Common daily rates for camera operators, directors of photography (DPs) and Digital Image Technicians (DITs) vary according to the type of shoot they are hired for. Each job and average salary range will be explored here in detail.
A nonunion camera operator's daily rate is dependent upon a number of factors, such as their field experience, the hours worked, etc. A brand new camera operator will typically pull down somewhere between $250 and $500 per day, whereas more seasoned operators may make between $550 and $1,000 per day. These rates are based upon the usual industry standard 10 hour day. Any overtime beyond 10 hours tends to be paid at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate, unless negotiations were worked out for a different scale. Rates have gone up somewhat since the 1980s-'90s, but with technological improvements in equipment, it's a relatively nominal increase.
The duties of a camera operator tend to include the following:
- Assembling and setting up camera equipment/acccessories
- Preparation for scenes, rehearsals according to the director's and the camera shooting script's instructions
- Framing and capturing the action with instruction from the DOP or director
- Being quickly responsive and having a keen sense to predict movement
- Keeping your back strong... lol
Director of Photography
Nonunion DOP's or DPs' average rate is between $1,000 and $2,500 per day, again based upon the 10 hour workday. An experienced DP is critical to the success of any video or film production. Prior to the 1970s, DPs were usually referred to as cinematographers, and that's occasionally still used today.
A Director of Photography:
- Supports the film/project director's vision by establishing the overall visual look and feel of the video/film
- Uses his/her technical and artistic talents to depict the story of the script via choices made in film stock used (menu settings and capture workflow for digital), camera type, aspect ratios, lighting, shot development and framing, in addition to crew selection
- Depending on the shoot (TV or Film), is a technician, an artist, a manager, or all three at the same time.
- Is truly a renaissance person, concerned with important elements of the production such as working with art directors, production designers, set dressers and at times, with wardrobe and hair stylists in order to bring to life the true essence of the script as well as the director's vision
Digital Image Technician
Non-union digital image technicians make between $500 and $750 per day. This is a fairly new job that rose to prominence along with the technology and popularity of digital filmmaking, most typically with RED and ARRI cameras. A DIT's job can be thought of as a hybrid—partly done during production and partly during post. Another way to think of a DIT's job is that of a liaison between those two stages. DITs work closely with DPs to bring about flow, maintain signal integrity, prepare dalies with proper timecode, titles, 3D LUT's, and transcoding, as well as wrangling and ingesting of the data.
All of these positions must work in close harmony to create the most productive and successful production possible.
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eBook Download: When there are so many different tiers of video production along with so many different tiers of cameras, are you sure what camera package will be best for your next shoot? This eBook will discuss different equipment tiers and what style of video production they are most commonly used for.