A camera assistant invoice is used by freelance and contracted first (1st) and second (2nd) assistant camera operators to list the hours that were spent on set recording and handling the filming of a movie, television show, or other video production. Camera assistants aid the camera operators and set directors with tasks that can include taking care of film equipment, carrying cameras from one filming location to another, keeping the camera in focus, and other tasks relating to ensuring the quality of the recording is maintained.
Table of Contents
- First (1st) vs. Second (2nd) Assistant Camera
- How to Become a Camera Assistant
- Camera Assistant Salary & Hourly Rate
Although both the 1st and 2nd assistant cameras (ACs) fill vital roles for maintaining the condition of the film, their tasks and responsibilities differ greatly.
First (1st) Assistant Camera
The first AC, also known as a “focus puller,” works alongside the camera operator to ensure the actor(s) stay in focus for the duration of the shoot. This includes measuring the distance between the camera and scene and communicating on-the-fly with the camera operator and dolly grip. The act of keeping the lens in-focus for repeated shoots is a task that requires a significant amount of experience and skill. In addition to maintaining focus, first ACs also have the responsibility of assembling/disassembling cameras, moving them from one shoot to the next, and selecting the correct lens for the scene.
Second (2nd) Assistant Camera
The second AC keeps filming running smoothly by ensuring the camera(s) have sufficient film, topped-off batteries, are placed in the correct spot, and are tested properly (cameras are often tested up to three (3) weeks before filming is scheduled to begin). The 1st AC and 2nd AC’s tasks can overlap in terms of the filming equipment, as both can have the task of choosing a lens for a scene and assembling equipment.
Many camera assistants hail from backgrounds in formal education where they studied videography, film production, journalism, photography, and other arts-related majors. Graduates will often look for open entry-level positions where they can shadow an experienced camera assistant or operator. Landing a position as a camera assistant directly out of school is difficult, if not impossible due to the real-world skills and experience typically required of both first and second assistant cameras.
Due to the freelance-nature of the profession, the salary of a CA can vary greatly from one to the next depending on the number of jobs they are hired for. Additionally, the level of experience can have a large impact on the hourly rate earned. According to the BLS‘ statistics on “Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators” (which also include Camera Assistants), the average hourly rate ($/hr) earned in the industry is $28.36/hr. The average salaries for the median, top 10%, and bottom 10% are as follows:
- Bottom 10%: $25,790/yr
- Median: $54,570/yr
- Top 10%: $102,470/yr