Video Assist Operator

Technical Dpt
Mid-level

Video assist operators (VAOs) take the images generated by the film or digital cameras and display them on video monitors so the director and other crew members can see exactly what’s been shot.

What does a video assist operator do?

Video assist operators (VAOs) take the images generated by the film or digital cameras and display them on video monitors so the director and other crew members can see exactly what’s been shot.

These images are also recorded for playback, so the action can be reviewed after each take. They are a reference through which continuity can be checked. The playback is stored to form a complete archive of the shots taken throughout the production.

VAOs use dedicated software for the recording and instant playback. The software also gives the VAO the ability to simulate visual effects on set as filming is happening. The director and visual effects (VFX) staff can evaluate these shots immediately rather than wait until the raw footage is processed and manipulated.

The VAO can also edit the scenes on set for continuity and timing purposes. This helps ensure that no shots have been missed.

What’s a video assist operator good at?

  • Concentration: be alert, ready to respond immediately when called to record or playback, pay attention to the shots on the video monitors, spot problems and advise
  • Knowledge of video: understand video playback equipment, video and audio cables, wireless video links and the basics of video signals and formats
  • Knowledge of film production: understand film cameras and lighting, appreciate the role and responsibilities of all the members of the crew
  • Communication: be able to work as part of a team and to liaise with other departments
  • Problem-solving: be able to diagnose faults and work out how to correct them

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