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#1 Shaun Kendall

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 02:47 PM

I've loaded on several shoots, but there are still things I've run into that I can't seem to find the answers to. I've read the The Camera Assistant's Manual, Fourth Edition by David E. Elkins, but his information on loading is pretty small. It's not the actual loading that's the problem. I know Arri and Panavision mags pretty well, and I know I could learn to load any mag out there. The problem comes in the paperwork and other small details, like mag labels, etc.

Are there any really good books out there that go in-depth about loading, specifically? I'd like to find one that goes into specific problems or situations you may encounter on a shoot. For example, I was asked to load on a low-budget shoot where they were using only short ends they had purchased at a reduced price. Even though they say the film was "lab tested" I don't want to be blamed if there's something wrong with one of the rolls. Even though everything came out fine on that shoot, I'd still like to know how I should handle that situation.

Another thing is ways to reduce the amount of recans you have at the end of a shoot. I like to have back-up mags ready, but on a couple of shoots I've been on I wasn't informed when we were getting close to the last shot and I had to recan several mags.

Little issues like these are what I'd like to learn more about, so any source of information would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 03:04 PM

I've loaded on several shoots, but there are still things I've run into that I can't seem to find the answers to. I've read the The Camera Assistant's Manual, Fourth Edition by David E. Elkins, but his information on loading is pretty small. It's not the actual loading that's the problem. I know Arri and Panavision mags pretty well, and I know I could learn to load any mag out there. The problem comes in the paperwork and other small details, like mag labels, etc.

Are there any really good books out there that go in-depth about loading, specifically? I'd like to find one that goes into specific problems or situations you may encounter on a shoot. For example, I was asked to load on a low-budget shoot where they were using only short ends they had purchased at a reduced price. Even though they say the film was "lab tested" I don't want to be blamed if there's something wrong with one of the rolls. Even though everything came out fine on that shoot, I'd still like to know how I should handle that situation.

Another thing is ways to reduce the amount of recans you have at the end of a shoot. I like to have back-up mags ready, but on a couple of shoots I've been on I wasn't informed when we were getting close to the last shot and I had to recan several mags.

Little issues like these are what I'd like to learn more about, so any source of information would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.


Shaun, contact me with your email address and I can send you some information that may help. :)

Edited by Brian Dzyak, 28 March 2007 - 03:04 PM.

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#3 Jon Kukla

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 10:57 PM

First of all, a great book to move onto once you've finished with Elkin's is Douglas Hart's The Camera Assistant: A Complete Professional Handbook. It does answer many of these questions, at least in some detail.

With short ends, if there is something already wrong with the stock, there's very little you can do, to be quite honest. For paranoia's sake, you can always tape up the mag edges, even if it's new equipment. However, errors resulting from equipment or loading are usually very particular and can be caught out on the rushes. Bad short ends tend to exhibit the normal characteristics of stale film, which are more general things like decreased responsivity and higher grain. The nightmare situation, I suppose, would be if the original loader for that roll had somehow fogged the roll, but on the other hand, I would imagine that a lab test would likely catch that one out... Honestly, it's not something worth sweating out - you didn't make the call to buy the short ends.

On recans, it's often a tough call. It's always worth trying to assess the situation, because sometimes it is obvious and being on top of the situation on your own always looks good. BUT, if there is significant doubt, definitely ask first, at least to cover your ass.

I was working on a music video once where we had three different stocks (50D, 250D, and 500T), but we were also shooting at 2 fps, so there was a lot of time before I had to worry about reloading. We started on the 50D, and when there was about 75 ft left, I asked if I should load another and did. Then as it got darker outside, the DP asked me to have the 250D standing by. As the light was falling, we still had the stop for 50D. Suddenly dinner was called, and next thing I know, we're going to be moving onto the 500T afterwards. So I loaded that up, and as it progressed, it turned out that one of the mags we were shooting only *JUST* had enough footage left for the last three slates if there were no second takes. So I quickly dashed to load another 500T, because I didn't want anyone waiting for another mag to be loaded at 10 PM just at the end of the shoot.

Next thing I know the runner comes up to me as I'm finishing the loading and says that they've wrapped. I think we wound up shooting four rolls, and then recanning one of each of the stocks! I wasn't happy about the way that looked, but on the other hand, I don't see how I could've done otherwise. Sometimes it just happens, especially if you work on anything involving lots of high speed (or in this case, low speed) work! Having less stocks to juggle obviously makes it easier, too.

Edited by Jon Kukla, 28 March 2007 - 11:00 PM.

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#4 Shaun Kendall

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Posted 29 March 2007 - 10:30 AM

Thanks for that info. I've been wondering about inventory sheets. The inventory sheets I have lend themselves very well to figuring out the numbers, but at the very bottom there is a section on how many full rolls you have left at the end of the day.

This doesn't really work if we're using both 1000 and 400 ft. rolls, because let's say we have 4, 1000 ft rolls and 10, 400 ft. rolls left. That would be 8000 feet total, but I wouldn't be able to indicate how much of that was 1000 ft rolls and how much was 400 ft rolls. On the last shoot I was on I simply filled out a separate inventory sheet for each stock and each roll size (even though there isn't any place on the inventory sheet to indicate the roll size, I just wrote it in next to the film type). We were only using two different stocks, but I ended up with 4 inventory sheets each day.

Is there a better way to do this? Are there some inventory sheets out there that separate the roll sizes, or should I just try to create one myself? I know some loaders use either a laptop or PDA and print out the inventory at the end of the day, but I can't afford that right at the moment.

Thanks for the help.
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#5 james smyth

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Posted 29 March 2007 - 12:55 PM

Is there something about a recan that complicates things? I work at an advertising agency and we just finished a six day high-speed shoot and finished with over a dozen recans left in varying stocks. It can be frustrating to load magazines that don't get used, but it's best to have loaded mags and not need them than to need them and not have them.
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#6 Shaun Kendall

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Posted 29 March 2007 - 03:41 PM

Is there something about a recan that complicates things? I work at an advertising agency and we just finished a six day high-speed shoot and finished with over a dozen recans left in varying stocks. It can be frustrating to load magazines that don't get used, but it's best to have loaded mags and not need them than to need them and not have them.



Well, it's best to have as few recans as possible because the production company can sell back unopened cans at a much higher rate than recans. The same goes for short ends.
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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 08 April 2007 - 01:27 AM

Of course, recans go for a lot more than ends. The resale places often sell them for at least 80% of the price of fresh film.
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#8 Evan Pierre

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Posted 26 April 2007 - 01:02 AM

I know Arri and Panavision mags pretty well, and I know I could learn to load any mag out there. The problem comes in the paperwork and other small details, like mag labels, etc.


I feel EXACTLY how you feel Shaun. :]

About two weeks ago I worked on my first real 16mm film shoot, Im a freshman in high school and this was our big spring production. I ended up being on the camera team and happily became our film loader for the duration of the shoot. Man, when I first started out i thought the hardest thing about Film Loading would be the physical loading/downloading of the mags. I was so wrong :]

The hardest for me was keeping everything organised and in check while being under loads of pressure and having a schedule to meet. I was amazed at how quickly I could lose track of things, especially when there was an error with some labeling and we almost accidentally pushed a whole roll two stops. I swear you could have cut the tension with a knife ;)

By the end though I learned so much about what it takes to really do this job and keep things rolling smoothly. Not just the ability to effectively work with the cans/mags/etc, but also to keep all of your film in check and know where everything is at all times. I feel now that next time I have the opportunity to do this awesome job I will excell greatly and really be on the ball with my loading. :)

-Evan
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#9 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 26 April 2007 - 02:56 AM

The film inventory sheets are to be done by the 2nd AC. As a loader, just ask the 2nd if you have any questions. If he doesn't know, he'll ask the 1st.

Loading to be quite honest is not a very hard job. It requires a ton of focus to do it well, and a good loader is hard to come by, but working smart really makes the job pretty easy. The 2nd is the one who really has their work cut out for them.

One thing you can do to help yourself is come in extra early and stay late getting some of your paperwork in order for the next day.

For instance, a big killer of time in a sweaty dark room can be taping the mag and getting the label prepared. In the morning (or night), just precut a bunch of strips of tape for the right length to go around the mag and stick them on the wall of the darkroom (or table that your tent is on).

Make printed labels (or pre write) the tag that goes with the mag with as much info as you can. The stock, show title, date, and footage are all things you will know ahead of time. Just leave M: & R: blank.

Make sure the 2nd (and you can also) has ordered pre-printed camera reports. If you don't have them, fill them out ahead of time.

All these little things add up to quicker mag turn arounds.

With regard to not cracking open too much film, look at the call sheet, if you know that one of the last shots on the shooting schedule is up on the slate, take that as a cue to quietly ask the 2nd if you should keep more mags hot than you already have.

Kevin Zanit
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#10 Davon Slininger

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Posted 26 April 2007 - 03:07 PM

The film inventory sheets are to be done by the 2nd AC. As a loader, just ask the 2nd if you have any questions. If he doesn't know, he'll ask the 1st.

Loading to be quite honest is not a very hard job. It requires a ton of focus to do it well, and a good loader is hard to come by, but working smart really makes the job pretty easy. The 2nd is the one who really has their work cut out for them.

One thing you can do to help yourself is come in extra early and stay late getting some of your paperwork in order for the next day.

For instance, a big killer of time in a sweaty dark room can be taping the mag and getting the label prepared. In the morning (or night), just precut a bunch of strips of tape for the right length to go around the mag and stick them on the wall of the darkroom (or table that your tent is on).

Make printed labels (or pre write) the tag that goes with the mag with as much info as you can. The stock, show title, date, and footage are all things you will know ahead of time. Just leave M: & R: blank.

Make sure the 2nd (and you can also) has ordered pre-printed camera reports. If you don't have them, fill them out ahead of time.

All these little things add up to quicker mag turn arounds.

With regard to not cracking open too much film, look at the call sheet, if you know that one of the last shots on the shooting schedule is up on the slate, take that as a cue to quietly ask the 2nd if you should keep more mags hot than you already have.

Kevin Zanit



I beg to differ on a few things with you Kevin. Loading is often not an easy job. All of the AC positions have their respective challenges and loading is no exception.

I just finished a 4 day car commercial shot entirely on location. We had two full units and four cameras working at a time. 2 picture vehicles with car mounts and follow vehicles with mounts as well. As the loader on this job I had to make sure that there was a magazine ready on every camera at all times as well as a backup mag in each car, 2 if possible for all of these cameras in case they needed to reload remotely. Frame rates would often change as well from 40 to 60fps. Since it was all 400' loads to lighten the weight of the mounts it meant we were reloading a lot.

The challenge was keeping all my ducks in a row. I had to check the footage on every camera every time it came back to basecamp. I had to check to see if they reloaded remotely and used one of the backup mags on the road. If any one of them had, I had to down that mag and get a fresh one back in there before they took off again.

Add to that that it was an overcast day and we were switching from 5201 50D to 5205 250D, which meant I had to have 2 stocks ready, but play it careful too so that I didn't crack too many cans open and have a ton of recans at the end of the day. Having sunset shots also meant that I had to have our third stock, some 500T ready too, which we used on only 2 days. The other 2 days they were able to get the shots with the 250D

Add to that that a few times they decided to take one car out further on the road for running shots and wanted me to set up mobile in the follow vehicle. In very little time I had to prepare a mobile kit, changing bag, extra film and mags and hop in the follow vehicle, but also had to make sure the second unit had plenty of magazines and film stock because I had no idea when I would see them again. The magazines add up quikly. Upon returning from working mobile, second unit had shot 4 to 5 rolls and I'd have to download them all get them fresh ones asap.

There was never one second where I wasn't counting, checking, reloading, balancing inventory, checking with the AD for upcoming shots, updating the DP with film totals, and keeping the 1AC informed on what film we had left. My lunch hour was spent balancing the inventory, doing timecards and mileage reports for the crew and finishing the camera reports that were often absent due to the pace at which we were shooting.

As a loader I am solely responsible for the inventory of the film. It is not the 2AC that manages that. I come in early, count, and keep everybody informed on whats been shot. While keeping the crew informed on totals it is also my responsibilty to keep the producer informed so that production knows where we stand and can be prepared to send someone for more film if we need it asap.

I do agree with Kevin on the prep work. Prep work is a lifesaver if you can get in and set stuff up early. I always try and arrive a half hour early and get in to the darkroom and sort things out. I try to label all the rawstock so that all I have to do is pull that label and slap it on the mag when I load it. I also cut a bunch of strips of tape for safetys that I can just grab and slap on the mag latches and around the edges. I fill in as much info on the camera reports as possible before I give them to the 2nd because often they come back blank or with minimal notes.

At the end of the day it often takes a bit of time to close out all your paperwork at wrap. If you are behind and have to catch up on a lot you'll be keeping production from being able to go home. There is nothing like a cranky Production Manager and PA breathing down your neck waiting to take the film delivery while you are frantically trying to balance your inventory and write the Lab order.

On the flip side though, I have been on dialogue heavy shoots where we shot 5000' a day and all 1000' loads. Thats when the crossword puzzles and sudoku get passed around set!
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#11 Hunter Sandison

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Posted 26 April 2007 - 06:01 PM

Thanks for that info. I've been wondering about inventory sheets. The inventory sheets I have lend themselves very well to figuring out the numbers, but at the very bottom there is a section on how many full rolls you have left at the end of the day.

This doesn't really work if we're using both 1000 and 400 ft. rolls, because let's say we have 4, 1000 ft rolls and 10, 400 ft. rolls left. That would be 8000 feet total, but I wouldn't be able to indicate how much of that was 1000 ft rolls and how much was 400 ft rolls. On the last shoot I was on I simply filled out a separate inventory sheet for each stock and each roll size (even though there isn't any place on the inventory sheet to indicate the roll size, I just wrote it in next to the film type). We were only using two different stocks, but I ended up with 4 inventory sheets each day.

Is there a better way to do this? Are there some inventory sheets out there that separate the roll sizes, or should I just try to create one myself? I know some loaders use either a laptop or PDA and print out the inventory at the end of the day, but I can't afford that right at the moment.

Thanks for the help.



Hi Shaun,
The "full load" section of the inventory sheet should be filled out with a footage count not a roll count. If you get a nice round number (divisable by 1000', 400' or a combination of the two) do a quick hard count to confirm the number reflects the reality. Don't forget to count the hot mags loaded for the next day. Next add the "full roll" footage count to the "short end" footage count. The number you get should be the same as the "total raw stock" count (this is sometimes called "total film on hand", every stock should have a seperate inventory). Now you add that number to the "total film shot" or "total film expended" count and the sum should equal the "total film purchased" count. If you're square here its time to go home. I hope this helps.
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#12 Larry Nielsen

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Posted 26 April 2007 - 11:25 PM

Lets see if I can shed some light on a few things. When I did my first show as a 2nd AC, I had no loader, and no knowledge what so ever as to what I was doing! I did have a great 1st AC, and a DP who were great teachers. "The Proffessional Cameramans Handbook" by Carlson & Carlson, became my bible of sorts. It taught me how to organize my dark room, do camera reports, mag tags, and load magazines for several different camera's. I recomend this book still to this day. I had Three Panaflex 1000' mags, three 400', three film stocks, and blisters galore on my fingers. I just loved those film stocks from the late 80's. I paid particle attention to what the scenes were to be, Day/Int, Nite/Int, Day/Ext, and Nite/Int. and so on, from that I could start anticipating what film Stock the DP was going to shoot for what scenes, and made sure I had two 1000' footers with the stock we were shooting, 1 loaded with the next stock in case we had to change over, and one of the 400's loaded with the stock we were shooting as a back up in case the 1st popped a perf on the reload. Lets just say I got real quick at loading.

The IA Agreement States That the 2nd AC is responsible for marks, photographic logs, camera reports, slates, and reloading all magazines. It later states that the Loader is responsible for reports of film as it is checked in and checked out, load all magazines. I think the IA needs to update these requirements. Yes the loader does the inventory, if you're a loader, I believe you have the right to tell the second, he or she has to do the inventory, and I believe that 2nd AC may not hire you for the next job. I know I wouldn't..lol
I hope this helps,

Larry
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#13 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 27 April 2007 - 02:13 PM

In my experience, the 2nd AC is responsible for the end of day, final film inventory. It is his job to make sure gear that is coming in for a day is received and sent back, staying on top of everyone's time cards, and keeping production updated with the final film inventories (i.e. how much have we shot today, how much was good, N.G., waste, how much is remaining, etc.).

I said this "Loading to be quite honest is not a very hard job. It requires a ton of focus to do it well, and a good loader is hard to come by, but working smart really makes the job pretty easy"

I never said it wasn't a lot of work, though I did say that generally the 2nd has more work to do. Essentially, what I am saying is that if you do the prep work and think smart, the work of loading is not difficult, but it can be a lot of work.

I spent a lot of time as a 2nd/ loader or just loader so I am not just talking out of my ass as to what I perceive the job is, I've done the job also.

Now your car commercial sounds like a total ass kicking, and you are really pointing out an extreme case. If you were able to stay on top of that without keeping them ever waiting for a hot mag, you did a really good job.

I remember being on a Cadillac commercial that was doing tons of 100fps on 400' mags. The loader was pretty new, and the camera department was made up of some very major camera assistants. I remember them having to wait for mags, and hearing the 2nd sort of announce on walkie that he was going to go help load mags so the loader will have a job at the end of today. I glanced in the camera truck and saw this poor, sweaty guy trying to keep up. It can be an extremely stressful job.

Kevin Zanit
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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 27 April 2007 - 03:07 PM

It definately can be rough. I was in that "poor, sweaty guy's" position on a music video. They shot a lot of stuff at 120 FPS and only had short ends so the best i could do was give them ~220' short ends which equated to one take per mag. That sucked for a while, I was 2nd and the first just had to do without my help for a bit. I must admit I was pretty proud I never made them wait on a mag in that situation.
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#15 Luc Allein

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 06:55 PM

Let's hear some good "loader f-up stories". I just had my second day of loading EVER this Sunday. My first day ever was a week earlier, it was a low budget rap video shot mostly on Arri 400ft mags. There were barely any camera reports, no slating, the entire crew was about 10 people. We didnt even have craft services, for Christ's sake. They just took it in and developed everything. But no film got flashed, so that was good. I felt like I had a good foot in the door.

Because I have bizarre connections in the film industry, I vascillate between no budget productions to 7 figure budgets in a matter of days.

A week later, this Sunday, I found my first official union day of loading already. It was on a $12 million dollar Volkswagon commercial. 3 city blocks closed off. A very well established and moderately famous cinematographer. 2 cameras, cranes, picture cars, the whole 9. Needless to say I was freaking out.

Long story short, I did kind of ok, except one thing. I thought the 1st had said "Push one stop" on two rolls, when he had indeed seed PULL one stop. Woops. Luckily the lab caught it, but the DP got wind of my gaffe. I straightened it all out (he's a helluva nice guy, luckily) but needless to say...Im not loading on it this weekend. There goes a thousand bucks and two more union days.

Guess that's how you learn though. I shan't be doing that again.

Edited by Luc Allein, 23 May 2007 - 06:57 PM.

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#16 Chris Keth

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 02:43 PM

Let's hear some good "loader f-up stories". I just had my second day of loading EVER this Sunday. My first day ever was a week earlier, it was a low budget rap video shot mostly on Arri 400ft mags. There were barely any camera reports, no slating, the entire crew was about 10 people. We didnt even have craft services, for Christ's sake. They just took it in and developed everything. But no film got flashed, so that was good. I felt like I had a good foot in the door.

Because I have bizarre connections in the film industry, I vascillate between no budget productions to 7 figure budgets in a matter of days.

A week later, this Sunday, I found my first official union day of loading already. It was on a $12 million dollar Volkswagon commercial. 3 city blocks closed off. A very well established and moderately famous cinematographer. 2 cameras, cranes, picture cars, the whole 9. Needless to say I was freaking out.

Long story short, I did kind of ok, except one thing. I thought the 1st had said "Push one stop" on two rolls, when he had indeed seed PULL one stop. Woops. Luckily the lab caught it, but the DP got wind of my gaffe. I straightened it all out (he's a helluva nice guy, luckily) but needless to say...Im not loading on it this weekend. There goes a thousand bucks and two more union days.

Guess that's how you learn though. I shan't be doing that again.


That is why you should adopt the good assistants' habit of repeating instructions back to the person who gave them.
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#17 Shawn Booth

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Posted 26 May 2007 - 05:49 AM

I work as a 2nd, but like most 2nd's I also load or pull double duty and do both. Film inventory has always been the loader's responsibility to keep track of in my experience (3 years).

Good loading story: Feature shoot, 2 cameras, one is on steadicam. We only have 3 steadi mags, the truck is parked around a corner from the building serving as our location. The set is on the 5th floor. Every two takes the camera reloads. I had to run mags up/down the five flights of stairs nonstop after flipping them.

As far as holding up production at the end of the night; I have taken the paperwork home and finished it there.

Loading can be zen-like or chaos, either way working in the camera dept is always a blast.
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#18 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 27 May 2007 - 03:59 AM

Good loading story: Feature shoot, 2 cameras, one is on steadicam. We only have 3 steadi mags, the truck is parked around a corner from the building serving as our location. The set is on the 5th floor. Every two takes the camera reloads. I had to run mags up/down the five flights of stairs nonstop after flipping them.

Why couldn't you set up a table upstairs with a changing tent and supplies? Or did you just want the exercise? ;)
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#19 Gregor Grieshaber

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Posted 27 May 2007 - 12:57 PM

I work as a 2nd, but like most 2nd's I also load or pull double duty and do both. Film inventory has always been the loader's responsibility to keep track of in my experience (3 years).

Good loading story: Feature shoot, 2 cameras, one is on steadicam. We only have 3 steadi mags, the truck is parked around a corner from the building serving as our location. The set is on the 5th floor. Every two takes the camera reloads. I had to run mags up/down the five flights of stairs nonstop after flipping them.

As far as holding up production at the end of the night; I have taken the paperwork home and finished it there.

Loading can be zen-like or chaos, either way working in the camera dept is always a blast.


in this case i always try to get a small safe corner on the location and take a changing tent and all the stuff i need with me. in your case it would have safed you a lot of time. in germany we don´t have darkrooms in our trucks anyway. so i´m used to work with a tent.
i recently had a commercial shoot on location with two lts with 400 mags. they said the second lt is just for one shot. so there was only the 1st ac and me. we ended up shooting 18 houres with two cameras. if i had to run down all the time for reloading it would have been impossible...
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#20 Chris Keth

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Posted 27 May 2007 - 03:09 PM

Why couldn't you set up a table upstairs with a changing tent and supplies? Or did you just want the exercise? ;)


Now that is just too logical :P What's goin' on, Satsuke?
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