Earning of a Average NBA Cameramen

The NBA is one of the most successful pro sports leagues in America and is gaining more popularity with every season. It is likely that the NBA will take over the NFL to become the most popular league in the US. The NBA is beating every other league in America because of how quickly the league is improving.

The NBA spends millions of dollars every season to ensure the highest quality broadcast of the league. Ever wondered how we get to watch the NBA on our TV, phones, and laptops in such high quality? It takes a team of hundreds of people and dozens of cameras to make that possible.

However, another question that most people don’t know the answer to is, how much do NBA cameramen make?

Although the salaries can vary depending on experience, on average an NBA cameraman makes somewhere between $60,000 to $75,000 a year. However some cameramen may make way more than $75,000, but it’s a small number of cameramen maybe around 10-15%. Some camera operators may work simultaneously for other leagues like the NFL.

From how much money they make to the kind of equipment they use, this article will tell you everything you need to know about NBA cameramen.

NBA, Cameramen, Camera and Money:

NBA cameraman

According to a survey done by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statics, Sports cameramen, in general, make $64,960 a year. The survey showed that there were somewhere around 5,700 cameramen working in television broadcasting out of which the top 10% earned $110,790 a year while the lowest-paid cameramen made 26,560 a year.

How do the salaries of NBA cameramen compare with regular cameramen?

Camera operators working in the motion picture and video industry have the highest salaries with an average of $75,710. Whereas cameramen working in the television industry make $58,070 on average.

Cameramen working in the cable and other subscription services make $56,930 on average per year which is slightly higher than those working in the television industry. While those working in the professional, scientific, or technical service have the lowest salaries with an average of $41,710.

A day in the life of an NBA cameraman

Covering a game can be a long and arduous process. The whole crew arrives in the arena in the morning and starts the day by unpacking all their equipment and placing it in the right spots. Then comes the tedious but necessary task of building the camera, which means that the cameraman has to assemble the body, lense, and sticks for the tripod, which can take around 2-3 hours.

Once all the cameras are assembled and placed in the right spots the crew checks in with the director who sits in the studio and assembles the camera feeds into a complete show. Every crew member also makes sure that they can hear both the direct and the announcer.

Some NBA cameramen also cover other leagues like the NFL or the MLB which means that they might not know everything about those games. To be able to respond to the director’s requests the cameraman has to carry call sheets which help them with additional information about players from both the teams and help them speed up the coverage and help them capture key shots.

One advantage that NBA cameramen have over other cameramen covering leagues like the MLB is that they have to cover 2-3 hour long games at most, whereas some MLB games can last much over 3 hours.

Why do experienced cameramen make more money?

An NBA cameraman’s job gets tougher as they become more experienced. They get the job to capture more tight shots which require more control and focus and framing becomes much more difficult as opposed to wider shots. These shots can be really difficult because of how fast gameplay can move, thus it would be very difficult for a newbie to pull off those shots.

This gets even tougher when they are working with slow-motion cameras. Some of the slow-motion cameras that these operators use can shoot at 1,000 frames per second which means that if the cameraman masses up a shot it will go on for an eternity.

So the slow-mo shots that all of us enjoy watching so much are not just a result of top-notch cameras, it takes a top-notch camera operator to capture the perfect shot and show the audience exactly what they want to see.

Given how tough an experienced cameraman’s job becomes they naturally make a lot more money as opposed to the cameramen who are just starting out or have less experience.

What kind of cameras do NBA cameramen use?

The NBA took their cameras to the next level back in 2013 when they decided to install new data tracking cameras in every arena. These high-end cameras cover just about everything you could possibly need on the court.

Not only does the installation of these cameras make for a better viewer experience it is very helpful for teams to track each and every single move of opponent players, which makes the game more competitive and exciting.

These cameras also allow the coaches to get a better and closer look at their own players, see what mistakes they are making, and eliminate those weaknesses. Teams are now embracing the use of advanced analytics, making the game more exciting than ever before.

In march 2020 the NBA had to suspend its ongoing season when one of the players tested positive for covid-19. The NBA created a biosecure bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and the season resumed inside the bubble in mid-july.

The NBA decided to build a 200,000 square feet broadcast and production facility inside the bubble and played the rest of the season in three different venues. They used 60 Panasonic robotic PTZ cameras to record the behind-the-scenes footage. The NBA didn’t want there to be cameramen, photographers, and technicians inside the quarantine zone to ensure the protection of the athletes so they opted to go for robotic professional PTZ cameras.

All the UE150s were controlled remotely by cameramen. These cameras were also used to interview the players. The players could no longer be interviewed at the courtside, so the NBA used AW-UE150s to conduct player interviews pre and post-match.

These remote cameras are loaded with some of the latest features. They support the SRT protocol for 4k/60p video streaming. They have a horizontal viewing angle of 75.1 degrees and also come with 20x optical zoom and image stabilization.

Which slow-Motion cameras do NBA cameramen use?

The Bexel clarity 800 slow-motion camera made its first appearance on the NBA court during the All-star weekend back in 2017. These cameras were designed and built by Bexel. The small build allowed the camera crew to place more high-speed cameras in key places than ever before. These cameras were roughly the size of a smartphone and had the ability to capture footage at up to 8x speed. The camera also includes a Micro 4/3 type image sensor with a 7-megapixel sensor and f11 at 2000 lux sensitivity. The camera runs on 12-volt power and has the ability to shoot at 50Hz or 60Hz.

Nowadays, however, the NBA is using the new vision research Phantom cameras. These cameras take the slow-motion footage to the next level. They have the ability to shoot at 22,000 frames per second. Some of the newer versions can even shoot at 25,600 frames per second. These cameras use a custom 12-bit CMOS sensor and are available with 36, 72, or 144 GB RAM. One of these cameras can costs the NBA more than $100,000.

How to become an NBA cameraman?

In a day and age where everyone has a camera in their smartphones, people might wonder how difficult it could be to become a camera operator. Becoming a professional cameraman for the NBA or any other sport for that matter is no child’s play.

Much like any other professional sport NBA cameramen are highly qualified and have in-depth knowledge of video equipment. However, you can’t become a professional cameraman by watching youtube tutorials, your knowledge needs to come from formal post-secondary studies. You at least need a bachelor’s degree in film studies, broadcasting, or communications if you plan on becoming a cameraman for the NBA.

Cameramen also need to have some experience before landing a job as a professional NBA cameraman. Working as a production assistant is a great way to add some entry-level experience to your portfolio. It will help you get direct experience in the trade and teach you the nitty-gritty of lighting, sound equipment, and the cleanup process.

Apart from some experience and in-depth knowledge, a cameraman needs to have artistic instincts, excellent hand-eye coordination, great communication skills, and the ability to capture just the right shots. NBA cameramen need to capture every moment accurately in a live game which requires a lot of focus and hard work.

Final thoughts

When it comes to cameras the NBA doesn’t shy away from paying top dollar to get the best technology out there, but, they also understand that no matter how good their cameras are if they don’t have highly skilled and experienced cameramen their cameras would be no good. So, the NBA makes sure that they only hire the best of the best when it comes to their camera crew.

Right now, on average, an NBA cameraman makes somewhere around $60000 to $70000 annually, but there is good news for all cameramen.

According to the bureau of labor statistics, the overall job growth for cameramen is expected to be 14% in the next decade which is faster than the predicted average for any other profession. So, being an NBA cameraman is a good job to have right now.