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AC kit - what should it contain?


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#1 Mitch Beaudry

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 09:32 AM

I just got off the phone with a producer who just hired me to work on a short with an established director and DP. I've worked as an AC on shorts before and I know I have the skills to do the work. My only concern is I don't have a "proper" AC kit. Because this is my first time working with an established DP and director though, I want to be prepared for anything. We'll be shooting with the Grass Valley Viper and I'm wondering what should I put into my kit? Should I buy one of the pre-made kits offered online or just make my own?

Any help would be great because I'm really excited about this chance and I really don't want to blow it by coming off amateurish. Thanks in advance!
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 09:57 AM

I just got off the phone with a producer who just hired me to work on a short with an established director and DP. I've worked as an AC on shorts before and I know I have the skills to do the work. My only concern is I don't have a "proper" AC kit. Because this is my first time working with an established DP and director though, I want to be prepared for anything. We'll be shooting with the Grass Valley Viper and I'm wondering what should I put into my kit? Should I buy one of the pre-made kits offered online or just make my own?

Any help would be great because I'm really excited about this chance and I really don't want to blow it by coming off amateurish. Thanks in advance!


Somebody makes premade AC kits? Seriously?

It's been a while since I did that job, but you don't really NEED a whole lot. You should start with Doug Hart's EXCELLENT book about Assisting ( http://www.amazon.co...m...4832&sr=8-1 )

That will tell you what you need to know, but in general, you need a cloth tape (Rabone), a steel tape measure, a white and possibly black stabilo, some chalk, cloth and paper tape, a good flashlight, lens cleaning fluid, lens tissue or microfiber cloth... With the Viper package, you should also have a backfocus chart...

What am I forgetting?
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#3 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 09:59 AM

Its tough getting started as an AC, when much of the money you're going to be earning will be sunk into gadgets & gear to get further AC jobs. Murphy's Law is that whatever tool you need is the one you don't have, which isn't to say buy one of everything (I think I did suggest that on another thread concerning AC kits though), but means that even after years of working, you'll still come up with tools that will help you work better and faster on the next gig.

But I digress. The most important tools to have at hand, and the most basic kit you should walk onto set with will have the following:

-Tape measure (both soft and metal)
-Lens fluid, microfibre cloth and/or tissue
-Air, be it in blower or Dust-Off form (or both...)
-All-purpose rain cover (can be sheets of clear plastic, as long as you have something quick at hand for those productions who insist that it won't rain/locations are clean)
-Color chart/white card/gray scale/focus chart
-Slate (even if you're not clapping, good to have one)
-Camera report (!!!) (On HD shoots, where nothing is being sent to a lab, I ususally make my own w/ production info on it, that I can just photocopy. You can buy books from FilmTools though...)
-Various paper/gaff tape for marking actors & camera positions (this stuff can run up in cost quickly, get what you need but don't go overboard)
-Misc tools: Leatherman or MultiTool, flashlight, pens pens pens, whatever you think will make your job easier

Hmmm, I know I'm forgetting A LOT, but for a short you can probably get away with something like that... Remember to have a good bag to keep your stuff in, something that won't rip open as you're running to catch a train (hey, it happens). I use a belt pouch, but many AC's hate that and keep a ditty bag handy or use a front box when possible.

I spend a lot of time at Home Depot, just browsing and grabbing things that may come in handy (cannot live without bungees and ratchet straps, for instance). You'll quickly figure out what suits you, and what can be adapted for your use.

Good luck, and don't let your lack of a magic hat filled with goodies discourage you. Its the person that does the job, the gear just makes you look cool (kidding. somewhat.)!
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#4 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 11:17 AM

-Tape measure (both soft and metal)
-Lens fluid, microfibre cloth and/or tissue
-Air, be it in blower or Dust-Off form (or both...)
-All-purpose rain cover (can be sheets of clear plastic, as long as you have something quick at hand for those productions who insist that it won't rain/locations are clean)
-Color chart/white card/gray scale/focus chart
-Slate (even if you're not clapping, good to have one)
-Camera report (!!!) (On HD shoots, where nothing is being sent to a lab, I ususally make my own w/ production info on it, that I can just photocopy. You can buy books from FilmTools though...)
-Various paper/gaff tape for marking actors & camera positions (this stuff can run up in cost quickly, get what you need but don't go overboard)
-Misc tools: Leatherman or MultiTool, flashlight, pens pens pens, whatever you think will make your job easier


Can I suggest one of the new laser distance finders is an excellent addition to a kit and relatively inexpensive. Not to replace the other measures but really useful for check distances quickly. And chalk...
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#5 Mitch Beaudry

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 12:31 PM

Thanks guys, that really helps me get an idea of what I'll need.

Wish me luck!
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#6 Rupe Whiteman

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 12:35 PM

... Not forgetting your dof calculator... a few different coloured sausages are useful for marks when you're shooting exteriors (the Panavision shop sells as do Film tools no doubt...). If you don't already know it - make up camera tape/paper tape mini-rolls by winding tape around 16 or 35mm cores - you therefore don't have to carry heavy full rolls and can clip them onto your belt. To make them up put the core on the floor, stick the tape end to the core then simply circle the core tightly with tape roll laying flat on the floor - hey presto. A compass always comes in handy - they are also ones available that will calculate sunrise/sunset times, wherever you are. Watchmakers screwdriver set, allan keys... the list goes on... Most assistants carry a decent flexy-armed french flag too...
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#7 Patrick Lavalley

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 12:36 PM

I also like to keep a tin of altoids in my belt pouch. Freshens the breath and makes it easier on the folks around you. I also like to keep a small piece of blackwrap folded up in my pouch for quick fixing lens flares. Get some nice camel hair brushes for the lens too, the little lip-stick style ones are nice for the pouch, since they have the hard plastic covering to protect them from getting dirty and/or frayed. www.filmtools.com is a great resource for all the little gadgets that you can't find at the hardware store. One other thing, I also usually take along my own stinger/cube tap for plugging in laptops and battery chargers. Hope this helps!
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#8 Davon Slininger

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 01:05 PM

Hey Mitch,
I'll just add a couple things to Rory's excellent list.

I use a short, fat flathead screwdriver all the time for switching and tightening baseplates and changing heads etc. I forget the size of mine but its got a full handle to get a good grip and a short 2" but very fat tip. Fits in my pouch so if we are swapping plates I don't have to hunt for it on the cart.

Also for tape, my tape roll has:
3- 1/2" rolls of color paper - different colors for diff actors
1- 1" cloth tape for general utility, usually white but any bright color works, for marking camera position, labeling filters etc.
1- 2" black paper tape - comes in handy for everything! can set small marks for actors on dark floors if you are seeing the floor, can tape filters to a MB if for some reason they dont fit, can make a lens shade, and many many more.

I find that I can pretty much handle anything with that tape roll.

Good luck!
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#9 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 04:06 PM

The 2" Black also works really well for impromtu Groucho Marx impressions!
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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 April 2007 - 04:51 AM

Some film-specific items that haven't been mentioned yet:
- Changing bag or changing tent (the Harrison ones are good).
- Extra cans, bags, cores (16mm and 35mm) and camera reports (get 'em free from your local lab).
- Orangewood sticks for cleaning the gate.
- 1" white camera tape/1" black camera tape. The black is for wrapping out exposed cans, the white is for wrapping out short ends and recans.

And more general purpose AC stuff:
- Dry erase markers, regular and fine tip for writing on slates. The fine tips are for marking follow focus rings. It's important that they be dry-erase, or the person who owns the slate or follow focus will be very pissed at you!
- Black sharpie for writing on camera tape.
- Ballpoint pen for filling out camera reports.
- Incident light meter. Some DP's are rather forgetful, so keep it calibrated and on standby.
- Extra batteries for light meter, flashlight, etc.
- ASC Manual and the Camera Assistant's Manual.
- Depth of field charts for the lenses and circle of confusion you are using.
- A car to carry all your stuff, or a willing assistant to pick you up/drop you off.:P

(For those of you who have worked on union and larger non-union shows, I would like to know how much of the expendables production pays for, and how much you bring yourself -- I've only worked on smaller stuff, and it kinda scares me how much money I've spent on expendables over the last few years!)

* I forgot to add: 1/4" white paper tape for wrapping around lens barrels and making focus marks on.

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 06 April 2007 - 04:53 AM.

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#11 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 06 April 2007 - 07:40 AM

You bring up a good point, Satsuki, concerning production covering the cost of expendibles. So far my (non-union feature) experience with this has been rather dismal, with productions either declining to put up any money, or discarding my list of supplies and picking up what the UPM decided I needed from various local (and being in Philly, that means a few overpriced) vendors. In the end they spent as much on 1/3 of the gear I needed as I would have on all of it, but nobody thought that the AC would know where to get the cheapest camera supplies from!

That comes off a bit snarky, I'm sure, but I'd love to hear some other AC's experiences with this, both union and non-union.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 April 2007 - 10:56 PM

I recently discovered the amazing usefulness of a little flashlight that can strap to your head. I have a nice LED one. I had to load a bunch of mags (and do associated labeling and paperwork) in a dismally dim room recently and that was a lifesaver. It's also wonderful for threading cameras and loading and unloading things in the dark. I highly recommend spendin that 15 or 20 bucks.
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#13 Davon Slininger

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Posted 07 April 2007 - 01:47 AM

Production almost always pays for expendables on the union commercials I've been on. Sometimes they give a P.O. number during the prep (if you ask nicely), and you can buy your expendables at the rental house and have the rental house add your purchases to the rental P.O.

If you don't get that far on prep day you can usually submit an invoice for your expendables to production with your timecard at wrap. They'll cover most things to an extent but you can't get too crazy with invoices. Usually just bill for the most common things like tape, eyepiece chamois, pens or markers, etc.

In the end it all depends on the production though. If it is a PSA with a Union crew that the Prod.Co. is doing for free, nobody is really billing for anything on that so you just eat it and take your day rate. On bigger shows with bigger clients they are usually pretty accommodating.
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#14 Chris_Burket

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Posted 14 April 2007 - 09:09 PM

If you are taking out a big Viper package that will include a lot of AKS, set of primes perhaps, etc... You will probably need a camera cart of some kind. You can rent one from another AC if you don't have one. The production should pay for this. If you do have one, they should pay you for the rental of course.
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#15 Patrick Lavalley

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 02:06 PM

On the topic of carts- what's everyone's favorite brand/setup? I assume most people use a magliner with two shelves? Does anyone have one of those fold up carts that filmtools sells?

http://www.filmtools...andsosrcac.html

For those of you that travel to shoots, how do you handle all of your gear while in transit if you have to fly to the shoot?

Edited by Patrick Lavalley, 16 April 2007 - 02:07 PM.

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#16 Mitch Beaudry

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 03:56 PM

Well, the shoot was yesterday and was as smooth as butter.

Thanks everyone for your recommendations, especially Rory who's list came in real handy and Brian for recommending Doug Hart's amazing book. I did end up bringing more stuff to the set than I needed, however I was very glad I brought more than needed than less.

Thanks again everyone.
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#17 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 07:26 AM

I'm glad everything worked out well for you! Good luck with future work (and get ready for that kit to get heavier and heavier!).
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#18 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 07:28 AM

(Double Post)

Edited by Rory Hanrahan, 24 April 2007 - 07:29 AM.

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#19 Patrick Lavalley

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 12:15 PM

I also like to keep one or two of those foam kneeling pads in my kit, helps when you have to be on your knees to pull focus or things like that.
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#20 Danny Lachman

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Posted 10 May 2007 - 11:53 AM

I'm just curious - I've always expected the production to pay for everything - is this wrong to think so? So far on all my Indy picture ACing I've never had to pay a dime. but then I've only worked on about 3 features.
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