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DP versus AC responsibilities


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#1 Matt Workman

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 08:25 PM

Okay I know the difference obviously but I'm wondering does the line ever get blurry?

- For a super16 shoot would the DP ever be required to load?
- Who physically rolls and cuts the camera, typically? (DP is operator)
- Should the DP check up on the camera log and make sure the film is getting labeled correctly and sent out to the lab? Or is this only the first's job.
- Who should change the shutter, frames per second, etc.

- If the AC doesn't know how to fix a problem on the camera, does the DP ever have to try to fix it?

I realize for each gig it is different, but in general on a FILM shoot how much should the DP deal with the camera?
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#2 Tshaka

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 08:39 PM

Okay I know the difference obviously but I'm wondering does the line ever get blurry?

- For a super16 shoot would the DP ever be required to load?
- Who physically rolls and cuts the camera, typically? (DP is operator)
- Should the DP check up on the camera log and make sure the film is getting labeled correctly and sent out to the lab? Or is this only the first's job.
- Who should change the shutter, frames per second, etc.

- If the AC doesn't know how to fix a problem on the camera, does the DP ever have to try to fix it?

I realize for each gig it is different, but in general on a FILM shoot how much should the DP deal with the camera?


Umm...

The Camera Assistant does all of those things.

I guess if the DoP wants to start and stop the camera then we should let him...even if he's not operating.

...

Tshaka
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 10:21 PM

Okay I know the difference obviously but I'm wondering does the line ever get blurry?

It could, but it depends on how experienced the DP is with AC duties and his personality (ie, ego). The scenario you appear to be setting up is a two-man camera crew: DP/Operator + AC. Ideally, the DP will pitch in to help build the camera and move the stuff around, if for nothing else, than to keep the day moving so everyone can go home at a reasonable hour. But some DPs who come from the "Hollywood" protocol see that position as being their release from AC duties no matter what the situation.

- For a super16 shoot would the DP ever be required to load?

Again, this question seems to have less to do with the film format (super 16) than the two-man crew scenario. If you're on that kind of shoot, I would hope that the DP would pitch in if it ever became necessary. Granted, he has lighting to do, so if the downloading/refilling mags process ever got that backed up, the AC would HAVE to run off to take care of it during a lighting setup. In that case, the "DP" should let the AC go load while he takes care of setting the camera up for the next shot.


- Who physically rolls and cuts the camera, typically? (DP is operator)

Whoever is Operating tends to like to cut the camera for some reason no matter what type of camera is being used. That's something to work out between yourselves.

-- Should the DP check up on the camera log and make sure the film is getting labeled correctly and sent out to the lab? Or is this only the first's job.

It depends on the relationship with the AC. If the DP has worked with the AC before and trusts him implicitly, then there should be no reason to look over his shoulder. On the other hand, if there is a screw-up at the lab because something was mis-labeled, the Producer and Director won't really give a flying F if the DP trusted the AC. Ultimately the DP is responsible so he shouldn't feel like he can't double-check everything for accuracy.

-- Who should change the shutter, frames per second, etc.

It's better if just one person is in charge of pushing those buttons. It's the same concept as one person being in charge of actually putting a filter in the matte box and sticking a label on the side. The DP should tell the AC what needs to be done and then allow the AC to actually do it. If the lone-AC has to run off to deal with film and the DP makes a change on the camera, he should tell the AC about each change right away.

- If the AC doesn't know how to fix a problem on the camera, does the DP ever have to try to fix it?

Ideally, the DP SHOULD know at least as much about the equipment as the AC does, but that isn't always the case for one reason or another. The AC is really the hired field technician, so if he can't "fix" a problem on set, then the camera should probably be returned for service anyway. If the DP can do it, then what the hell, but it shouldn't really be expected because many DPs didn't come through the ranks of being an AC.


-I realize for each gig it is different, but in general on a FILM shoot how much should the DP deal with the camera?

That reminds me of an old joke I heard from a fellow Videographer: How many people DOES it take to run a Panaflex anyway? :P The question really depends on the shoot itself and how many people are in the department. If the department is fully staffed (Loader, 2nd, First, Operator, DP) then the DP should never have to actually do anything with the camera beyond look through the eyepiece to line up a shot. All technical duties fall to the guys who were hired to do them. But if the staff gets cut significantly, as in your above example, then the shoot is likely more run-&-gun to begin with, necessitating higher levels of cooperation between the DP and lone-AC....you'd hope.

Edited by bjdzyak, 11 August 2006 - 10:25 PM.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 10:33 PM

Yes, it's a crew size issue. If the DP is a one-man band, then he's going to have to do everything, but he would probably also keep everything extremely simple just to be able to handle the work. As for loading a mag, if he's the only there, who else is going to do it? It's just not a particularly efficient use of time to stop production cold so that the DP can load and unload mags.

If there is only the DP and an AC, then they will have to split up a lot of the work. More than likely the AC would do the mag loading though, but it just depends on who has to time, same for the paperwork.

When I was doing student films in 16mm, some were so small that it was me doing all the camera stuff from operating to loading, and the director doing all the sound work, and the two of us doing the grip & electric work. I shot a 20 minute short film that way in 16mm, just me, the director, and the actors. But like I said, there is a lot of time lost on a set waiting me to reload mags, etc. and then do the lighting, etc.

Once I started shooting in 35mm, I always had two AC's on the crew, so I've never had to learn to thread a 35mm camera. I suppose I could go over to Panavision and learn, but considering it hasn't been necessary in thirty features, I probably don't need to start loading and threading cameras now.

However, on some of my HD features, I have gone out on my own as a one-man 2nd unit crew (well, me and the director, so a two-man band.)
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 03:53 AM

Hi,

One of the problems of a DP owning older slightly weird equipment ( Ultracams + Mitchells) is that I can load the mags and lace the camera in about half the time of my Arri trained local assistants! So if time is tight I may well take over.

Stephen
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#6 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 05:57 AM

When I shoot on a normally crewed production, this is often how it works.

I operate. Sometimes I relinquish this to my AC if it's a static or easy shot up in some ladderpod and I'm bettter needed down with the director/monitor. I'm not too fond of heights, so I try to avoid operating in cherry pickers and such:-)

My AC turns the camera on and off. He's in complete charge of the technical stuff and all the buttons and I inform him about changes I want made etc.

I set the F-stop on the lens. I inform the AC about it and make sure we both keep an eye on it - it's easy to forget when you shoot with primes and change lenses all the time. I also keep a close eye on the filters in the mattebox, for the same reason.

I never check the lab reports or any of the labelling or loading, really. I trust them completely with all this.

Naturally, I do sometimes load the camera if I have to, although it was a long time ago I did it on a 'real' production now. I did some tests at Arri Media in London recently and then I had to load the 435 mag. I managed, but it took a little longer fiddling in the dark than it used to when I was a clapper/loader:-)
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#7 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 05:58 AM

Whoever is Operating tends to like to cut the camera for some reason no matter what type of camera is being used.

For me the exact opposite is true. I like the A.C. to always roll and cut the camera. With steadicam it's a necessity, but it carries over into conventional operating as well. Many times framing is very precise and the last thing I want to be doing just before a shot is reaching around to flip the run switch. And many times at the end of the shot I want to haul butt over to the DP or Director and discuss the take we just did, and it makes it easier for me if the A.C. is cutting the camera.
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#8 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 06:01 AM

Shooting 2nd unit or on a documentary, I'd sometimes load on Super 16. It just depends on on the production and the material being shot.

35mm tends to always have at least one assistant. It's not unusual to shoot video without an assistant, although it's much better to have one on dramas or other productions which demand more precise work.
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#9 David Sweetman

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 07:21 AM

I guess the question's been fairly thoroughly answered, but "The Camera Assistant's Manual" gives a very helpful and detailed explanation of each job in the camera department on a typical film shoot.
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