Reel Opportunities

Gaffer

Also known as: Chief Electrician, Supervising or Chief Lighting Technician

What is a Gaffer?
What does a Gaffer do?

Gaffers work closely with the Director of Photography (DoP) to bring to life the overall look of a film by creating and controlling light.

They work with the DoP to understand the desired light effects and figure out how to achieve them. They go on location scouts to see how the lighting will work on location and draw up a list of the equipment that will be needed to achieve the artistic vision.

Then they pitch for the equipment. They put in a request to the Line Producer or Production Manager for the equipment they need and appoint the Best Person to hire the crew and order the gear. During filming, they work out the positioning of the lights and the fastest way to change the lighting setups between shots. Gaffers mediate between the DoP and the rest of the lighting crew.

They’re also responsible for safety and need to comply with the scientific theory of electricity, driving, and employment.

What's a Gaffer good at?
  • Understanding light

    Have an artistic eye, know the techniques required to achieve different lighting effects and the kit needed to achieve them

  • Electrical knowledge

    Have an in-depth understanding of circuits, power supplies, motors, cables, fuses, thermal relays, fault current protection switches, heating, lighting, air conditioning and more

  • Knowledge of film-making

    Be able to understand the production process, particularly the roles of the director of photography and how the gaffer role fits in

  • Communication

    Be able to draw up plans and explain them to the crew, communicate well with the director of photography and the lighting crew, be clear and approachable even when making quick decisions under pressure

  • Organization

    Work within a budget, schedule the crew and the kit requirements, prioritize and meet deadlines

  • Working at heights

    Be good at climbing ladders as most lights are set up above the head height

Who does a Gaffer work with?

The Gaffer oversees the lighting department and works closely with the Best Person who is mainly responsible for getting the right lights to the right places at the right times, the Lighting Technician who sets up the lighting equipment and manages the gear, and the Generator Operator who load and transport the generators required for productions. The Gaffer also works closely with the Director of Photography (DoP) to configure the layout and positioning of the lighting to best achieve the DoP’s vision.

How do I become a Gaffer?

Gaffers should be fully qualified Electricians, so your first step is to get yourself qualified and experienced in electrical installation. Then you need to develop contacts in the film and TV drama industry to get experience working on film sets. Look at the electrical trainee job profile to learn more about how to do this. Once you have found your way into the lighting team, you need to work your way through the roles outlined above.

Work with a kit hire company: Get work experience with a kit rental company. Look for companies that supply equipment to the theater, film, TV, and events industries. Get to know the best persons coming in and ask if they would take you on as a trainee.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Professional Organizations Associated With This Role

Each region of Canada has different professional organizations associated with jobs in films and television. Select your region for more information.

This position is represented by the following unions/guilds in your selected region.

Sorry, we couldn’t find a professional organization associated with this role in the region you selected.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

2nd Assistant Camera

Also known as: 2nd AC

What does a 2nd Assistant Camera do?

The 2nd Assistant Camera is an important role on the camera team. They are responsible for the accessories for the cameras, including changing memory cards and charging batteries.

The 2nd Assistant Camera works mainly with the “clapboard” or “slate”– the black and white board that’s become iconic for the beginning and end of film takes. A traditional way to sync audio with each take, the 2nd AC uses the slate to indicate for an Editor when the camera has started and stopped recording. The 2nd AC will mark on the slate what scene, take, and camera memory card the production is on. Modern clapboards or slates are digital and include a timecode generator on an LED display. The 2nd AC clearly lists out the information on the slate before clapping the sticks at the beginning (or sometimes the end, known as tail-slate) of the take. This helps keep all the shots organized for the post-production team and allows the picture and audio to be synched together.

The 2nd Assistant Camera will also keep track of all of the camera data for each shot. They fill in reports called “camera logs”; that mark the focal length, the scene, the take, and some small notes. They will also mark which take is the director’s favourite, so the editor has an easier job looking through the footage.

In addition, they will assist the 1st Assistant Camera in marking spots for focus and helping in the organization of the equipment.

What's a 2nd Assistant Camera good at?
  • Photography

    Have a good eye and understanding of composition, light, colour, focus, and framing

  • Technical knowledge of cameras

    Have a good understanding of the latest motion picture equipment, cameras, lens, filters monitors, and lights

  • Taking instruction

    Listen, do what’s asked accurately, stay calm under pressure, pay close attention to detail

  • Communication

    Work well with crew members, onscreen contributors, presenters and production staff, be responsive

  • Handling cameras

    Be well-coordinated, prepared to lift and move heavy camera equipment frequently throughout a shoot

Who does a 2nd Assistant Camera work with?

The 2nd Assistant Camera will work directly under the camera operator of the production or the operator of the camera unit. They will be close with the 1st Assistant Camera and the Camera Operator. The 2nd AC will work in tandem with the 1st AC to make sure everything is set up for the camera department to thrive. The 2nd Assistant Camera will also work with the DOP (Director of Photography). They may also work with the Assistant Editor in sharing the information of the camera logs.

How do I become a 2nd Assistant Camera?

Like many other departments on a set, it is possible to learn on the job by starting out in the lowest tier as a Production Assistant and working your way up. Another way to gain an intimate knowledge of the gear is to work at a camera rental house. Many equipment rental companies encourage their employees to learn about the equipment that they offer, and it can be a great way to gain experience that you will later use on set. You can also look into the local camera unions in your area and try to gain experience from them. They can provide qualifications to help acquire entry-level positions on sets.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

1st Assistant Camera

Also known as: AC, Focus Puller

What does a 1st Assistant Camera do?

The 1st Assistant Camera (1st AC) is responsible for maintenance of the camera, such as keeping it clean or adjusting the focus. Often, an AC whose main job is to maintain the camera lens’ focus during each scene is called the “Focus Puller”.

Pulling focus is not an easy job onset and is very important for production. The 1st Assistant Camera will sit next to the camera operator and use a dial to bring the picture in and out of focus. The 1st Assistant Camera will need to know exactly where the actor, or the object, that needs to be in focus is, so they can correctly mark the dial and pull to it.

They also manage the camera equipment and make sure it is organized on set. They will help with preparing the equipment, cleaning the lenses, and even setting up and tearing down the camera rig each day.

What's a 1st Assistant Camera good at?
  • Photography

    Have a good eye and understanding of composition, light, colour, focus, and framing

  • Technical knowledge of cameras

    Have a good understanding of the latest motion picture equipment, cameras, lens, filters monitors, and lights

  • Taking instruction

    Listen, do what’s asked accurately, stay calm under pressure, pay close attention to detail

  • Communication

    Work well with crew members, onscreen contributors, presenters and production staff, be responsive

  • Handling cameras

    Be well-coordinated, prepared to lift and move heavy camera equipment frequently throughout a shoot

Who does a 1st Assistant Camera work with?

The 1st Assistant Camera will work directly under the Camera Operator of the production or the operator of the camera unit. They will work closely with the Camera Operator and be by their side for most of the production. They will also work closely with the 2nd Assistant Camera as they both will help in the daily functions of the camera department. The 1st Assistant Camera will also work with the DOP (Director of Photography).

How do I become a 1st Assistant Camera?

Like many other departments on a set, it is possible to learn on the job by starting out in the lowest tier of the Camera Department and working your way up. Another way to gain an intimate knowledge of the gear is to work at a camera rental house. Many equipment rental companies encourage their employees to learn about the equipment that they offer, and it can be a great way to gain experience that you will later use on set. You can also look into the local camera unions such as IATSE and try to gain experience from them. They can provide qualifications to acquire entry-level positions on sets.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

Camera Operator

Also known as: Cameraperson, Studio Camera Operator, Steadicam Operator, Cameraman

What does a Camera Operator do?

Camera Operators are responsible for capturing the action on a film or television production. They play an integral role in the film and television production process, working closely with the Director of Photography, ensuring that the shots produced are in line with the visual style and tone of the project. They know how to choose which cameras to use in certain conditions and consider the composition, framing, and movement of a shot. They can also shoot what’s happening live, whether that’s on location for a news programme, documentary, or a large multi-camera studio show.

On larger productions there may be more than one Camera Operator, known as Camera A and Camera B. This allows for simultaneous coverage of a scene from various shots and set-ups. Each Camera Operator would have several Assistant Camera and Grips working as part of a cohort or mini-team in order to achieve each shot. On smaller productions, one Camera Operator would be responsible to cover all shots, and scenes may be played out several times in order to get a variety of angles and framing choices.

When shooting on location, such as on documentaries, they might be the only Camera Operator working in all kinds of conditions — underwater, in a snowstorm, or in a desert. They often operate a variety of different cameras, including handheld cameras mounted on a body frame (Steadicam) or a drone. They are responsible for taking care of the kit wherever they are shooting, and on smaller productions often own their equipment. They are also skilled at lighting composition.

What's a Camera Operator good at?
  • Photography

    Have a good eye and understanding of composition, light, colour, focus, and framing. You may specialise in certain genres, but you must also be able to adapt to different shooting styles

  • Technical knowledge of cameras

    Have an in-depth understanding of the latest motion picture equipment, cameras, lens, monitors, and lights

  • Communication

    Listen, do what’s asked by the producer, director and work as a team with other crew and production staff

  • Multi-task

    Watch, listen, think quickly, and problem solve on the go, all whilst carrying out complex technical tasks, adapt to requirements of different shoots

  • Concentration

    Be patient, maintain focus over long programme shoots, stay calm under pressure

Who does a Camera Operator work with?

Camera Operators report directly to the Director of Photography and the 1st AD. Sometimes they may even take direction directly from the Director. Camera Operators work with the Grips to move and set up camera equipment and talk to the Gaffers about lighting too. They often have a Camera Assistant or two working with them. Lastly, they work directly with the Digital Imaging Technician on preserving data from memory cards.

How do I become a Camera Operator?

Camera Operator is a senior and experienced position. Most work their way up into this role from a position like Camera Assistant.

Here are some more tips:

Educational requirements: You may find courses in a combination of subjects that include art, art and design, graphic communication or photography, along with maths and physics.

Get an internship: Internships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. If you can’t get an internship with a broadcaster, it might be worth trying to find one outside the TV industry, where you can develop your skills and your craft. You can then move into TV at a later point. Before taking any internship , check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will give you the skills you want.

Work for an equipment company: Contact an equipment rental company. Ask if you can become a kit room assistant for them. That way you will get to learn more about the kit and build up contacts.

Get a degree: It’s not essential to have a degree in order to become a Camera Operator. There are, however, degree courses that specialize in television production and photography that you might consider.
Get work experience: Try to get work experience by writing to local production companies and asking if they offer any.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

Camera Trainee

Also known as: 3rd Camera Assistant

What does a Camera Trainee do?

Camera Trainees work with all members of the camera crew, but they usually work most closely with the 2nd AC or Clapper Loader.
They help prepare the equipment at the beginning of the job and may be involved with camera and lens tests. They might mark actors’ positions during rehearsals and keep records, camera logs and other paperwork ready for the edit.

Monitoring can be a big part of the role; setting up the monitors, cables and wireless. If there isn’t a dedicated monitor operator, it becomes the role of the Trainee. Experienced Trainees may also be asked to take on the responsibility of using the clapperboard, changing camera batteries and helping the Focus Puller (1st AC).

The scope of the job changes depending on the size of the production. They might start out making tea and coffee and getting the sides (printouts of the scenes to be shot that day) from the production office to the camera department. On bigger productions, they might help with the second unit camera, a camera set up to do secondary shoots while the main action is taking place elsewhere.

What's a Camera Trainee good at?
  • Photography

    Have a good eye and understanding of composition, light, colour, focus and story-telling

  • Watching film and TV drama

    Have a passion for the genre and a love of the industry

  • Learning by watching and asking

    Observe the Clapper Loader and Focus Puller and ask questions at the appropriate moments

  • Taking instruction

    Listen, do what’s asked, stay calm under pressure

  • Reliability

    Arrive to set on time and also be focused on set

  • Communication

    Work well with crew members, write accurate and detailed camera reports

Who does a Camera Trainee work with?

Camera Trainees mainly work with the Clapper Loader (2nd AC) but they also come into contact with the Focus Puller, Camera Operator, Director of Photography (DoP) and the wider camera department.

How do I become a Camera Trainee?

IATSE has an excellent apprenticeship training programme that is the most direct way into this field. You can also learn a lot about cameras and other equipment in a film production programme in college, university, or independent training programmes. Here are some more tips:

Educational Requirements: If you want to go to university, take courses that let you explore different subjects, ideally with some combination of art, art and design or graphic communication with math and physics.

Get work experience: Contact video making companies and ask if you can do work experience with them.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

Director of Photography

Also known as: Cinematographer, DP, DoP

What does a Director of Photography do?

The DoP is the head of both the lighting and camera departments. They are responsible for artistic and technical decisions related to the images captured by the camera.

They read the screenplay and work closely with the Director to discuss the look and feel of a film. They then research how to create the look through lighting, framing, and camera movement and what they will need in terms of equipment and crew to achieve this. The DoP works with other departments, like sound and the director’s unit, to coordinate production needs.

During production, the DoP coordinates the camera crew and works with the Director to make sure each scene is set up and shot to match the overall vision. A DoP can have a lot of creative input on the look and feel of the film. For each scene, the Director of Photography decides on the best combination of cameras, filters, and lenses, as well as camera placement, camera moves, and lighting best suited for the scene.

It’s the job of DoPs to make sure every shot satisfies the Director’s vision and fits with the aesthetic of the film. They view the dailies with the Director and work closely with the Colourist in post-production. On smaller productions, they sometimes double as the Camera Operator.

The DoP is considered one of the key creatives on a film set. The position is both highly technical and artistic, requiring extensive experience and training.

What's a Director of Photography good at?
  • Photography

    Have an eye for composition and color, know how to tell a story through a shot, understand camera and lighting techniques, know how to use them to evoke an emotional response




  • Technical knowledge of cameras

    Have an in-depth understanding of all motion picture equipment, cameras, lens, monitors, and lights

  • Editing knowledge

    Understand the post-production workflow, and how shots fit together to tell a coherent story

  • Making decisions

    Think quickly, often under pressure

  • Organization

    Plan, know how to do things and how long it will take, get the right kit and crew, think about logistical, artistic, and budgetary considerations at the same time

  • Communication

    Ensure everyone in the team knows what’s expected, work closely with the grips and the gaffer, lead the team and resolve conflicts in situations that can sometimes be stressful

Who does a Director of Photography work with?

The Director of Photography works closely with, and oversees the Camera Department which consists of the Camera Operator who looks through the camera and is the DoP’s eyes, the 1st Assistant Camera who makes sure the shots are in focus, the 2nd Assistant Camera, who prepares the equipment and keeps records of the shots, and the Camera Trainee who assists the whole department. The DoP also works closely with the Digital Imaging Technician who makes sure that all the digital settings on the cameras are set to bring the DoP’s vision to life, as well as the Video Assist Operator who makes sure that the director can see what is being shot.

How do I become a Director of Photography?

This is a senior role and people come into it through a variety of routes. Some start as Camera Trainees and work their way up through the roles outlined above. Others come up through the lighting department. IATSE has an excellent apprenticeship training programme that is the most direct way into this field. You can also learn a lot about cameras and other equipment in a film production programme in college, university, or independent training programmes. Here are some more tips:

Educational requirements: Many film schools offer courses in cinematography, touching on lighting, shot design, and how to tell visual stories. You can also start out as an entry-level assistant in the camera department, learn on the job, and work your way up.

Work for an equipment company: Contact an equipment rental company like Panavision, Provision, or ARRI Rentals. Ask if you can become an intern or driver for them. That way you will learn more about the equipment and build up contacts

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

LED Technician

Also known as: Virtual Production Manager

What does an LED Technician do?

An LED Technician works with a form of film-making technology called virtual production (sometimes referred to as virtual reality walls), which is becoming more and more popular. Virtual production involves large surfaces (walls, ceilings, sometimes floors) created out of LED screens. These large screens, called LED walls, are built on a soundstage. Visuals are then created in a 3D software named Unreal Engine and generated on the screens. The screen acts as a background and can be linked with motion capture cameras to add the effect of a real background. They move in relation to the camera movement and provide a real, immersive background experience. This creates less work in post-production.

An LED Technician is responsible for assisting in creating these immersive environments for productions. They have to build and calibrate the large screens and work with the production to achieve the right space and look. The Technician will be responsible for managing the screens on set, making sure the correct backgrounds are displayed for the scene. They will assist the production in creating this large world and if needed, advise the on-set camera team on the optimum settings for the screens.

What's an LED Technician good at?
  • Understanding light

    Have an artistic eye, know the techniques required to achieve different lighting effects

  • Electrical knowledge

    Have an in-depth understanding of circuits, power supplies, motors, cables, fuses, thermal relays, fault current protection switches, heating, lighting, air conditioning, and more

  • Knowledge of film-making

    Be able to understand the production process

  • Communication

    Be able to draw up plans and explain them to the crew, communicate well with the Director of Photography and the lighting crew, be clear and approachable even when making quick decisions under pressure

  • Organization

    Work within a budget, schedule the crew and the kit requirements, prioritize and meet deadlines

  • Understanding of LED and Unreal Engine Technology

    Have a clear and in-depth understanding of the technology you are working with

Who does an LED Technician work with?

An LED Technician will work with the Director and the DOP to understand the desired look of the scene. They will discuss the construction of the LED screen wall and the type of lighting effects and backgrounds desired. On-set, the LED Technician will work with a crew of Grips and Gaffers to construct the LED screen wall and make sure everything is working properly. LED Technicians will also work closely with the artists that are creating the landscapes in Unreal Engine.

How do I become an LED Technician?

Develop lighting and camera skills: The entranceway into becoming an LED Technician begins with understanding the fundamentals of lighting and camera. You can begin by learning these aspects by getting involved with a local lighting and camera union or by attending educational courses.

Look for Opportunities: After working on sets and gaining experience in lighting, camera, and the technology required on a film set you can move into LED virtual production. You can either attempt to find productions utilizing this technology and work with it to gain experience or work with a company that rents out the technology and services.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

Electrician

What does an Electrician do?

Electricians look after all the electrical equipment needed on a film or TV production, with a particular focus on the lighting. They help plan it. They rig it (set it up). They operate it, maintain it, and de-rig. Electricians work directly under the Gaffer and the Best Boy Electrician.

During the planning stage of a programme, Electricians assess the equipment. They set it all up and make sure all electrical equipment is working safely throughout the production. This might involve testing, cleaning and repairing equipment, and writing dimmers and circuit boards.

Electricians that are in charge of the generators that may be needed for location lighting. These Electricians are also called Genny Operators. They also monitor electricity usage during shooting to see if additional power or resources are needed.

What's an Electrician good at?
  • Electrical knowledge

    Have official electrical qualifications and a thorough knowledge and understanding of circuits, power supplies, motors, cables, fuses, thermal relays, fault current protection switches, heating, air conditioning and more.

  • Lighting skills

    A good eye for colour, able to use all lighting equipment and aware of what can and can’t be achieved at different locations.

  • Communication

    Take direction well and work effectively within a team.

  • Health and safety

    Know health and safety issues including legal requirements, have strong attention to detail.

  • Manual dexterity

    Be able to do a physically demanding, hands-on job, sometimes at heights, and work long hours.

Who does an Electrician work with?

Electricians often work under a Gaffer and communicate closely with any other Electricians on the team, as well as Camera Operators and Directors. On large productions with lots of lights and LED video projection, there will be a team of Electricians working under a Gaffer.

How do I become an Electrician?

To be an Electrician on a film or TV production, you need electrical qualifications. You also need to be able to demonstrate creativity and an interest in and understanding of the industry.

Look outside the industry: Electricians are needed across many different industries in industrial, commercial and domestic environments. You can gain experience of working as an Electrician in another industry that you can later transfer to a role in the Canadian film & TV industry.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

Previsualisation (Previs) Artist

Also known as: Previs Animator, Previs Lead, Previs Modeller

What does a Previsualisation Artist do?

Previsualization (Previs) Artists help to plan out what a film is going to look like. Previs is the process of visualizing a scene before creating it.

Previs Artists generally takes the form of a 3D animatics, namely a rough version of a scene or scenes. Previs Artists usually start with a 2D storyboard from a Concept Artist. They create draft versions of the different moving image sequences and they put it all together using their compositing and editing skills.

The previs process is used to plan shots, work out the scale and timing and to show roughly where the characters are going to move. It’s used to map out how the visual effects (VFX) will fit into an otherwise live-action scene. Creating previs can save films and television series and shows valuable time and money on set or in post-production.

Once a film is in production, Previs Artists help the other VFX Artists maintain a consistent style in their work.

Previs Artists are either employed by VFX studios or they work as freelancers.

What's a Previsualisation Artist good at?
  • Cinematography

    Have a good artistic eye for composition, particularly for camera shots and movements

  • Creativity

    Be able to tell a story in the previs work that you produce, come up with original ideas for what the shots should look like and spark the director’s imagination

  • 3D software

    Have a high level of skill using 3D animation and VFX software and a strong understanding of form and volume (the way that objects exist and move in 3D), coding skills are also useful

  • Basic editing skills

    Have basic video editing skills as well as some knowledge of rendering and compositing, which you can use to create animatics

  • Organization

    Have excellent organizational skills, stick to production schedules and budgets, be on top of your data management

  • Communication

    Work well within a team, understand and help to achieve the director’s vision

Who does a Previsualisation Artist work with?

Previs Artists work closely with the Director. They also communicate regularly with the production management team to ensure the project meets its deadlines. They usually report to the VFX Supervisor.

How do I become a Previsualisation Artist?

To become a Previs Artist, you need to understand the VFX production pipeline and have a high level of skill in using 3D software. You might progress to this role by first becoming an Assistant Technical Director. Or, you might go the route of becoming an Environment Artist and later transferring your skills to previs. Previs Artists often obtain a degree in animation, computer science, film production, or a related discipline. The most important thing to do is to develop a strong portfolio which demonstrates a talent for cinematography and visual storytelling.

Build a portfolio: Learn how to use, and then experiment with, VFX programs and create a showreel that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. It’s really important to develop your appreciation for VFX. Make sure you’re familiar with what’s out there.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

Our Partner, ScreenSkills UK is the industry-led skills body for the UK screen industries. For further information, www.screenskills.com.
Profiles and profile icons © 2022 ScreenSkills Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.

Reel Opportunities

Production Designer

What is a Production Designer?
What does a Production Designer do?

Production Designers create the way a film or TV drama looks. Films can be set in any number of places; a Victorian orphanage, a Caribbean cruise ship, or another planet, for example. They are an artistic jack-of-all-trades and a confident leader who manages the entire art department. They work with all the other visual departments, costume, lighting, visual and special effects, and graphic design. They help create the visual world in which the story is set.

Production Designers start with the script. Researching and collaborating with the Director, Director of Photography and other heads of department, they imagine the screenplay visually. They draw sketches showing mood, atmosphere, lighting, composition, colour and texture, which are given to the Art Director to develop.

The Production Designer is also in charge of hiring and managing the art department, which can be one of the biggest departments on a film crew.
They then work with other art department members to draw up a budget. They prioritize the work schedule and allocate the management of finances to team members performing different tasks.

What's a Production Designer good at?
  • Creativity

    Visualize the whole look of a film or TV drama, starting with words on a page

  • Art

    Draw by hand to scale, do technical drawings and computer-aided design

  • Design

    Understand colour theory, know the history of architecture and interior design

  • Knowledge of Photography

    Understand cameras, lenses and lighting and their effect on a film’s look and mood

  • Organization

    Manage budgets, draw up schedules, prioritize and meet deadlines

  • Communication

    Share the vision with a wide number of different people and keep a team working together well

Who does a Production Designer work with?

Set Decorator
The Set Decorator is responsible for the decoration of a set, including furnishings and all objects that are on view.

Production Buyer
Before the start of shooting, Production Buyers prepare orders for props.

Art Director
On big productions, Art Directors may start work months before shooting starts. They analyze a script to identify all the props or special items that will be needed and find cost-effective creative solutions to construction and decorating problems.

Assistant Art Director (first assistant, second, third)
Assistant Art Directors’ responsibilities vary depending on the size of the production. They may help the Art Director with research, surveying locations, model making or producing sets. On large productions with multiple sets, an Assistant Art Director will take responsibility for some of the smaller sets and manage the cleanliness and props for that set. Assistant Art Directors also sketch ideas, refine them, and work on 3D models.

Concept Artist
Big studio productions usually hire a number of concept artists to design specific elements, such as fantasy creatures. Concept Artists may analyze source material and work on illustrations that are both striking and accurate to be presented to the Producer, Director, and FX Supervisors. Many Concept Artists start their careers as graphic artists or illustrators before moving into the screen industries.

Set Designer
Set Designers provide hundreds of technical drawings that serve as a template for the construction department. Drawings are often still produced by hand, but computer-aided design software (also known as CAD software) is also used.

Production Assistant
Production Assistants usually start work in the early stages of pre-production and can be specifically assigned to the art department. This is an entry-level position and tasks vary.

How do I become a Production Designer?

As with many creative fields, there is no set way of becoming a Production Designer. Degrees in graphic design, theatre, architecture, or art, however, will give you a solid background in some of the key skills you’ll need to get into the industry—and can provide you with valuable industry connections. Courses in woodwork and set construction at your local college can be valuable to gain experience in building and design.

Most Production Designers have worked in the art department for many years. Aim to start as a Production Assistant and work your way up through the ranks outlined above.

More tips

For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.

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