When it comes to working on a film set, there are many different responsibilities that are handled by a multitude of people. On large sets, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what all the varying roles are, and what can be even more confusing is how they fit into the grand picture. To help simplify things we have complied a list of 10 of the essential roles on a film set, in the order than they interact with the footage. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does help to give a clearer picture of the workflow that occurs on film sets.
The director is responsible for overseeing the creative vision of the film and guiding the actors and crew to execute that vision. They often make many of the important decisions regarding the film’s creation, however, these decisions may sometimes be overruled. If you are interested in working as a director, StudioBinder has a great guide on getting started.
Cinematographer/Director of Photography (DP)
The cinematographer or DP is in charge of capturing the visual elements of the film. They work closely with the director to achieve the desired look and mood of the film. They also oversee other technical departments that include the camera and lighting crew. To learn more about the role of a Cinematographer be sure to visit the American Society of Cinematographer’s website and read articles about their award winning members.
The camera operator physically operates the camera and follows the DP’s instructions for framing and movement. Because of their direct involvement in capturing the footage, this is often one of the most important roles on set. Check out this article detailing the complete roles of a camera operator and how to get started.
Assistant Camera (AC)
While there can be multiple ACs on a single set, they are often responsible for maintaining and preparing the camera equipment and assisting the camera operator during filming. Other roles they may have include controlling the focus of a shot, constructing camera rigs, and operating the clapboard. Because this can be a nuanced role, with each set dictating the responsibilities, we suggest you view this article for more details on working as an AC.
Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)
The DIT is responsible for managing the digital media workflow on set. They ensure that the footage is properly recorded, backed up, and ready for post-production. While this role may go unnoticed by some the general public, it does not denote its importance. In fact, the DIT often serves as the link between what happens on set and the post production team. Without them bridging the gap and providing essential information, the finished film could lose much of the polish we have come to expect.
The gaffer is in charge of the lighting setup and execution on set. They work closely with the DP to achieve the desired lighting effects and ensure the overall look of the film meets expectations. Because of the varying responsibilities, we suggest you check out this article explaining them in more detail.
The key grip is responsible for setting up and maintaining the camera support systems, such as tripods, dollies, and cranes. They will often work closely with the gaffer when shooting film and have a wide array of responsibilities that may change based on the set you are on. To learn more about the Key Grip’s job description, view this article from StudioBinder.
The production designer is in charge of the visual style and aesthetic of the film. They work closely with the director and DP to create the look of the sets, costumes, and props. Not only do they address the look of the set, but are often charged with checking out locations before shooting to ensure they fit the requirements. For a helpful article on the duties of a Production Designer check out this guide.
The sound mixer is responsible for recording and mixing the sound on set. They ensure that the dialogue, sound effects, and music are properly recorded and balanced. This is often considered one of the most difficult jobs on set as there are a huge number of elements involved in arranging the audio. Sound mixing can help to polish the film and take it to the next level, but if done poorly can instantly change the audience’s perception of the film.
The editor takes all of the raw footage and assembles it into a cohesive and engaging film. They work closely with the director to achieve the desired pace, mood, and structure of the film. This is a role that has changed in recent years, and will continue to change, as the use of VFX becomes increasingly used in all manner of productions. If you are interested in the specifics of the duties performed by a editor, we recommend you check out this article.
Each film set may have its own titles they use, or they may even combine multiple roles into a single one. This list is by no means complete but does provide a great starting point if you are interested in filmmaking. For a more complete list check out this one from Wrapbook or for the “Ultimate” list be sure and visit StudioBinder’s article here.