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How important is to AC before DPn'


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#1 David Calson

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 11:54 PM

I PA in Atlanta, I like cinematography, shooting my own stuff. Are my chances at DPn' without ACn' good from what you know about the production world (which is more than me)?

Oh, and the thought of me pulling focus, no way man, no way.
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#2 e gustavo petersen

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 12:35 AM

Personally, I think there's great benefit from coming up the ranks. If you don't feel like the camera department is the way for you, try the grip or electrical department. Lots of folks came up through those departments. I strongly believe that you do need to spend time in either the camera, grip or electrical department first, otherwise how can you possibly learn what the equipment and people you're in charge of commanding can do for you. It's better to learn these things when the ax isn't over your head. If you spend the time observing as a crew member, you'll quickly see what works and what doesn't work on set both in terms of lighting and the management of the set.

A DP does more than just set the camera and hold a light meter. You have to manage people, resources, budgets, schedules, and sometimes most of all personalities. Better to learn how others handle difficult situations so that you're better prepared to handle these situations yourself.

...my 2 cents.
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#3 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 02:27 AM

You have to know the equipment, and AC'ing is the best way to get familiar with various camera systems. It's a different angle but equally effective if you go the g&e route, in regards to how to handle lighting and learning those tricks from various DP's.
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 02:46 AM

Personally I think it's more about lighting than camera gear. If you know how to light well you can do it with a HVX200 or the latest whiz-bang Pana-gear. Ultimately you do have to know all of it (camera and lighting), but since lighting is the most time consuming and labor intensive, it's best to know how to do that part efficiently and effectively.

"If you know how to light well it doesn't matter what you shoot with; if you don't know how to light well, it doesn't matter what you shoot with."
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#5 Hal Smith

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 07:31 AM

"If you know how to light well, it doesn't matter what you shoot with; if you don't know how to light well, it doesn't matter what you shoot with."


Professor Nash's one sentence Introduction to Cinematography 101.

There will be a test.

Consequence for failing the test will be returning to Flipping Burgers 101.
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#6 David Calson

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 09:22 AM

vastly enlightening, all of you, thank you!
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#7 Simona De Lullo

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 10:14 AM

Usually dops that come from the camera department understand better our job of camera assistants,as a second a.c. I find them easier to work with because they've been through the same difficulties;I think that coming up from the ranks gives you a great experience on the field but then you need a lot of other things to became a good dop!
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#8 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 10:42 AM

I've never actually worked as a 1st A.C. before. You don't necessarily need to know all of what they know to DP but it helps to pay attention to what they're doing so that you can recognize when you have a good 1st and when you have someone who's too green. Finding a good 1st A.C. is really tough cause the good ones are always working. I happen to think that it's a very different job from DP'ing and requires a totally different kind of individual. I personally don't have the attention span for it. The regulars I work with amaze me sometimes with their skills. Understanding focus pulling is important though and knowing when you should give your 1st some extra stop so that they can keep a difficult shot in focus.

As a DP just starting out it will be up to you to pull a crew together. There probably won't be a 1st A.D. or line producer on your early projects and you'll end up making a lot of those calls yourself. The more you know about what your crew does, the more you'll be able to relate to them and know when you have a good crew and when you don't. You also won't end up asking them to do anything too difficult or dangerous either if you know proper set procedure and protocol. The only way to really know this stuff is to get on some indie productions and learn it firsthand. Hollywood films are mostly union and you may find it difficult to get inside those circles initially unless you know people. Indie films are much easier but make sure you're working for a good DP. You don't want to pick up bad habits initially.

I was lucky enough to work on one film as a gaffer for a DP who had been a key grip for 15 years. Those 4 weeks taught me more than 4 years of film school about how to work with light and grip. After that I really didn't need to crew anymore and his advice to me was "just shoot." I've heard that from a lot of people who've worked as crew. "Shoot as much as you can". But that is so much easier when you know how all the gear works and what the crew does.
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#9 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 12:03 PM

"If you know how to light well it doesn't matter what you shoot with; if you don't know how to light well, it doesn't matter what you shoot with."


Words of wisdom indeed. You leave the camera wrangling to the 1st AC's. That is what they are there for. A good 1st AC manages the camera dept himself. He gets instructions from the DP and does accordingly. Additionally, it is the DP's job to make sure the grip and electric departments are lighting as per his instructions. So he lets the heads of those three dept's under his supervision do their job and he just makes sure things are going as he designed.

A DP needs to know how to light, over knowing how to keep the camera rolling, although the latter would help no doubt.

One thing, though. Coming up through the camera dept ranks gives one a lot of respect for the camera crew, who has to keep the camera running at all times under grueling circumstances. That is the one benefit of being an AC before moving up to DP.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 24 May 2008 - 12:04 PM.

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#10 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 24 May 2008 - 03:16 PM

You should spend a lot of time learning everything. Setting up a lighting on truss takes time; so does switching your camera to a FIZ....knowing yourself how long things take is invaluable when production is asking you how long it's going to take your crew to get their poop together.

I have worked tons in G&E, and now I am doing a lot of AC work. I have learned so much from both. Does it make me a better DP? I don't think so. It does make me more prepared though. It also helps me seek better qualities in my assistants.

Jamie
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Wooden Camera

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