks ago, made by people who were taught correctly, deliberately misframed looking room in order to make the programme ‘look different’. Then there is the constantly fidgeting pit lane walk & talk camera on certain race tracks, the constantly crabbing wide shot on studio discussions & interviews, not to mention the endless (pun intended!) unresolved jimmy jib developments - this list is also endless. 48 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 112 APRIL 2016 How can we be discerning with our viewing and training input when so many of the examples on offer are misleading? The answer is to have a thorough understanding of the basic requirements of the viewer, because that is the first and possibly the most important artistic skill that the Camera Operator will need. Most of the other artistic skills flow from this one. Let me put all this into context. There is a saying about lighting for drama, that the lighting should not be visible, that is to say that when lighting a scene the result should look natural, not ‘lit’. Whereas lighting for most music based Light Entertainment shows is intentionally noticeable. The same is true for Camerawork; on the whole it should not be noticeable in itself, apart from some genres such as music videos and the like. This distills down to the simple fact that good camerawork, as with good lighting, compliments the performance or events playing out in front of the camera, it does not go against the grain of the performance, it is deeply enmeshed with it, to the extent that the camerawork is a contributing performance in it’s own right. Just as two actors are relating and reacting to each other’s performance, so too should the camera. The camera can embrace expectation, tension and relaxation, it can convey height, distance and speed, it can emphasize mood, light, darkness, shade, depth, claustrophobia, fear, and surprise... the list is almost endless. It has to be said that many of the camera skills needed to embrace the above list involve breaking, or at least bending the textbook rules of camerawork, so you can see why a knowledge of the rules is important, but more importantly, an awareness of how these rules, when applied, are received, or felt, by the viewer.