How to Record High-Quality Surgical Videos in the Operating Room

How to Record High-Quality Surgical Videos in the Operating Room

When it comes to crafting educational videos, one thing stands out, video acquisition. The reason is clear, there’s no substitute for well-shot footage. No matter how skilled your editing, poor raw material results in lackluster content that goes unnoticed. Here, we’ll guide you through the process, with a focus on filming in the demanding setting of an operating room.

Step 1: Preparation is Key

Before hitting the record button, meticulous preparation is essential, especially in third-person filming scenarios. Ensure an unobstructed view of the surgical field, eliminating shadows and clutter. A clean operating area not only aids clarity but also professionalism. Maintain a centered frame on the surgical procedure and maintain sharp focus throughout the operation.

Step 2: Designate a Camera Operator

During surgery, the surgeon’s focus is solely on the procedure. Assign a dedicated camera operator to manage framing and focus adjustments. This role is best suited for an operating assistant who understands the surgical process and can intervene without disruption.

Step 3: Technical Specifications

For high-quality results, choose Full HD or 4K resolution with an MPEG-4 format and a 5 Mbps bitrate (for Full-HD). Proper input resolution preserves video quality and facilitates editing. If needed, reduce the bitrate during shooting to manage file size without compromising quality.

Step 4: Selecting the Right Equipment

The choice of equipment depends on the type of surgery. For minimally invasive procedures, medical devices like endoscopes or microscopes suffice.

Here are some commonly used endoscopes and microscopes for surgical purposes:


Rigid Endoscopes: Commonly used for orthopedic and laparoscopic procedures.
     •   Brands: Karl Storz, Stryker, Olympus
Flexible Endoscopes: Used for procedures requiring more flexibility, like gastroscopy.
     •   Brands: Olympus, Fujifilm, Pentax
Capsule Endoscopes: Used for visualizing the small intestine.
Brand example: Given Imaging’s PillCam

Surgical Microscopes:

Zeiss OPMI: Commonly used for neurosurgery, spine surgery, and ENT procedures.
Leica M530 OH6: Offers precise detail recognition and optimal view during surgeries, commonly used for neurosurgery.
Mitaka MM51: Used for microsurgical procedures due to its precise optics.

When considering equipment, ensure it’s compatible with any recording devices or systems you intend to use. If in doubt, always consult with the equipment manufacturer or supplier, and if possible, get a demonstration before purchase or use.

Step 5: Front Camera in Surgical Procedures

Using front-facing cameras in surgical procedures offers an unmatched, up-close view of the procedure, often from the surgeon’s perspective. They serve to bridge the gap between textbook learning and hands-on experience by offering an immersive visual experience.


    • Purpose: GoPros, especially the models designed for action capture, are useful for procedures where there’s a lot of movement. They offer stabilization, ensuring the capture remains smooth.
    • Advantages:
      • Stability: Built-in stabilization ensures smooth footage even during dynamic procedures.
      • Wide-Angle Lens: This helps in capturing a broad view of the operation field.
      • Hands-free Operation: Once set, the GoPro can film without any intervention, allowing the surgeon to focus on the procedure.
    • Considerations:
      • Battery Life: Ensure the device is fully charged or has a power backup to last the entire procedure.
      • Sterilization: The camera and its mount should be covered with a sterile barrier to prevent contamination.


    • Purpose: Exoscopes are designed specifically for surgeries, providing a magnified and illuminated view of the operation site. They are becoming an alternative to traditional microscopes in various surgical specialties.
    • Advantages:
      • High-Quality Imaging: Exoscopes produce crisp, high-definition images with excellent depth perception.
      • Zoom Capabilities: Surgeons can zoom in or out as needed without manually adjusting the equipment.
      • Flexibility: They can be easily maneuvered, providing different angles and views.
    • Considerations:
      • Setup: Proper setup is essential to ensure the exoscope’s position doesn’t hinder the surgical team.
      • Sterilization: Given their close proximity to the surgical field, ensuring they are appropriately sterilized is paramount.

The choice between GoPros and exoscopes largely depends on the procedure, desired visual output, and available resources. However, incorporating either into surgical documentation enhances the educational value of the video, offering viewers an in-depth look at the procedure from a firsthand perspective.

Achieving excellence in educational video creation begins with top-notch video acquisition. By following these steps and considering your equipment carefully, you can ensure your educational content is both informative and engaging.

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