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Star or "UP" on the slate?


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#1 Matt Kelly

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 01:33 AM

I worked with a 1st AC earlier this year on a feature who would often ask her 2nd to write either a star, or the letters "U.P." (for Under Protest) on the slate to indicate that she had not been allowed to receive a proper rehearsal for focus marks.  Could make some sense if this was a standard practice, but I'd never heard of it, nor met anyone else who has.  Just curious...have you guys?

Edited by Matt Kelly, 15 December 2007 - 01:33 AM.

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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 01:49 AM

That's hilarious. Sounds like the AC has devised a way of covering her own ass if she buzzes the focus.

On most shoots, the DP, Operator, yourself and the 2nd AC will all know whether you've had time to set your marks and get your measurements. So it's probably unnecessary to do what she does. Besides, it's not as if the Producers or Director are going to see that slate and know what it means anyway.

Any focus issues that happen during a take should be written on the camera report, regardless. And she should know whether another take is necessary due to focus issues. So I'm now completely missing the point of her U.P/Star system.
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#3 Matt Kelly

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 02:04 AM

Well it's definitely a funny situation because of the kind of show it was...loooow budget LLP. B-camera's job was to sit around grabbing the occasional insert in between crafty visits, and then without much warning at all, be thrust into a situation as a last minute 2nd angle for a scene that was already well rehearsed for eeryone else. If B-cam couldn't get it together in time, the AD would just tell them nevermind and continue shooting without the 2nd angle. (which is how it should be.. i hate multiple cameras. lol :P) Rehearsals were always stupidly rushed and while she was probably too timid (and new) to really speak up about needing marks, she seemed to have this "star system" that she knew about people using.

*shrug* I just wanted to know where this idea came from. heh
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 02:08 AM

Not that I have a vast knowledge of AC's systems but I've never heard of that before. Besides, it's part of her job to make sure she gets the time to do her job properly. We're all rushed at times but that's no excuse to not get a good take of a shot. Nobody was ever behind schedule enough to say "Screw it. We'll go with the out of focus take."

Edited by Chris Keth, 15 December 2007 - 02:11 AM.

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#5 Matt Kelly

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 02:37 AM

Yeah but you know that if you dont NG that take on the report, the editor WILL USE IT because it had the better performance. lol
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#6 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 02:47 AM

We're all rushed at times but that's no excuse to not get a good take of a shot. Nobody was ever behind schedule enough to say "Screw it. We'll go with the out of focus take."

I agree with Chris in principle, but sometimes there really is no time for marks. Jonathan and I pulled focus as B and A cam 1st ACs on a dusk for night scene a couple of weeks ago, and in that circumstance where we were rapidly losing the light and needed to get a crazy amount of handheld long lens coverage without rehearsals, marks, or even slates, we just had to wing it and hope some of it was sharp. I'd say though if you have time to write "Under Protest" on the slate, the you probably have time to run out the hard tape once or twice.
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#7 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 03:11 AM

I agree with Chris in principle, but sometimes there really is no time for marks. Jonathan and I pulled focus as B and A cam 1st ACs on a dusk for night scene a couple of weeks ago, and in that circumstance where we were rapidly losing the light and needed to get a crazy amount of handheld long lens coverage without rehearsals, marks, or even slates, we just had to wing it and hope some of it was sharp. I'd say though if you have time to write "Under Protest" on the slate, the you probably have time to run out the hard tape once or twice.


I just think it's a pointless system. Either the shots are i focus or you've alerted the DP to the situation and someone else can decide whether to go on or stick with it until you get a good one.
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#8 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 03:43 AM

I have heard of it before, but never on the slate. On the camera report it is noted if the DP is not happy with the situation prior to rolling. That said, this would be an extremely rare thing, and an indicator that there are some serious problems on the set.
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#9 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 04:07 AM

...Jonathan and I pulled focus as B and A cam 1st ACs on a dusk for night scene a couple of weeks ago, and in that circumstance where we were rapidly losing the light and needed to get a crazy amount of handheld long lens coverage without rehearsals, marks, or even slates, we just had to wing it and hope some of it was sharp.


I'm really curious to see how that shoot came out. I guess the big issue with it is that it doesn't match the rest of the film at all. Still, some of it is AC reel worthy for me if it looked good ;)
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#10 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 06:05 AM

I worked with a 1st AC earlier this year on a feature who would often ask her 2nd to write either a star, or the letters "U.P." (for Under Protest) on the slate to indicate that she had not been allowed to receive a proper rehearsal for focus marks.  Could make some sense if this was a standard practice, but I'd never heard of it, nor met anyone else who has.  Just curious...have you guys?



Sounds like a plain bad idea. People hire you to get something done. They want results. I can see wanting to let
people know if your hands were tied in an untenable situation but if you use that gag more than once, even if
you really did get mistreated both times, people, perhaps unfairly, are going to be leery of you.

If a director insists on you pumping more blue light into a scene, and you say yeah but it's going to look twice as blue
on film, and he says do it anyway, and then he's mad later that it's so blue, are you going to write a letter to the
editor of the local paper? I know good actors who are frustrated because incompetent directors insist on them doing
things in a way that ultimately plays as badly as the actors knew that it would.

You've got to do your best to establish a reputation so that when people hear or see something, they won't accept
automatically that you did some insane thing, because they'll know you better.
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#11 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 01:54 PM

Writing "UP" on the slate is downright juvenile. I've done entire films where there wasn't enough time for blocking, marks etc? You need to develop the skills to work through this, not just throw up your arms in disgust and say, "Well, I'll do it -- but boy will it SUCK!"

What's next? Maybe we should start putting emoticon stickers on the slate as well:

EDITOR 1: Hmm, I like take 3, but it goes a bit soft?
EDITOR 2: Oh, look at the slate :o , the AC was feeling contemplative and gassy that day.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 07:16 PM

What's next? Maybe we should start putting emoticon stickers on the slate as well:

EDITOR 1: Hmm, I like take 3, but it goes a bit soft?
EDITOR 2: Oh, look at the slate :o , the AC was feeling contemplative and gassy that day.


I kinda like that. Seriously. :blink:
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#13 Mitch Gross

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 11:55 PM

I've heard of "UP" on the slate coming from the DP, but never from an AC.
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#14 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 01:42 AM

I am so bewildered by this practice, that I can't even think of a smart-ass comment to write in response. I know, it's awful, isn't it?
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#15 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 04:06 AM

On one film, we wrote UP on the slate for every shot. That however was on the back with an arrow and was just a guide
for the poor a.c. who kept holding it upside down and making the editor think that everything was a tail slate.
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#16 Matt Kelly

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 05:23 AM

I've heard of "UP" on the slate coming from the DP, but never from an AC.


Really? Under what circumstances?
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#17 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 02:12 PM

I've heard of "UP" on the slate coming from the DP, but never from an AC.

I have too. I think you undermine the DP if you do it as an assistant. If you're pulling focus and have had no rehearsal and don't think you'll be able to get the shot without it, then you should talk to the operator first, then the DP. It's then up to the DP to decide whether to fight for more time for you or not. Other than that, it's out of the 1st's hands. If, after that, shots are soft in dailies, it's not your fault. If someone wants to blame you they can't, because you made the DP aware of the situation ahead of time.
On the other hand, there are many situations where a 1st should have no problem pulling for a shot without rehearsal. This happens all the time. The extent that this is possible obviously depends on the 1st.
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#18 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 12:13 AM

On one film, we wrote UP on the slate for every shot. That however was on the back with an arrow and was just a guide
for the poor a.c. who kept holding it upside down and making the editor think that everything was a tail slate.


Ha ha, nice
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#19 Tony Brown

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 04:04 PM

I agree with Chris in principle, but sometimes there really is no time for marks. Jonathan and I pulled focus as B and A cam 1st ACs on a dusk for night scene a couple of weeks ago, and in that circumstance where we were rapidly losing the light and needed to get a crazy amount of handheld long lens coverage without rehearsals, marks, or even slates, we just had to wing it and hope some of it was sharp. I'd say though if you have time to write "Under Protest" on the slate, the you probably have time to run out the hard tape once or twice.


Good attitude. Agree with that entirely. There's ALWAYS time to get marks, tape, laser, thats just a wimp out. As you say, if there's no other option you wing it..... I've heard of DP's doing this on the slate and with good cause..... but if an AC does it it just projects a very bad, inexperienced attitude.

I worked with a Turkish 1st AC recently who cut the camera because the actor missed a mark..... Same thing. Wont be seeing him again.

Express you're concerns to the DP by all means, in fact its your job to do so, its why you're being paid, but putting that on the slate is a step too far
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#20 John Sprung

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 08:16 PM

I've heard of "UP" on the slate coming from the DP, but never from an AC.

I remember that happening once a long time ago. I don't remember what the issue was. Good DP, too. He's in the ASC now and shooting major network episodic TV.



-- J.S.
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