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Simple things crew people should know


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#1 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 May 2006 - 11:56 PM

Based on my misadventures on the last show I did, I just wanted to list a few basic things different crew people should know:

Electrics:

1. Learn to tell the difference between the different strengths of CTO and CTB gels by eye. Several times I questioned whether the correct gel was on a light and have the electric swear it was, only to discover (sometimes after the take) that the wrong gel was on the light afterall. Me: "that looks like Full CTO on that HMI, not Half." "No, it's Half. I checked." Later after the take, I see the electric switching the gel "oh, I was wrong, it was Full CTO."
2. Label gels correctly once you cut them.
3. Cut gels neatly to the correct sizes for a particular light. Cut color gels for Kinos to fit inside the barndoors on the tubes and diffusion to fit over the outside of Kino barndoors. Label the gels for the particular Kinoflo and then don't lose them.
4. Don't use faded color-correction gels.
5. Mark a bad piece of equipment and get it swapped out.
6. Don't set-up a light and not bring the scrim bag -- especially if you go 80' in the air in a Condor with the light. And don't also forget to set-up a tagline to haul up the scrims you forgot to bring, thus requiring that the Condor be lowered back down to the ground.
7. Learn your equipment. Don't confuse a Midget with a Tweenie, etc.
8. Don't take a Dedolight from the kit and leave the kit back on the truck -- bring the whole kit to set in case another Dedolight is needed.

Grips:
1. There's the light pointing at the camera lens and flaring it. There's the lens. The flag that cuts the flare from the lens should be between those two positions, right?
2. Don't try and flag a light from flaring the lens by putting the flag up against the light itself -- work farther from the light.
3. Mark a bad peice of equipment and get it swapped out.
4. If someone calls for a double-net flag, bring the single-net along with you just in case. Vice-versa. And learn what a double and single net flag is while you're at it.
5. If you put a frame of diffusion in front of a light, move it out far enough to fill the frame with the light. And when you side that frame with floppies to cut the hard spill, check to see that you actually did it correctly and don't have a hard spill.

Mic Boom Operator:
1. There's the light hitting the actor. If you put a mic between that light and the actor, a shadow will appear on the actor. That's bad.

Everyone:
1. Learn about how reflections work in shiny surfaces, i.e. angle of incidence = angle of reflection. So if you see the camera pointed at a reflective surface like a mirror, car window, etc. don't stand or leave equipment in a likely place where it will be reflected.
2. When "rolling!" is called, stop talking. Don't just talk quieter, stop talking. And stop working on anything that makes noise. Stop driving vans across the set or starting up loud engines. Stopping walking around, especially in the background of shots. And turn off cell phones and walkies. And to the P.A.'s out there, after five weeks of shooting, you shouldn't have to be reminded to call out "rolling!" when the A.D. calls it out over the walkies.
3. Be on set at call time.
4. Don't let your gear get scattered all around a big location that will need to be moved constantly to get out of each shot.
5. Don't just not show up for work because you don't feel like going to work that day.
6. Park at crew park; don't park in areas that will be in the shot and were identified as being in the shot way ahead of time. And if you are going to park in the shot, leave your keys in the visor so the car can be moved out of the shot.

Camera crew:
1. If there is a focus problem, don't just talk among yourselves about it and hope you will get another take to fix it -- tell the DP and tell the script supervisor. Don't assume that the editor will just be able to see when a shot goes soft.
2. If the sun is going down and we're losing the light, and there's a new set-up some dozen yards from the first, pick-up the camera, the sticks, and a lens case, and walk over to the new position -- don't breakdown the camera, load everything onto carts, and then call transpo for a stakebed to drive you over to the new position.
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#2 Logan Schneider

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:15 AM

Thanks for the list David. I have a feeling a few of these have interesting stories attached...

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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:28 AM

Oh MY GOD! You ACTUALLY had to TELL people these things on your shoot?!! If any of us had done ANY of these things on set when I was working grip or lighting grip the key grip or gaffer whould have gone ballistic. UNBILEVABLE!!! I thought you were having so much trouble with the shoot because of the conditions in Louisianna and all thie night work you had to do but with the crew pulling that kinda crap it's a wonder you didn't go nuts and fire everyone. Man, sorry you had to deal with that.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:48 AM

To be fair, I only had an occasional problem with a mic shadow, no more than typically happens. And the camera crew people were great. The issues I have with focus are more general ones since I stopped operating myself and are more of a chain-of-communication issue that I want to straighten-out on future shows.

More of my problems were with inexperienced people in other departments. And I'm sure that those department heads were even more frustrated than I was.
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#5 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 01:13 AM

Yes, wow, these are critical items to know as a crew member. I am surprised to hear you had these issues on your project, and just any decent sized production in general.

I am sure it was hard, as you said most of the top notch guys were snatched up by bigger shows, and of course I am used to working in LA (none of my shows have been shot out of state), where there is an abundance of over qualified and under paid people (not that there aren't in other states, but LA obviously has the largest talent pool).

I know you have been working hard to put together a regular crew that you really liked, it doesn't sound like you got all your guys on this one ;).

Kevin Zanit
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#6 richcam1

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 01:21 AM

Hi David,

You are right on in so many ways!

A Kino tip, My gaffer (Mr. Brian Rupp) discovered, you can store kino gell cuts in the head! (on a 4x4...) He pins it to the outside of the reflector, between the reflector & barndoors (usually where the cable runs). He allways has my favorites close at hand!!!

There is no excuse for broken gear! N.G. it and get if out of service!!! It's a waist of time! And I own a 8 ton grip elec. truck. FIX IT!

Regarding lens flair, my theroy is: you have to cut it between the lens and light to get it all. I reccomend putting the flag right next to the subject! You will get the flair and not screw up the back/kicker light!

Be professional & Label the gels. No one can tell 1/8 vs 1/4 +green @ 18 hours. Just do it! You will save time.

Camera dept. has to confess F-ups!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A quick admission at time of problem is professional! Evereyone makes mistakes, let's fix them when we can. Not admiting mistakes is unacceptable and that crew member should be fired! Camera department, everyone is trusting your craftsmanship! Investors, Producers, Director, DP, 1st AC...... Take the bullet, Admit it, keep the trust, keep the reputation and keep working!

David keep up the good work!
Prost,
Rich

Based on my misadventures on the last show I did, I just wanted to list a few basic things different crew people should know:

Electrics:

1. Learn to tell the difference between the different strengths of CTO and CTB gels by eye. Several times I questioned whether the correct gel was on a light and have the electric swear it was, only to discover (sometimes after the take) that the wrong gel was on the light afterall. Me: "that looks like Full CTO on that HMI, not Half." "No, it's Half. I checked." Later after the take, I see the electric switching the gel "oh, I was wrong, it was Full CTO."
2. Label gels correctly once you cut them.
3. Cut gels neatly to the correct sizes for a particular light. Cut color gels for Kinos to fit inside the barndoors on the tubes and diffusion to fit over the outside of Kino barndoors. Label the gels for the particular Kinoflo and then don't lose them.
4. Don't use faded color-correction gels.
5. Mark a bad piece of equipment and get it swapped out.
6. Don't set-up a light and not bring the scrim bag -- especially if you go 80' in the air in a Condor with the light. And don't also forget to set-up a tagline to haul up the scrims you forgot to bring, thus requiring that the Condor be lowered back down to the ground.
7. Learn your equipment. Don't confuse a Midget with a Tweenie, etc.
8. Don't take a Dedolight from the kit and leave the kit back on the truck -- bring the whole kit to set in case another Dedolight is needed.

Grips:
1. There's the light pointing at the camera lens and flaring it. There's the lens. The flag that cuts the flare from the lens should be between those two positions, right?
2. Don't try and flag a light from flaring the lens by putting the flag up against the light itself -- work farther from the light.
3. Mark a bad peice of equipment and get it swapped out.
4. If someone calls for a double-net flag, bring the single-net along with you just in case. Vice-versa. And learn what a double and single net flag is while you're at it.
5. If you put a frame of diffusion in front of a light, move it out far enough to fill the frame with the light. And when you side that frame with floppies to cut the hard spill, check to see that you actually did it correctly and don't have a hard spill.

Mic Boom Operator:
1. There's the light hitting the actor. If you put a mic between that light and the actor, a shadow will appear on the actor. That's bad.

Everyone:
1. Learn about how reflections work in shiny surfaces, i.e. angle of incidence = angle of reflection. So if you see the camera pointed at a reflective surface like a mirror, car window, etc. don't stand or leave equipment in a likely place where it will be reflected.
2. When "rolling!" is called, stop talking. Don't just talk quieter, stop talking. And stop working on anything that makes noise. Stop driving vans across the set or starting up loud engines. Stopping walking around, especially in the background of shots. And turn off cell phones and walkies. And to the P.A.'s out there, after five weeks of shooting, you shouldn't have to be reminded to call out "rolling!" when the A.D. calls it out over the walkies.
3. Be on set at call time.
4. Don't let your gear get scattered all around a big location that will need to be moved constantly to get out of each shot.
5. Don't just not show up for work because you don't feel like going to work that day.
6. Park at crew park; don't park in areas that will be in the shot and were identified as being in the shot way ahead of time. And if you are going to park in the shot, leave your keys in the visor so the car can be moved out of the shot.

Camera crew:
1. If there is a focus problem, don't just talk among yourselves about it and hope you will get another take to fix it -- tell the DP and tell the script supervisor. Don't assume that the editor will just be able to see when a shot goes soft.
2. If the sun is going down and we're losing the light, and there's a new set-up some dozen yards from the first, pick-up the camera, the sticks, and a lens case, and walk over to the new position -- don't breakdown the camera, load everything onto carts, and then call transpo for a stakebed to drive you over to the new position.


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#7 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 01:44 AM

Well everyone has to learn and I can understand an inexpirenced crew making rookie mistakes like not bringing both nets or mistaking a midget for a tweeny, but a guy who's suppose to be a gaffer who didn't know the difference between a 1/2 CTO and a full CTO by sight and then instead of checking it to make sure he hadn't made a mistake when you brought up you suspitions that the gel was wrong, but instead swears up and down it's correct then tries to switch it out without you noticing for the next shot is ridicules or not taking scrims w/ you when you head up on a 80 ft' lighting crane, leaving you equipment scattered all over the location, not marking you gels, using faded gel and not marking bad equipment as bad and getting it changed out ASAP, that's just sloppy work and also calling transportation to move a camera a hundred and 50 feet when your losing the light is bit well... :blink: As for for being late for call or not showing up for work, those guys shoulda been fired right then and there, that's ANY job.

Edited by Capt.Video, 10 May 2006 - 01:46 AM.

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#8 Josh Bass

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 02:00 AM

David, were you working with interns again?
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#9 Adam White

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 02:34 AM

Some of those points are pretty shocking, some are almost criminal on a set, though the issue that gets me is if somebody has made a mistake and doesnt have the guts to admit it until the setup is finished and you have moved on.

Another take, however tedious/problematic it is, is always preferable to the embarrasment of going to the 1st AD and having to say "Erm. . .you know that shot we did three hours ago. . . .
can we redo it?"
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#10 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 05:26 AM

Wow. Anyone that's been on a set for more than a week should know this stuff. A lot of the stuff mentioned is a fireable offense. Sure, mistakes are made now and then, but that list is astounding. I'm actually embarrassed for anyone who makes a living in this business that you actually felt you had to make a post like that.
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#11 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 05:38 AM

I'd like to add one, David: Learn what a soft light is. Like you said - so many times a diff frame goes up so close to the source that all you have is a hot spot in the middle. Or they don't fill the huge polyboard when bouncing, but rather spot it in the middle. Drives me nuts.

That said, though - my fav gaffers I have here are absolutely top notch. You don't have to remind them about anything - it's all done. Spill is blackwrapaped and flagged always, all scrims are attached to the stands and so on. Unfortunately for me, he's probably signed onto the next Bourne film, so I'll lose him for 6 months.
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#12 Freya Black

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 06:44 AM

I used to be a sound recordist on shoots, and the thing that would drive me nuts was when you finally got to have a take for sound, and even tho we had called for silence on the set, rolling etc etc, People would still carry on yakking or jingling their keys or whatever, because the camera wasn't running anymore and it didn't matter.

It annoyed the hell out of me because I was trying to do my job properly (unpaid) and they were making it pointlessly difficult for me. We would just have take after take trying to get wild track or room tone.

Thankfully, I don't have to deal with these things anyway anymore, as nobody really wants a girl to do their sound unless they are desperate.

As for people not admitting to their mistakes or trying to hide them, it sounds like they might be a bit afraid of you David! ;) I'm not sure if that's anything to do with you, or just that they are afraid. People tend to be just afraid these days anyway which I guess is hardly suprising given the way things are at least here in England and probably the states too. Maybe you need to have a little word with your crew before you start and actually ask them to please let you know if they make a mistake and that you won't be angry with them for doing so. *shrug* I don't know!

love

Freya
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#13 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 06:52 AM

Turn cell phones off!
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#14 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 07:55 AM

Turn cell phones off!


Ah yeh... good advice. I think I learnt that one the hard way. (No one calls me all day and right in the middle of a take it goes off, great stuff...)

I'm not sure how other people felt but I certainly felt like a prize idiot.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith, 10 May 2006 - 07:57 AM.

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#15 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 09:30 AM

Ouch! Well, knowing that list is largely a matter of experience, and if you're going to do a low-budget film, you're going to get what the producers pay for. ...

A great idea I picked up on one of our many NY cop shows is to keep cut-to-kino-size pieces of diffusion in labelled zip-lock baggies. When I shoot, I just grab my bag of baggies and I'm ready to go ... I've been using the same scraps of bleached muslin for 3 years!

Label everything! ... And label more than one side of the object in question. All technical crew members must carry Sharpies!

As far as lens flare goes, it's ideal for the flag to be set just a little behind the actor.

Is that you, Crudo?
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 10:46 AM

My keys were experienced and worked very hard (in fact, it's a bad sign when they have to work THAT hard -- my Key Grip Johnny Martin was drenched in sweat everyday, running around so much doing the work of three people just by himself), but there were limits to how much they were going to get some crew people up to speed. One grip, like I said weeks ago, actually walked off the shoot when told he'd have to work a little faster. And one electrician would go off fishing for hours on end so I'd be short a person on the set. And firing people wasn't really an option unless I wanted to start flying people in from another city to replace them. In fact, by the last week, we did fly in another experienced electrician.

To be clear, there are some top-notch crew people that live and work in Louisiana. Unfortunately, they were mostly working on "Deja Vu" and being paid a lot better.

In some states, you basically have the enough experienced people to fill a decent-sized feature film crew, and once they are hired away on another show, you end up with new people with no experience, or the people that the regular locals don't want to hire.

When I was in New Mexico, I had a better experience because I was competing with fewer productions at the time for local crews, so about 2/3's of my local crew were top-notch, plus I had perhaps the best gaffer I have EVER worked with, Steve Litecky, but I still had some problems with a few people. But now I hear that there are six productions going on in New Mexico...
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#17 Adam White

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 11:57 AM

apologies if I have missed this in the library but what about a "set sense" FAQ? Good for really keen trainees who are green to set.

I know there are excellent books ref'd on the sight but some of the simplest, yet annoying things are never mentioned in them.

what does anyone else think?
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#18 Lee Maisel

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 12:35 PM

After "rolling" is called, TURN OFF (or down) Walkie-talkies!!!
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#19 Chris Cooke

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 01:34 PM

Don't forget to put sand bags on stands. On a show which I was operating for Douglas Munroe, CSC, the gaffer forgot to put a bag on a C-Stand. A flag ended up getting bumped (by him) and fell on the lead actress. She couldn't act in any more scenes that day and there was almost a law suit.
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#20 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 10 May 2006 - 01:43 PM

Damn. That's a big no no. Another thing to think about is if you are shooting outside with silks and the like. Even sandbagged and torked down things can blow around (and into people).

Also, being conscious of the talents eyeline. It can be hard to keep character when some dude eating a bagel is standing right where you are supposed to be looking.
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