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help with two camera units


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#1 Shane English

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Posted 24 May 2007 - 06:35 PM

I am about to start up a feature as the key 1st AC and it will be my first with two units. Most of the time the two units will be completely separate, but there will be a handful of days where we are all together working on the same shots. I could use some advice as to how these things are run.

Does 2nd unit list their cameras as "C" and "D" at all times?

Do we have completely different Film inventories?

How much should I know about what they are doing?

And many other questions.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Shane
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#2 David Negrin

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Posted 28 November 2007 - 11:40 PM

Shane-

Lead assisting is not so overwhelming.

It sounds like 2nd unit will be completely autonomous, so,
They should have all their own equipment. ( support, heads, lenses, etc. ) other
than anything specialty needed for those big days when ]they join you ( Crane Plates And so on )
As far as camera designation, HHmmm , A & B on 1st unit, A & B on 2nd unit,
Then when they join 1st unit they are C & D camera's ( at that point they are
not 2nd unit they are 1st unit ) Post should be able to handle it, But , Talk to
the D.P. and see what he wants to do. ( always defer to the higher power in the
chain of command. ) He will either make the call or talk to the editor or script super.
and now the film stock, give them film out of you inventory, all paperwork goes to the
A Camera 2nd or loader, it is 1st unit, at the end of the night collect the balance of stock
from their 2nd. It should all balance out, give them 5000' and they turn in 3 rolls and 2 cans.
does that make sense?

Any other questions post them to me here
Have a good shoot Shane

Dave




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#3 David Negrin

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Posted 28 November 2007 - 11:42 PM

Shane-

Lead assisting is not so overwhelming.

It sounds like 2nd unit will be completely autonomous, so,
They should have all their own equipment. ( support, heads, lenses, etc. ) other
than anything specialty needed for those big days when ]they join you ( Crane Plates And so on )
As far as camera designation, HHmmm , A & B on 1st unit, A & B on 2nd unit,
Then when they join 1st unit they are C & D camera's ( at that point they are
not 2nd unit they are 1st unit ) Post should be able to handle it, But , Talk to
the D.P. and see what he wants to do. ( always defer to the higher power in the
chain of command. ) He will either make the call or talk to the editor or script super.
and now the film stock, give them film out of you inventory, all paperwork goes to the
A Camera 2nd or loader, it is 1st unit, at the end of the night collect the balance of stock
from their 2nd. It should all balance out, give them 5000' and they turn in 3 rolls and 2 cans.
does that make sense?

Any other questions post them to me here
Have a good shoot Shane

Dave




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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 November 2007 - 01:34 AM

I'd keep the 2nd Unit cameras labelled C and D just so that if there's a problem with the footage, it's faster to track down which camera was the problem.
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#5 Ben Rowsell

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 03:46 PM

In my experience, it is common practice to give the 2nd unit a letter abreviation, usually X. So all their scene numbers start with an X (eg setup 34D would be X34D on the slate) and all their camera letters likewise, so XA, XB, etc.

This is an extension of David's observation, but in this case they can operate normal A, B, etc camera letters, but anytime anyone sees an X (telecine report, etc), you know it's 2nd unit.

If they come and join main unit, the cameras can be assigned additional main unit letters as if they had come in as rentals.

As for stock, seperate units usually have seperate budgets & seperate stock inventories. If this is not the case & you need to intergrate the two units, there are many ways to approach it. Talk to your production coordinator and make sure you both approach it in the same way, you want your stock reports to work for what goes into the DPR that production runs.
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#6 Larry Nielsen

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Posted 01 December 2007 - 10:46 PM

As a key 1st ac, you are responsible for the daily running of your department. 2nd Unit is just that, 2nd Unit. They are a totally separate entity, and one you should not even consider trying to run, they will have or should have a 2nd Unit DP, Director, 1st ac's, seconds, and even a loader. They will also have or should have a script supervisor. They will label their slates as 2nd Unit. Their cameras will be A,B,C or what ever letter they choose for all the cameras they have and carry, just as you will. You should never keep track of their inventory, because they are separate, and all you'll do is make your job and the loaders job just that more frustrating and longer. 2nd Units can take care of themselves. They can pull stock from you if needed, but you should never allow them to jeopardize your crew. as far as what do you call their cameras if they join you? well, if you have three cameras on the first unit alone, then you definately would not want to call their's C, and D. Most of the shows I've keyed I've had carried five cameras full time just alone on the first unit, and up to fifteen altogether when stunt work happens, its very easy to keep track of, and I'm sure you're very capable of handling it, and its also not something to concern your DP with, he or she will have enough on their own mind dealing with production, a Director, Gaffer,Grip, Art Director and such than to have to worry about micro managing you also.
If their cameras are going to join you then yes put a "X" in front of the "A" on their camera, but if they use a camera body that belongs to you such as lets say a "B" or a "C" camera, then its still B, and C. Not XB or XC.
As far as putting an x in front of the scene numbers, thats not your call either, thats that of the script supervisor, I have been on second units where we have not put on a letter in front of scene number based on the fact we were shooting a first unit shot, and not an extra shot or scene, some scenes may even have a "R" in front of it for reshoot. Again, that is the call of the script supervisor and not yours.
I hope this info helps you out a little, and I'm sure you'll do just fine. remember, your DP hired you to do the job because they felt you can handle it, you've already won half of the battle, I'm sure you'll do an outstanding job, good luck and good shoot.
Larry
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#7 Matt Kelly

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 12:24 AM

This is interesting, I' haven't worked on anything with more than 2-4 cameras on 1st unit and 1 on 2nd unit. The X in the scene numbers is confusing. I've only used and seen it used for denoting inserts of a given scene, but having nothing to do with denoting another unit adding on.

So let me see if I get this right....A and B cameras are on 1st unit. They're ALWAYS referred to as A and B. There's one camera on 2nd unit, which for their intents and purposes would also be labelled as A. BUT when second unit plays with first unit, it then becomes XC? This seems incredibly difficult to keep track of as far dailies are concerned. Does anyone ever label unit numbers on the slate?

I'm really curious about this because the only way I've seen it done so far is where 2nd unit just assumes a later letter in the alphabet and sticks with it throughout the entire show....but I haven't been working on anything with 15 cameras, so maybe this doesn't fly in that world.

Edited by Matt Kelly, 13 March 2008 - 12:26 AM.

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#8 Zac Halberd

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 07:59 AM

So basically, noone knows what the hell is going on??? Everyone is saying something different.

It might be different in the states, but in the UK, each unit is a completely seperate entitiy alltogether. All cameras in the 1st Unit are labelled from A onwards down the alphabet. All cameras in the 2nd unit are labelled with an 'X' first followed by the letter A, B, C, etc...

If a second unit camera joins the 1st unit, then they still keep their label, as it will help post know which camera fu**ed up the negative if things go wrong mechanically.

From what I've always been told, once you label a camera at the beginning of the shoot, you keep that label on until wrap, unless the 1st unit assimilates a camera from the 2nd unit, then of course you name it whichever letter in the alphabet is next for that unit.

It helps give each camera an identity, thus making it easier to keep track of and indentify if there are problems on set or in post.

I've always understood that each unit is responsible for it's own stock and equipment. I would be reluctant to give another unit my tape or stock, because it would just confuse my loader, and if we fell short on set, then it would be MY responsibility to make it up. If your unit falls short, it ain't my fault. That's why they hired another camera crew. So you don't have to worry about them.

A 1st AC's job is stressful enough with his own camera department, let alone a whole other unit.

I think the KEY 1st AC is more a designation of seniority and experience, more than it is a technical title given to someone who has to keep up with the details of stock and equipment of multiple units. There might be some decisions that the KEY 1st AC has to make on set in order to organise a few things during testing, and organising the kit on the first day and the wrap day, but during filming, you should only have to look after your own unit.

Just my two cents...

Congrats by the way! Hope it goes really well. I'm sure you'll do fine.
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#9 Larry Nielsen

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 11:56 PM

I wouldn't say call it "XC". You can call it "C" "XA", or any letter you want to keep track of the camera, But in the states, yes we do do things a little differently, and heres an example. Lets say I have Three sync cameras on my first unit, three Panaflex Millinium XL's "A,B, and C" cameras, I also carry a 235 so I call that "D" camera, For High Speed work I have a 435 "E" Camera, four SL Cine's In crash housings "F,G,H and J" cameras. Why not "I" well thats another story. We're shooting a chase sequence on a highway before we do a big stunt involving 3 SUV's, a Mercedes, and a shoot out.
Second Unit which is a separate entity has three cameras of their own, all 435's. They have slates that list the cameras as "A,B,and C", but have 2nd UNIT on the slates with the 2nd Unit Director, and Dp's name on it, and they happen to be shooting car chase footage further down the Highway. Some one on the first Unit comes up with the great Idea of calling the 2nd Unit crew up for additional coverage of the big car crash, Ten minutes later a stake bed shows up with three 435's three camera crews and all the support for those cameras, and then later the 2nd Unit camera truck comes rolling up complete with its own dark room and stock. The Plan, Shoot the stunt, break for lunch, move 1st Unit out and let second unit clean up with inserts of the aftermath. What do you do? What do you call their cameras? Do they pull stock from you, or do they still pull from themselves?
I hope that with a little thought you can figure it out. I'm sure that what ever you do it will be the right answer, it has to be, because as the Key 1st, its your decision.

Larry
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#10 Drew Hoffman

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 06:06 AM

I think that ultimately it's a decision for the editor. They're the one's who spend the most time looking at slates. Like MOS slating... I've known some editors who just like the sticks closed... and some who command that exactly two fingers be placed in between the sticks. I'd follow the chain of command and ask the DP if they can do a quick check for you to find out what the preference is. If you don't have that luxury, then perhaps ask the Scriptee or use your best logic. As long as you can very clearly and concisely figure out which roll came from which camera either right off the can or the slate, I think you should be fine.
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