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Video Tape Operator

Video Tape (VT) Operators (Sometimes called CAR Operators, Technical Runners or Tape Operators) work in Post Production Facilities Houses which provide complete end to end services for off-line, on-line and non-linear editing, visual effects, and DVD production to the independent, corporate and broadcast media sectors.  Post Production involves creatively weaving together visual and audio materials shot or created during the production process, and combining them with other media, graphics, effects, subtitles, archive footage, etc., to create a variety of final products including broadcast programmes, DVD titles, corporate productions, etc.

VT Operator is a machine room role, requiring a good working knowledge of the technical aspects of each facility, how it is networked, what machinery is in the building, what equipment and formats are compatible with one another, and crucially, how to fix things quickly and correctly.  Many of the skills required are similar to those of Edit Assistants and, to a lesser degree, of Engineers, and in some smaller facilities Edit Assistants' and VT Operators' roles may be combined.  However, working in the VT machine room usually requires more technical skills and aptitude than are normally expected of Edit Assistants.  Larger facilities of 50 or more staff employ a number of VT Operators, with varying degrees of experience.  In some cases, particularly in smaller companies, the VT department also manage the Library system and database.

What is the job?
VT Operators work in and manage the machine room, operate tape recording equipment, and ensure that the contents of tapes meet the correct technical specifications.  They prepare VT machines for use by clients and Editors, and in some cases set up Avid and other editing equipment.  They make inter format tape copies, black tapes for future use, blank (wipe) tapes for further use, make non-broadcast copies (VHS), and label tapes accurately and appropriately.  VT operators move media and machines around the building.  They auto conform media, and may digitise media for use on Avid and other non-linear equipment.  They are responsible for quality control of output media, and for quality assessment reports, conversions, digitisation, transfers, and duplication of video and audio materials.  They must understand the importance of unambiguous labelling of every frame of each project, using roll numbers and time-codes that conform to recognized industry practices.

VT Operators must be able to read oscilloscopes and audio meters, read TV and video signals, and understand how they work. They must be able to identify what is acceptable for which media and broadcaster and their different technical specifications.  They should understand compression, and be able to utilise VT Recorders (VTRs) in normal and abnormal settings.  They operate, patch and un-patch equipment, and must possess relevant computer skills in order to move media around the facility.  They should know how to digitise media and make copies.  VT Operators manage equipment and identify faults, utilizing aspect ratio converters (to adjust the shape and size of the screen) and standards converters (to convert between NTSC and PAL standards, for transmission or distribution in different countries).  They must also have the necessary communication skills to ascertain clients' needs and problems, and to identify appropriate solutions.  They must be able to communicate technical issues in layman's terms when liaising with clients and other non-technical colleagues, and should understand fully the implications of their decisions and actions, keeping accurate and detailed records.  

Typical career routes
Junior VT Operators may progress to become VT Operators, and ultimately to more senior operational roles, or move into Editing.  The expected job span for Junior VT Operators is six to eighteen months.

Essential knowledge and skills
VT Operators must have an understanding of media formats, and should be familiar with the editing systems and graphics within each facility, be able to solve technical problems, and know the topology of the edit suites.

Key Skills include:

  • excellent communication skills;
  • a high level of organisational skills;
  • precise attention to detail;
  • initiative and problem solving skills;
  • advanced IT skills;
  • advanced analytical skills;
  • effective team working skills;
  • diplomacy and sensitivity when working with clients;
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.

Training and qualifications
Although no specific educational or training qualifications are required for the role of VT Operators, Engineering or IT degrees are useful.  Personality and communication skills are key at entry levels.

Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Creative Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive Creative Skillset/BFI course database. Finally, Creative Skillset Careers is UK's only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit

- UK Screen Association is the trade body for Post Production;

- BECTU, the trade union represents Post Production personnel; 

- British Film Institute publishes Sight and Sound

- The Institute of Broadcast Sound (IBS); publishes Line Up

- BKSTS (The Moving Image Society) publishes Image Technology;

- BBC Resources

- Digital Post Production

- Broadcast Freelancer

- How Stuff Works

- Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication


- Broadcast, weekly newspaper for the UK TV and Radio industry; 

- Televisual, monthly business magazine for the broadcast industry;

- Audio Post Production for Television and Film - Wyatt & Amyes - ISBN 0-240-51947-7

How Video Works - Weynand & Weise ISBN 0-240-80614-X

Nonlinear Editing Basics - Steven Browne - ISBN 0-240-80282-9

- Video Editing and Post Production - Gary H Anderson - ISBN 0-240-80337-X

- Digital Editing with Final Cut Pro 4 - Mamer &Wallace - ISBN 0-941188-91-4

- Digital Nonlinear Editing - Thomas Ohanian - ISBN 0-240-80225-X

- Editing Digital Film - Jaime Fowler - ISBN 0-240-80470-8


All books available from:


Digitising: Converting all media into digital formats

Linear : Editing in formats where it is not possible to move sections around within edited material, e.g., VHS, u-matic or BETA, etc.

Non-Linear : Editing in formats where it is possible to move sections around within edited material, e.g., film, AVID, Edit Pro, etc.


Adobe Acrobat DocumentVideo Tape Operator - Post Production

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