To prepare a meal you need the right ingredients. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to follow a recipe precisely, but you do need to know the role each culinary component plays so that any improvisations make sense in the context of the meal.
When chefs ignore their ingredient list or fail to understand how they work together, they are more likely to create an odd concoction that bears little resemblance to their original intent. And we’re not talking about an Oops! All Berries-style fortuitous mix-’em-up; no, we’re talking about a hot, chunky bowl of macaroni and Oops! All Cottage Cheese.
Filling the roles on your video production team with the right people is the real recipe for success. And to do that, you need to know what each role is responsible for. Otherwise, your velvety smooth B2B video production process could become clogged with curds.
Video Production Team Roles
The size of your production team will vary significantly depending on the scope of your shoot. However, each of these roles will need to be filled and that may require people to wear multiple hats. A director of photography, for instance, can also serve a variety of roles from camera operator to digital image technician. On larger productions, you can expect each of these roles to be filled by specialists.
The producer is the first role that needs to be filled. A producer acts as the supervisor of the video from pre-production to post-production. They understand the big picture idea and help the production strike the right balance between the creative, financial, and logistical needs of the shoot.
While some people may struggle to pinpoint the precise definition of producer, that doesn’t mean the position should be left unfilled. If it’s you that ends up being the one to manage hiring, budgets, and timelines, you can now add a producer credit to your resume.
If the producer supervises the overall project, the director is ultimately responsible for the overall vision of the project, and making sure it’s properly executed. That could mean any and everything from selecting a location and casting the talent to tweaking lines of dialogue and making wardrobe decisions on the fly. They’ll also make adjustments as needed to ensure shooting schedules and budgets are followed.
Additionally, a director’s connections may prove invaluable when assembling your team. That familiarity often proves useful, as the director works closely with the Director of Photographer to enact their creative vision and often serves as the primary source of feedback for on-screen talent.
Director of Photography
Sometimes referred to as a cinematographer or videographer, the director of photography is responsible for crafting the visual tone of the video. That means they’ll spend the pre-production process scouting locations, securing camera equipment, and working to hire camera operators, gaffers, and grips.
During shooting, the DP will block shots, as well as manage the camera and lighting teams so what’s captured on video matches the director’s and the client’s vision. They may also serve in some of those roles themselves, depending on the budget of the video.
Digital Imaging Technician
A digital imaging technician (DIT) handles the physical media storing the video and audio from the shoot. That means they are responsible for making sure there are empty memory cards ready to go for shooting and that filled memory cards are backed up for safekeeping. The DP or the project’s editor often serves as the DIT.
Audio is just as important as video to your production. So, your production needs a professional audio technician to record sounds on-set, as well as to monitor and adjust levels as needed. An audio technician may also rig the microphones or other audio capturing tools.
Gaffer and Key Grip
A gaffer is part of the lighting crew and serves as the head electrician on-set. As directed by the DP, they’ll set up and move lighting rigs so the scene is lit as intended.
The gaffer often works hand-in-hand with the key grip, who serves as a bit of a catch-all for the lighting crew. A key grip will make sure all lights are in the right place and set up other lighting gear, such as flags or diffusers.
If you’ve been straining to remember the definitions of oft-indecipherable job titles, knowing the responsibilities of the camera operator should feel like a relaxing bath. The camera operator – get this – operates the camera. They’ll work with the director and DP to shoot the scene so what’s shot matches the director’s vision. If you’re lucky, a camera operator may even have their own gear ready and available so you don’t have to spend time or energy securing it elsewhere.
Depending on the type of shoot, you may not need to hire someone to fill these roles. Still, you’ll need someone to make sure that everything from the set dressings to the dressed cast looks spot-on:
- Set designer: Designs the set, paying specific attention to foreground and background elements so the canvass of the scene matches the intended tone.
- Hair and makeup crew: Handles the on-screen talents’ appearance so they look their best on video. Often, on-screen talent may take on these roles for themselves, but be mindful of the mental toll that this additional job can take on your actors.
- Wardrobe crew: Dress the on-screen talent in a manner consistent with the tone of the video. Again, on smaller shoots, the on-screen talent may do this themselves or bring several options from home for the director to choose from.
The PA is the team’s utility player. They fill in the gaps by assisting anyone who may need help. That means they might find themselves hauling gear, grabbing lunch, or taking notes for the producer.
Due to the low-stakes nature of the role, it can be tempting to hire a relative or someone otherwise inexperienced to fill this role. However, a PA is an essential tool in keeping production on schedule and below budget. So, don’t hire someone who just wants to hang out; a person with a genuine interest in learning the ropes of video production (and a valid drivers’ license) is ideal.
Hiring a Video Production Team
If you’re brand new to video, you will likely need to build an entire production team from scratch. Even if you already have some members of your video production team on staff, you’ll probably need freelancers to fill out your roster. Ideally, those on staff may already have connections that make it easy to find a professional crew. However, there will be times where you have to take a chance on someone you or your team hasn’t worked with before.
So, remember: it’s not about finding someone. It’s about finding the right person for the role and its responsibilities. For more on how to fill out your video production team with freelancers, check out our Everything Freelancers episode of The Video Reformation Podcast.