Here’s a breakdown of many (though by no means all) of the job titles and roles that could be involved on a corporate video shoot so you’ll never again mix the Boom Operator with the DIT or the Runner with the 1st AC.
KEY CREATIVE TEAM
The producer oversees the project, though they might report up to an Executive Producer, working with the client to understand the brief and their goals. Typically the producer will stay involved throughout the project lifecycle from pre-production, through production to post-production and delivery.
A part of the Producer’s role is the management of the budget, working with a Line Manager and the Accounts Department on larger productions. The Producer will assemble a production team in line with the budget and the project objectives, often in tandem with the Director who may want to work with preferred crew.
The image most people conjure up of a director is on set: in a folding chair, looking at the monitor or resting up in an ice-cold winnebago (Why winnebago? See W in our our A-Z of Film & Video Production). In fact, the work for a director starts long before any cameras roll on set. A massive part of the job is the office-based preparation ahead of a shoot, including decisions on the crew, selecting the cast and choosing locations.
Working with the Producer and heads of each department Directors oversee all parts of the production and all creative questions get funneled up to them.
On set the director is the quarterback of the show. He or she is best kept in a pocket away from the noise, given space to focus on the key creative decisions with their immediate team and, crucially, directs and works with the talent.
An Executive Producer is usually a senior member of the production company who will be act as an executive on a number of projects simultaneously. On feature films the Executive Producer is likely to be an investor in the project or someone who has facilitated the funding of the project.
The most senior member of the production team after the Producer, a Line Producer manages the budget of a film production. Working closely with heads of department, they decide how money gets spent, delivering the best possible solution to the Producer while offering the Director and heads of department what they need to realise their vision.
Line producers hire crew and facilities, overseeing all the contracts and paperwork. A good Line Producer understands the artistry of film-making and spends time on set as well as in the office. They help to spot potential pitfalls and find creative solutions. At the end of the shoot, they oversee the wrap of the production and hand over to the post-production team.
The Production Manager supervises the personnel, budget, and scheduling of a production. It is the Production Manager who ensures filming stays on schedule and on budget. The Production Manager often works under the supervision of a Line Producer and oversees the Production Coordinator.
The Production Coordinator supports the Production Manager and Line Producer in organising all the logistics involved in hiring crew, renting equipment and booking talent.
FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (1st AD)
Contrary to their title, 1st ADs don’t actually direct the film, but above all are responsible for managing the filming schedule. To do this effectively a 1st AD will attend a technical recce ahead of the shoot day with other key crew, typically the Producer, Director, DoP, Gaffer and First Assistant Camera (1st AC). From the technical recce the 1st AD builds a filming schedule that allows time for each set-up, sequence, move and break.
On the shoot day the 1st AD typically calls for the talent, shouts out the start and end of each take (‘Action! and ‘Cut!), gives cues for the background artists, keeps the director and the crew on time and assists the Director and Producer in checking off the shot list.
On set the 1st AD and the Director often discuss how to make the best use of the filming time. The 1st AD is empowered to be blunt with a Director, telling them that they can have another take, but that they will have to lose another shot.
SECOND ASSISTANT DIRECTOR (2nd AD)
The 1st AD is often supported by a 2nd AD who works more closely with the background artists, often chaperoning them into the right position in frame from instructions given by the 1st AD on a walkie-talkie.
Runners often report to the Assistant Directors, but generally assist wherever they are needed and their duties vary depending on where they are assigned. These may include distributing call sheets, acting as a courier and keeping the set tidy. Where there isn’t a catering team on set, runners help with food orders and, crucially, organise tea & coffee for the crew between breaks.
The Casting Director works closely with the Director and Producer to understand a project’s casting requirements. They suggest actors for each role, and arrange and attend auditions, which typically are filmed and presented to the Director and Producer..
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY (DoP, DP or CINEMATOGRAPHER)
The DoP works with the Director to translate their vision of the film into a lit frame. Ahead of the shoot the DoP will assemble the equipment list needed for each shot and sequence – from cameras, lenses and lights to jibs, cranes and drones. On set, the DoP is typically responsible for all lighting plans and the quality of the light. The DoP suggests the lens, angles and camera movement for each shot, working with the Director and then passing instructions to their team. A DoP on a medium sized production is likely to still operate the camera if it’s on a tripod or a dolly. As soon as the camera gets mounted onto a crane with multiple axes a specialist operator is required.
If your production requires smooth tracking shots of people that cannot be achieved on a track, then you’re going to be adding a Gimbal Operator to the call sheet. A 3-axis motorised gimbal can keep a camera level on all axes as the operator moves the camera. This gives the impression to the viewer that the camera is floating through the air, an effect achieved previously by the Steadicam. Gimbals can be mounted on vehicles and drones, where vibrations or sudden movements would make it impractical to use tripods or other camera mounts.
On smaller productions, the DoP will operate the camera. However, on larger productions this task is sometimes given to a Camera Operator. After choices have been made on framing and movement the DoP directs the operator with specific instructions.
FIRST ASSISTANT CAMERA (1st AC, FOCUS PULLER)
The 1st AC will typically go to the equipment hire company ahead of a shoot for a prep day or longer, depending on the amount on equipment being used. During this prep period the 1st AC checks every piece of kit, in particular the cameras and the lenses, to make sure nothing is missing or broken. If an unchecked camera or lens is found to be faulty on a shoot day it could jeopardise the ability to get a shot or impact the schedule adversely before a replacement is received.
On location the 1st AC is responsible for setting up the cameras at the start of the day, requiring a good deal of technical know-how across a range of camera and ancillary equipment such as wireless monitoring kit.
The 1st AC is also know as a Focus Puller. Pulling focus is their primary responsibility on set, which is typically done using a wireless follow-focus lens control system and monitor. They also ensure batteries are charged, that media cards are ready and often take the camera between takes to give the DoP or Camera Operator a break.
At the end of the day they make sure everything gets put back in its box before being returned to the hire company.
SECOND ASSISTANT CAMERA (2nd AC, CLAPPER LOADER)
Depending on the number of cameras being used, a production may also require a 2nd and even a 3rd AC. The Second Assistant Camera operates the clapperboard at the beginning of each take. When film stock was more common, the 2nd AC loaded the raw film stock into the camera magazines.
PLAYBACK/ VIDEO ASSIST
After a take the DoP, Director and often the 1st AC (Focus Puller) are frequently found peering into a monitor, reviewing the last shot – picture and often sound. This immediate review process is made possible by Playback or Video Assist. During playback a shot can be looped so that those watching have ample opportunities to see and hear the take under review before deciding whether to reshoot or move on.
DIGITAL IMAGING TECHNICIAN (DIT)
As the person responsible for transferring the filming data on a camera’s media cards to hard drives, the Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) has become one of the most important crew members on set.
DITs use their own kit, including programs that perform checks on data totals to make sure all media files are accounted for. DITs have their own processes, but what they have in common is that they back up each card at least twice.
DITs perform quality control checks throughout the filming day to ensure nothing is corrupted and although data corruption is rare, it’s better to know about it on set while there’s still a chance to reshoot.
A DIT also knows how to manipulate colour profiles to execute the specific look wanted for a project. DITs feedback to the Director and DoP about the quality of the image – for example about the graininess of a sequence shot in low light.
A Sound Recordist’s prime function is to make sound recordings of outstanding quality, free from all unwanted noise. On a corporate production the Sound Recordist will typically take sound via radio mics and/or a boom mic through to their recorder/mixer, which is carried in a special shoulder mounted bag. The sound can be passed from there directly to the camera and/or recorded separately.
On a feature film the Sound Department would be larger and likely consist of a Sound Recordist, one or two Boom Operators and a Sound Trainee. The quantity of microphones and equipment employed differs, with two boom microphones being operated and recorded simultaneously, possibly in conjunction with clip mics fitted to actors. This requires the Sound Recordist to monitor several mic inputs at the same time via a small mobile mixing desk, usually installed on a custom made trolley.
The Boom Operator is easily identifiable as the crew member wieding a microphone on a pole while wearing headphones. The Boom Op gets the microphone as close as possible to the sound (which could be speech, but equally might just be ‘natural sounds’), while making sure their mic, boom poll and their shadow does not encroach on the shot.
While ‘the gaffer’ is an affectionate term used by football players for their manager, on a set it’s the title given to the head electrician and the person responsible for executing the DoP’s lighting plan. Essentially Gaffers shape the light to meet the DoPs objectives using flags, nets or diffusion filters to control their direction, softness and intensity. Gaffers traditionally manage the electricians on set.
A Spark is an electrician who reports to the Gaffer. The electrical team handles power on a set, usually for lighting, and manages the power draw on the building or generator.
BEST BOY (ELECTRICAL)
The Best Boy (Electrical) is the Spark who is chief assistant to the Gaffer.
Grips have their own department on a film set and are headed by a Key Grip. They work closely with the camera department to provide camera support, especially if the camera is mounted to a dolly, jib or a crane. In the United States and Canada, the title Grip is also given to those who work closely with the electrical department to create lighting set-ups, under the direction of the DoP and Gaffer.
BEST BOY (GRIP)
Best Boy (Grip) is the chief assistant to the Key Grip. They are also responsible for organisation of the grip truck throughout the filming day.
The grip in charge of operating the camera dolly is called the Dolly Grip. They place, level, and move the dolly track, then push and pull the dolly up and down the track with the DoP/ Camera Operator on board.
The Production Designer is responsible for creating the overall physical and visual appearance of a film – from sets, costumes and props to make-up.
The Art Director works with the Production Designer, Set Designer, Prop Master and others in the Art Department. The Art Director is responsible for realising the creative vision set by the Director to give the film its look & feel. Often it’s the Art Director who in charge of bringing a brand’s personality to life in a commercial or branded content piece.
The Set Designer is the draftsman who realises the external structures or interior spaces outlined by the Production Designer.
A set designer’s model which will later be realised full size, or of course rendered using CGI
A Storyboard Artist turns the words of a script into a visual story through key frames. The storyboard artist aims to convey everything from gestures to emotion, with minimal (or no) words or dialogue. Their sketches suggest the shot size and also the camera movement and movement of people within the frame. Directors work in different ways with storyboards. Some will refine them in advance of filming and then follow them closely, others use them more like a visual aide-memoir.
The Prop Master is in charge of finding all the props on a production ahead of filming and then managing those props on set.
Rarely featured on the call sheet for a corporate video (!), the armourer is a specialised props technician who deals with firearms, swords and other weapons.
The Greensman deals with the procurement and artistic arrangement or landscape design of any plants used on a set, both real and fake.
There are two parts to a Costume Department, the Running Wardrobe and the Making Wardrobe, all of which is overseen by the Costume Designer. The Making Wardrobe incorporates the design and creation of the costumes during the pre-production period (rare for corporate content). The Running Wardrobe, overseen by the Wardrobe Supervisor, includes the maintenance and organisation of the costumes during the production.
A Wardrobe Supervisor ensures that all costumes arrive on set/ location along with the necessary equipment (sewing machines, irons, steamers). They are across which costumes will be needed for each scene on a shoot, and manage a team of Costume Assistants and Costume Dressers to ensure the talent is in the right costume for the right scene.
After the shoot the Wardrobe Supervisor is responsible to making sure all hired costumes are returned safely.
The Location Manager is responsible for finding and securing locations for the production and coordinating the logistics, permits and costs involved. They make the decisions on the Unit Base and arrange for the necessary facilities (parking, catering, ‘honey-wagons’). They also act as the face of the production to the public.
Location Assistants support the Location Manager. They are typically the first to arrive on set and the last to leave.
HAIR & MAKE-UP DEPARTMENT
MAKE-UP ARTIST (MUA)
Make-up Artists on corporate videos tend to also tend to a contributor’s or actor’s hair (ie they are a Hair & Make-up Artist). On bigger productions they may be involved in the use of prosthetics and other effects to manipulate how talent appears on screen.
The Hair Stylist is responsible for maintaining and styling the hair of anyone appearing on screen. They work in conjunction with the Make-up Artist often sharing the same base. Both Hair and Make-up are especially important in fashion video production, of course, and the Hair and Make-up Artists are always on set to make final adjustments before the camera roles.
The Editor assembles the various shots captured during the shooting period into a coherent narrative, working closely with the Director.
COMPUTER GENERATED IMAGERY (CGI)
CGI is a catch-all term for the application of computer graphics to create or contribute to images, whether static or moving, 2-D or 3-D.
2D computer graphics is the computer-based generation of digital images from two-dimensional models. In corporate content this tends to be name and job title banners, infographics (maps, charts, graphs) and kinetic typography (text that develops onto the screen to support what the viewer is seeing or hearing). It could also be a 2-D animation with flat sets and characters.
3D computer graphics use a three-dimensional representation of data to give a volumetric visual image of an object. 3D computer graphics are often used in architecture and construction videos and in product videos. The creation of volumetric content is supported by Computer Aided Design (CAD) software.
Of course, besides real-life objects like buildings and consumer products. 3D computer graphics can be used to create abstract volumetric visual images.
Under the umbrella of CGI there are number of specialist job roles. For example, a Roto Artist manually creates mattes for use in compositing and may also paint visual information out of a scene, such as removing wires and rigs from green screen shots or telephone pylons from a landscape shot.
A compositor is a visual effects artist responsible for compositing images from different sources such as video, computer generated 3-D imagery and matte paintings into one image.
ARCHIVE & STILLS RESEARCHER
Some projects may require specific film or video imagery which needs to be sourced from a specialist archive library, such the the Imperial War Museum Film & Archive Collection or BBC Motion Gallery, managed by Getty Images.
An Archive & Stills Researcher has the experience to dig out well known clips and unearth new finds of historical imagery. For most corporate work online stock footage companies such as Dissolve and Shutterstock have a suitable collection of high quality material, which can be easily sourced by a Producer, Director or Editor.
A Colourist adjusts the colour of each shot, in a process often referred to as grading, to bring consistency to the overall look & feel of the content and to give the video a distinct look. While expert Colourists are the stars of London’s West End post production houses, much can be achieved in-house at a corporate video production company using readily available software such as DaVinci.
A Foley Artist creates and records many of the sound effects for a feature film. See F in our A-Z of Film & Video Production for details on this extraordinary profession. For most corporate video work sounds sourced from an online library will cover the vast majority of sound effects required.
VOICEOVER ARTIST (VO Artist)
A Voiceover Artist records the script commentary which is then laid over the pictures by the Editor. Prior to recording the final voiceover track the production team use a guide voiceover, often recorded by the Director. Many VO Artists are able to work from a home recording studio and deliver their sound files online, making it a cost-effective process. At NextShoot we have over 300 Voiceover Artists on our books with a variety of local, regional and international accents and, of course, many are able to speak foreign languages.