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Video Assist Operator

Oversee the equipment that allows takes to be viewed right after shooting.

What does a Video Assist Operator do?

A Video Assist Operator works and maintains a system which allows Filmmakers to view a scene immediately after shooting it. The system, called a Video Assist, is a complex matrix of monitors, recorders and transmitters all connected by many yards of cable. Video Assist Operator, or VAOs, must move, operate, and troubleshoot this system, so the Film Director and others can readily view their filming progress. Video Assist Operators are typically employed by video playback facilities or camera equipment companies and hired-out to work on film productions.

Before filming begins, you make sure your equipment is adaptable to the film cameras, and test your setup along with the film crew’s. Once filming starts, your responsibility is to make sure all necessary images are captured by the video recorders you have fitted to the cinematic cameras. As VAO, you may also have the opportunity to create rough edits for the Director to view using a portable editing system (usually on a laptop).

On large films, the Director, Director of Photography, Script Supervisor, and other relevant parties use these monitoring and playback facilities to ensure each scene is shot the way they intended. Heads of departments generally congregate in a central location called “video village,” where the footage is viewed. At the end of the day you store all the footage on hard disk and pack your equipment for the next shoot.

The responsibilities of the VAO are becoming increasingly complicated. You may find yourself having to set up internet streams and manage computer databases. It is a far cry from the days of the system’s inception, when it wasn’t much more complex than operating a VCR.