Updated for 2018/2019!
When working on any video production, it’s important to know the roles and hierarchy of the team. This way you know who to approach with questions and which person leads what department. There’s somewhat of a standard to this, but each crew operates a little differently. This post shows the typical hierarchy for video production, following the structure we typically use at 522 Productions.
Things to Note
Depending on the type of project and budget, this may change a little… or drastically. For example, it’s not uncommon for the Director of Photography (DP)/Cinematographer to also serve as a camera operator and lighting director. This is not the ideal situation, because of the additional responsibilities placed on smaller crews, but this often becomes reality with budget constraints.
Now, not every video is a feature film. However, when the budget allows for a bigger crew on set, productions tend to run smoother and faster – creating a better end product. While roles and responsibilities typically change from project to project, the list below describes each role for the ones I’ve worked on.
The producer is the initial contact for the project. They talk with the client to arrange the high-level goals and expectations. It’s their responsibility to assemble the production team. The director typically comes first. From there, they put together the necessary crew members. The producer usually stays involved throughout the project lifecycle: pre-production, production and post-production.
The director is typically the most involved person on and off set. They assist with assembling the right crew to get the job done. They make adjustments to the script to keep the video on budget and on time. They oversee all parts of the production. Questions get funneled up to them.
And, when dealing with talent, the director should be the only one directing them. They oversee technical details as well, such as camera position, use of lighting and anything that effects the final product.
First Assistant Director (1st AD)
The 1st AD is mainly responsible for scheduling on set. He wrangles talent, keeps the crew on time, and assists the director and producer. In some cases, the 1st AD also checks off the shot list, assuring lines are read as intended and the correct props are in the proper place.
Director of Photography (DP)/Cinematographer
A DP and cinematographer are usually the same. Some insist that the cinematographer title only gets used when the DP is also the camera operator. Either way, the DP is in charge of the lighting as well as the camera. In some cases they work along side the lighting director At 522, we tend to let the DP and lighting director work side by side to achieve the desired results.
The DP is responsible for getting the exact look the director envisions. He’s in charge of assembling the proper equipment to get the job done. This includes camera, rigs, lenses, filters, lights etc.
Digital Imaging Technician (DIT)
A DIT is trained with the specific camera that is on set. They know how to manipulate color profiles to help execute the specific look needed. Often a DIT manages the media – and are also responsible for backing up cards. For most of our shoots, the DP/cinematographer serve as the DIT.
The camera operator operates the camera. Pretty straight forward, right?
After choices have been made on color profile, exposure, and gear, the DP directs the operator with the specific framing and movements are needed.
First Assistant Camera (1st AC)
The 1st AC is primarily responsible for pulling focus. On a typical 522 Production, the 1st AC may also be the camera operator. Along with pulling focus, our 1st AC is responsible for having batteries charged, media ready and even holding on to the camera between takes to give the DP or camera operator a break.
Now, let’s look at the grip and electrical department.
Lighting Director (LD)
For us, the LD (or sometimes gaffer) is responsible for coordinating the necessary lights needed in order to carry out the look of the film decided by the director and DP. He works directly with the director and DP to make sure the lights achieve the correct look. The LD uses a key grip, gaffers and even production assistants to place lights and rig anything needed to complete the look.
A gaffer is the head electrician – the person on set responsible for executing the lighting plan for a production. They work closely with the Lighting Director and/or Director of Photography to make sure that the light hitting the subject or dressing the set is optimized.
The key grip rigs whatever is needed to get the lights in the proper place. They also set up flags, diffusion, etc. They also need to be aware of the scene’s blocking to make sure the gear doesn’t get in the way.
On our shoots, the audio technician deals directly with the director and DP. They record audio as well as monitor and adjust levels. They often use a PA to help rig the audio.
A set designer is in charge of designing and creating the set for your production. They address all of the foreground and background elements, paying particular attention to ensure that the environment that the subject appears in matches the right look and feel of the video.
Where most everyone starts out. :o)
The PA is more or less the assistant to everyone on set. They might grab gear, get lunch, take notes or do whatever else needs to be done. In some instances the PA may have the chance to help with the camera or lighting department. Although they are at the bottom of the food chain, a good PA is a must to keep things on schedule and maintain steam throughout the day.
Well, hopefully this was helpful in understanding out roles do what. If you have any questions on this let us know!
Feeling confident about the roles of a video production team? Then it’s time to move on to our new ebook all about why you need to add video to your promotions this year.