I used to volunteer at the community cable station in Stoney Creek. It was quite the experience to go into a tiny television studio, operate the equipment, and actually be part of a team that put on television shows. That was a long time ago but the memories stay with me.
Operating a camera inside the studio wasn’t as easy as you might think. The cameras were huge and quiet heavy. I would wear a headset to get instructions from the producer on what shots he wanted me to get. After a while, operating it became a snap. I thought I could shoot anything. That was until I went out on a mobile production.
The station had a mobile studio and could drive to any event to tape it. The hardest thing I ever had to film was a figure skating competition. I didn’t realize that it would be so tough to follow the skaters across the ice. My camera was fixed in one location and the truck would switch to my camera whenever they need to get a shot from my angle.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Of course, in the studio all I needed to do was focus on someone sitting down. It is a lot harder to focus on someone when they are moving quickly across the ice. As the skaters moved from one end to the other, you would need to pan the camera to keep them in the shot. If they got closer or further away you would need to zoom in or out. You would also have to tilt the camera depending on where they were on the ice. All the time, you needed to constantly adjust the focus so that the skater wasn’t blurry on the screen. I just couldn’t do it.
It took me the entire competition, about two agonizing hours, to figure out how to keep a skater in the frame and in focus. It was a disaster. I try not to think about it, even today. I know the producer in the truck was probably banging his head against the wall because he had to use some of my shots and I know that they were all horrible. And of course, the only time someone notices the camera operator is when something goes wrong.
That’s why I want to salute camera operators everywhere today. I was amazed when I saw the Winter X Games this past weekend. A camera operator would follow a snowboarder down the slope. You could see these operators at times during the broadcast. It is amazing to me just thinking that they had to do all of the things I had to do during the skating competition, all the while they were skiing down a hill at the same time. That must take a huge amount of talent.
So I say we need to give the cameraman some applause. That sporting event was great this weekend. I enjoyed every minute of it. And it is all thanks to the camera operators who capture every moment in clear focus and keeping the subject in the frame. Great job!