Artists vs. operators

What the heck are we? Are we artists? Or are we operators? What do you think? What makes us different than a plumber? Are plumbers artists? Or are they craftspersons?

  • artists
  • operators

0 voters

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Found it, btw:


What I do may be by some definitions creative, it’s not art.

The artist vs operator schism is as much a linguistic failure as anything else. A painter can do frescoes, canvases, cars, or houses. An artist must make art. And I don’t make art. I get paid to solve other people’s visual problems. Sometimes that problem is “make this shot aesthetically pleasing”, but it’s still not making art.

At least until Duchamp rises again and decrees my computer chip commercials to live alongside his beloved fountain.


My long stated belief is that we are craftsmen. There is an inherent art in performing the tasks we execute but the result is not art.


More importantly…sandwich assembler or Sandwich Artist™?


I think it’s limiting to be thinking of it as only either “Artist” or “Operator”.

A good Flame artist is an entertainer, a host, a client wrangler, an artist, a magician, a creative and technical person, and fun to be around. Someone who inspires confidence. A Flame artist who knows the software well and is good with clients is a gem. Most Flame artists specialize in a few tools, and many aren’t good with clients. Flame artists need to have an outgoing personality and be able to put clients at ease immediately. Without this rapport, you’re in for very unproductive days and frustrating deadlines. You need to be able to deal with insane pressure and last minute changes while dealing with multiple clients sitting there asking questions, on top of doing all your comp and editing work. It also helps to be a quick study to stay on top of the latest tools since the software is constantly evolving.

Given that we do all this, I believe this goes way beyond the term “operator”. I agree much of what I do wouldn’t be artistry either, but there is so much technical and creative problem solving that goes into our work, I think of it as digital wizardry no matter what. :slight_smile:


Yeah, I take issue with being referred to as a “Flame Op”. Some of the old school producers I’ve run into over the years use this term. I guess they think the software is doing everything and we just push buttons. :woman_facepalming:t2:


ah the old artist vs. operator debate. it’s worth revisiting.


Someone with a more complete Logik mag archive than mine could probably dig up the writeup (‘98, I think; but possibly’99) of the sprawling “artist or operator” flame-news thread. I remember reading both the thread and the writeup with great interest.

At that point I was mostly using flame news to ask how the color corrector worked, so my answer to the question would have been “neither.” But my favorite answer then is my favorite answer now: depends on the job, depends on the day.

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Wait. There was a Magazine?

I love the term Flame Op due to my long struggle with the extreme overuse of the word “artist”

I can see your point that it dovetails a little too well with my problems with gear over people. What we need is a one-word term a-la Editors, Painters, or Colorists. I suppose our software agnostic term is “Compositor” but I think that’s not as inclusive of the finishing side.

if I can break my own rule, I’ll gladly call myself the Final Compositor. Haha.


How about Flame magician? :grin:

I don’t see anything in these about that discussion…


Way back in school studying textile design, I understood that we were in the Applied Arts (as opposed to Fine Arts.) Many folks graduate from all the amazing art schools with incredibly creative artistic skills and while they may not be fine artists, I think they all deserve the title of artists. I found this definition which I’m pretty clear covers the role of being a ‘Flame Artist’.

What is Applied Arts?
One thing students need to understand, that applied arts is often mistaken for fine arts, but there is a thin line which separates the two. While Fine Arts deals with the traditional artistic field, applied arts deals with creativity which is commercialized and materialised such as architecture, graphic designing, interior designing, fashion designing and much more. The creativity applied here is that a student makes a product or a service soothing to the eyes. However, the creativity is more sophisticated and technical rather than the free hand in Fine Arts.

That said, I honestly never really cared what title people gave me, as long as it wasn’t the very awkward Flamist I have heard in some circles. :wink:


I had not heard “flamist” and I hope to never hear it again.



“cleaner” :rofl:


I’m with @cnoellert. Operator feels cheap to me, but we (well, most of us anyway) are artisans, not artists. I think of my myself like a high-end general contractor. If you tell me you want your kitchen redone in hot pink and green, I’ll try a few times politely to talk you out of it, but if you hold your ground I’m gonna shut up and put in your pink and green cabinets.


I first read this essay in 2013. It deeply affected my outlook.

I do my own art in my own time and I get paid to use my giraffe ears.


A lot of the time I come up with ideas that are tangent to what I struggle to articulate. It’s like having a machine who’s inner workings are a mystery but who’s outputs are known. I can point to the outputs and say “this one is from the same machine.”

And so,

“Saxophone Artist”

Think about it.

“Rube-Goldberger” springs to mind. But that would be a misnomer perhaps…

Well for some.