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The term "Safety"


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#1 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 03:14 PM

Hey guys,

I'm part of a small time production company.

During a production, usually a talking head, but not always, we will finish a shot, take.. whatever. Our director says, "yeah! that's it!" then says, "let's do a safety"

Only problem is, we do a safety on every take. Every single take.

I'm curious on a few things:

Where does the term "safety" come from as far as shooting.
Does anyone use it in their shooting, or some form of it.
Is it worth doubling the time it takes to do a shoot, just to get safetys?

Just wondering about the rest of the world, and what they/you do.

Bryan
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 04:50 PM

It doesn't make sense to do two takes for every take... you do a safety take after you've got ONE take that you deem acceptable (a "printed" or circled take), just in case something goes wrong at the lab or something.

It's not a rule, per se, and not as necessary if you've already shot so many partially-good takes that you could edit the scene using those should your favorite take get destroyed.

The only time I really ask for a safety is just if we've only done one take, so at least we have two.

Some directors like to get one more good take not so much as disaster protection but on the oft chance that the actors will do something better or new, more of a take "for fun." After you've gotten the good take, you basically tell the actors "OK, we've got that -- now let's just do one for fun... relax, show me something new, go wild, etc..."

But they may tell the AD or producer that it's the "safety" take.

Having a good take ruined by something, lab error, whatever, happens now and then, unfortunately.
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#3 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 08:10 PM

In France, we nearly do the same as David says.

The idea is not to have a double of every take... This would actually not mean much, but a double of every shot.

The thing is that if ever you have a problem, per say, typically, at the lab, on a shot, the insurance would pay the reshoot only if you have a double of it and if the double occures the same problem.

So the production companies have taken the good habit of asking directors to always shoot a double, so that in most cases, if ever there is a problem on a circled take, we have a double.

So, the habit is that after we have a good take we say " OK, we've got it, let's make a double for safety".

But it also depends on budget. I mean that on a richer shooting, the director can allow himself to have 3 or 4 good takes so that he has the choice at the editing.

So 3 or 4 takes are circled, and, after that, there is then no need to shoot a "double for safety".

But in the case we only have one good take, well, we would then shoot a "double for safety".

I would like to mention the fact that it's very important to have at least two good takes of every shot.

When I was in one of the most famous labs in Paris, a feature length has had a big problem, the neg of a whole 2000' roll got scewed in the printing machine. I'm talking about the edited neg. The master serial IP printing, okay ?

Well, hopefully we had doubles... The lab just edited the doubles and there we had that roll again... What if there was not any ?
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#4 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 15 June 2006 - 09:40 PM

Thanks Daivd and Laurent,

That does make sence... having two of everything.

Our director is hardly that. He just happens to be the one that knows the most about the thing we are shooting, and that's not much.

We are in a studio, going straight to tape (D-beta) but we still can have a hit in the tape I guess. And the takes are a talking head on a greenscreen. Really nothing special at all.

I think what bugs me the most, is the assumtion that the word "safety" helps boot the production value.

But thanks for the help with how you guys shoot.
It's appreciated =)

Bryan
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#5 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 03:54 AM

Sounds like it's more what he considers is his own "safety" at editing then... Not really a technical prevention, but a possibility of choice. Why does he put forth a "safety" reason ? May be he doesn't think of any other way to put it on the shooting.

Sometimes when you do talking heads, you defenetly need different versions of precise sentences. Some people understand that you are looking for this. Some don't and think "he's got one, why does he want me to do that again ?", so the "safety" reason allows to do another take.

What is the problem, after all ? You know he's going to do a double anyway. Whatever he calls it "safety" or anything... ;)
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#6 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 04:59 AM

Another good reason to do a safety is if it was a tough focus pull. Even if a take looked good when you shot it, it could be buzzed, especially with steadicam where you're looking at a monitor and not through the eyepiece. Even if everyone thinks it was fine, it never hurts to have another.
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#7 timHealy

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 05:23 AM

I always love it when I director pops from behind the video monitors and yells out enthusiastically that everything about it was great only to be followed by "Lets do it again"

I was working on a film Michael Ballhaus was shooting where we ran into that situaltion. He tried to follow the director out of his chair saying "great we can move on!". But before he took a step he sat down dejected when the director asked to do it again. When the director returned to the monitors he asked why we needed another one? I don't remember what the director had said but Michael looked away for a moment then turned back to the guy and proclaimed "I know why we need another one." He continued "We have one that's great, now we need one that sucked!"

I thought that was just brilliant.

Best

Tim
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#8 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 07:53 AM

Yep, it's often sort of weird with some talents, maybe the less experienced ones, when you say "it's good, let's do it again". They sometimes think that the take was actually not good but the director doesnt dare to say so... They may be a bit puzzled, sometimes...
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#9 Adam White

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 10:33 AM

sometimes a director will find he is getting a great performance from his talent but that there may be an element of holding back, especialy if the actor lacks confidence. He will then ask for a safety to allow the actor to really "let go".

beyond that, a safety for any difficult camera move/adjustment is always welcome but it does get depressing when people start calling for them on all shots, no matter how banal. One guy kept asking for a backup shot on everything we did on a short film. After a day of this I stated that he could do this but only if he allowed a subtle angle/lens chance on the 2nd shot, effectively giving him a real editing option and the actors a more positive feedback.
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#10 Robert Goodrich

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 10:54 AM

My use of a safety is mostly for variety.

If I get a great take, then I know that the performance is where I need it to be. By requesting an additional take, I benefit from the performance level, but I also get a slight variation. In addition, the talent is more relaxed once they know you have what you need, and can often offer an inspired alternative.

Even if the "inspired" take sucks overall, and is completely off the rails, it might contain priceless moments that add something special to the performance.
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#11 Bob Hayes

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 04:03 PM

I usually ask for a safety if we only have one take. I think it is a good practice. Every once in a while the lab will destroy a shot or that one great shot will have some goofball looking at the camera in the background. If I am really under the gun I may ask myself if I were to loose one angle do I have enough coverage to still tell the scene. When the director says ?That was great can you do it again?? I sometimes imagine the Pope saying to Michael Angelo after he completely the Sistine Chapel ?That?s gorgeous can you do it again??
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#12 Michael Nash

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 04:33 PM

Years ago I shot Robin Leach for a marketing video. At that time I was directing, shooting, and editing enitre programs, so I always wanted at least two takes for timing and nuance in the edit. First setup of the show, Robin looks at the camera and gives his line. Per normal I said, "great, let's go again." He looked me straight in the eye and with his arrogant British drawl said, "what do you want me to do it again for, that was perfect."

Since then I've learned to be a lot more selective, and less routine about takes. In years of shooting video, especially with something as simple as a talking head, you rarely ever encounter a technical problem later that you don't catch in the field. And the ones you can't catch aren't always resolved by another take. I mean if you change nothing on set, a safety is only for a tape dropout.

But with more variables (like focus and movement, not to mention performance), there are more things that can go wrong. I don't feel comfortable with only one take, unless it's an interview where you really can't repeat the authenticity of the response. But otherwise, I try to get some variation with a second "good" take.
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#13 Bob Hayes

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 04:47 PM

I try not to call it a ?Safety? when dealing with a tough move or especially tough focus. I just say we need another to guarantee we?ve got it. I explain that it is an extremely difficult shot and to important to give my skilled team only one shot at it.
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#14 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 16 June 2006 - 06:31 PM

As an operator I sometimes have to remind the director to do a safety. But some directors don't want to hear about a safety take. "Why another ?, I'm only gonna use one only !"

With my students I always ask for a safety take. Sometimes they realize there is a problem only when going to shoot the safety take. I'm talking of a stand that appears in the frame on a tracking shot, for instance...
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