Reel Opportunities

Video Assist Operator

Also known as: Playback, Video Playback Operator, Video Split Operator, VTR

What does a Video Assist Operator do?

Video Assist Operators (VAOs) take the images generated by digital cameras and display them on video monitors so the Director and other crew members can see exactly what’s been shot.

These images are also recorded for playback, so the action can be reviewed after each take. They are a reference through which continuity can be checked. The playback is stored to form a complete archive of the shots taken throughout the production.

VAO’s use dedicated software for the recording and instant playback. The software also gives the VAO the ability to simulate visual effects on set as filming is happening. The Director and Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisor can evaluate these shots immediately rather than wait until the raw footage is processed and manipulated.

The VAO can also edit the scenes on set for continuity and timing purposes. This helps ensure that no shots have been missed.

What's a Video Assist Operator good at?
  • Concentration

    Be alert, ready to respond immediately when called to record or playback, pay attention to the shots on the video monitors, spot problems and advise

  • Knowledge of video

    Understand video playback equipment, video and audio cables, wireless video links and the basics of video signals and formats

  • Knowledge of film production

    Understand digital cameras and lighting, appreciate the role and responsibilities of all the members of the crew

  • Communication

    Be able to work as part of a team and to liaise with other departments

  • Problem-solving

    Be able to diagnose faults and work out how to correct them

Who does a Video Assist Operator work with?

Video Assist Operators are primarily there to assist the Director and Script Supervisor but they also work closely with 1st Assistant Directors, camera and visual effects crews. On bigger shoots, they have a Video Assist Assistant to help.

How do I become a Video Assist Operator?

The most common route to becoming a VAO is through working at a junior level for camera rental companies or video playback companies. This helps you to understand the equipment and to get contacts in the industry. Trainees spend time getting to know the role before becoming Video Assist Assistants and, in time, Video Assist Operators.

More tips

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Job Profile Design by Dave Gray. Based on an original concept by Ian Murphy/Allan Burrell.