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I was a camera pa the other day


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#1 David Calson

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Posted 04 September 2008 - 07:55 PM

I was a camera pa/sub 2nd the other day, just a little terrifying.

I looked stupid a few times and wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.

I was getting a measure on the lens height but the tape kept drooping, I asked some 'heads up' if they could hold it while I took a reading, they gave me a look of outrage. I understand though, they have jobs too. Anyone recommend a stronger tape?

The camera we used, the dial was blocked by the operators head, so it wasn't the easiest to get a reading off of, plus we were working fast and I didn't give myself time to write down the dial between take 1 and 2, so by the end of the day my camera report looked messed up.

I was looking for the DP to tell me when to lay down marks, should I become intuitive about this?

I noticed a couple of times I had to do double letters as in scene 18 double apple, why the double?
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#2 Christopher Arata

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Posted 04 September 2008 - 08:15 PM

Get a hard tape measure from a hardware store. I like the Stanley Fat Max 35'. That should solve the tape measure problem.

When ever I 2nd after they cut I simply say footage, and either the Cam op, or the 1stAC give me the footage. That should not be a problem for them.

As for laying down marks yes I do believe that a 2nd should be come somewhat intuitive about this, don't be jumpy to do this. I would talk to your 1stAC about this if your not sure when you should. When I 1st for example I use reference points for focus, and only lay down marks if the Actors need it or if there are so many actors I need it. Also know what lens is on the camera, that will help. Listen to whats going on, that will help.

As for the slate I cant think of anything for that one right now, but I'm sure there was a reason.

Last bit of advice is you should be talking to who ever your 1stAC is, this could have all been done and solved while on set.
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 04 September 2008 - 08:20 PM

I was a camera pa/sub 2nd the other day, just a little terrifying.

I looked stupid a few times and wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.

Well, for what it's worth, I'm sure that everyone there knows that you're still learning so while it wasn't perfect, you'll get better the more you do it.

I was getting a measure on the lens height but the tape kept drooping, I asked some 'heads up' if they could hold it while I took a reading, they gave me a look of outrage. I understand though, they have jobs too. Anyone recommend a stronger tape?

I think it's called "FatMax." Go to almost any hardware store and look in the tools section for the steel tape measures. Try 'em out and see which one works best for you.

For the soft tape, go with the industry standard "Rabone" which is available in a few camera rental and supply businesses in LA.



The camera we used, the dial was blocked by the operators head, so it wasn't the easiest to get a reading off of, plus we were working fast and I didn't give myself time to write down the dial between take 1 and 2, so by the end of the day my camera report looked messed up.

It happens. Sometimes you have to estimate if you don't get the chance to see the exact number. As far as the reports go, if you have any time, go ahead and quickly rewrite the messy ones.

Judging by the first two issues here, it seems obvious that this was a low/no budget shoot. Not to belittle you in any way with this... it's understood that you are a beginner and mistakes are going to happen. The lesson for the producers is that they get what they pay for. Asking a new AC to fulfill the jobs of the First and Second AC (and Loader too maybe?) and have everything be perfect is a lot to ask for even on a pro level. There's a reason all of those jobs are filled by individuals on big movies. Skimping on crew is asking for errors and/or less productivity during the day.

I was looking for the DP to tell me when to lay down marks, should I become intuitive about this?

Some of it is intuition. Mostly experience. Some Directors like to have a general rehearsal for the Actors and rough blocking. After that, there is a "blocking rehearsal." It's then that you jump in to lay down marks. Don't even ask, just go in and do it. If the show doesn't have separate rehearsals, then once you see that they've kind of got it figured out, jump in and throw down marks. Be quick about it. Have a bunch of tape T's ready (multiple colors) stuck to your shirt so you can just grab 'em as you need 'em.

I noticed a couple of times I had to do double letters as in scene 18 double apple, why the double?

The main reason is because that's what the Script Supervisor decided to call it and you do what she says. :) The reason she's doing it can be because the scene has already run through the alphabet once with 27 setups. Now on setup 28, it needs to go to double letters.


If you haven't already, read the Camera Assistant's Manual. There is a link to it under "Resources" at www.whatireallywanttodo.com.

Good luck!
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 12:11 AM

I will only add that I would get the fat max 16 foot tape. If you ever need 35 feet of tape, it can be your soft tape and the 16 foot one is MUCH lighter on your belt.
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#5 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 12:53 AM

I will only add that I would get the fat max 16 foot tape. If you ever need 35 feet of tape, it can be your soft tape and the 16 foot one is MUCH lighter on your belt.


I split the dif and have a 25', works fine. Also, I highly recommend getting the MagTite off of Amazon.com for your Fatmax. It magnetically sticks to your belt, and is quite handy. Not to mention, it gets a lot of attention from crew members who've never seen it before.

In regards to laying marks, that's strictly between you and the 1st AC. If you're not sure, he/she should direct you. Usually you want to be totally out of the way as the director and actors are blocking it out. But once it looks like positions are about finalized, that's when you want to jump in and tape down those marks. Sometimes GOOD actors will request marks, so be aware of that.

Double Apple usually occurs once you've already gone through the alphabet in single form. But sometimes the director or script sup. will request a double letter, it's just a part of whatever system they've already set forth in their shot list or storyboards.

Edited by Jonathan Bowerbank, 05 September 2008 - 12:54 AM.

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#6 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:36 AM

Hi Blade:

Congratulations on getting a start in the business and don't worry about mistakes; the only people who don't make mistakes are those who don't do anything!

For clarity; there is no such job classification in the camera department as a "Camera PA". There may be Producers hiring PAs to work in camera under that title but the tasks you're describing are those of a 1st and/or 2nd AC. If you're handling any portions of those responsibilities based on the job descriptions of a 1st / 2nd then you're doing 1st or 2nd work even if it's a freebee or your first time. As you found out it's a very challenging position.

With this in mind, you should be paid accordingly the same as a 1st or 2nd would. If it was pro-bono work the point is still the same.

The issue here is that Producers hire someone at a PA rate for cheap and give them the important responsibilities you describe in exchange for a non-existent and low paying job title.

Again, congratulations on your new work!
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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 02:24 AM

I will only add that I would get the fat max 16 foot tape. If you ever need 35 feet of tape, it can be your soft tape and the 16 foot one is MUCH lighter on your belt.

Agreed. The less weight you're carrying around the better - once you've got an AC pouch, canned air, hard tape measure, tape roll, and leatherman all on your belt it starts to weigh you down.

Christopher is right, if you call out "dial" or "footage" to the 1st AC at the end of a take, he will give it to you. If you're shooting fast and you miss getting the dial on a take, just get it at the end of the next take and divide the footage by 2. There's only so much you can do to keep an accurate report when you're shooting under those kinds of conditions so just do your best and use common sense. It helps if you fill out the camera report headers at the beginning of the day so that when you need a new one, you only need to fill in a few items like the roll #.

As for getting marks, work with the 1st AC (your direct supervisor on set) and find out what he needs. If the camera crew is doing a blocking rehearsal where the director and DP are placing actors in relation to the camera, then you'll almost certainly be called upon to place marks for the actors, sometimes in several places for each actor. Use a different colored tape for each actor and ask them politely to stay in place until the marks are down. These marks can change quickly if an actor, the DP, or the camera op. asks for a change so pay attention and make the changes as necessary. Try to be quick and unobtrusive while working. This might mean that if you know that the marks are going to change significantly based on past rehearsals, then you might wait a bit and stay out of the way until the blocking gets tighter.

Or if the working style is "rush, rush, rush, shoot the rehearsal!" then you might only be called upon to place a few critical marks, or none at all. If you're stressed, then you can bet the 1st is stressed also, so help him out and help him get his focus marks - be ready to hold the end of his measuring tape to the actor's eye and call out the distance, or if he needs a critical mark for the actor at a particular spot then lay down a mark for him. Basically, you job as a 2nd is to make the 1st's job easier, so always pay attention to what's going on and try to anticipate what the 1st AC will need next. They're the ones who are going to recommend you for jobs in the future so please the 1st AC first, then the DP and camera op. The more you cover for him, the more he'll cover for you. If you make a mistake, the tell the 1st AC quietly first, and he will take it up the chain of command if necessary. The whole camera crew should work as a team and support each other but it doesn't always work out that way.
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#8 David Calson

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 11:32 AM

thanks for the pearls of wisdom, everyone!

Yes it is low-budget, I'm more of a volunteer than staff member. I'll check into getting a fatmax
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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 01:44 PM

It helps if you fill out the camera report headers at the beginning of the day so that when you need a new one, you only need to fill in a few items like the roll #.


Another awesome time-saving thing: pre-printed camera reports. I know you probably didn't do any kind of prep stuff for this job but when you do start doing that in the future, you can go to most labs and order pre-printed camera reports. They'll have all of the stuff that will stay constant for the whole job like the title and production company. I don't think any of the labs charge for this so you can go to whatever lab has the style of reports you like. You usually just need to give them a couple of days to make them, from the time you give them the information to be printed on.
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#10 David Calson

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 09:39 PM

Few more questions,

What usually goes in the remarks section (day/night, filter, ________?)

What do you write on the camera report if the shot didn't need to be slated?

What do you write on the camera report if it didn't need to slated AND it was MOS?
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#11 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 09:57 PM

Few more questions,

What usually goes in the remarks section (day/night, filter, ________?)


Yes. Any notes that the DP requests goes on the report.


What do you write on the camera report if the shot didn't need to be slated?


Didn't need to be slated? Every shot should be slated. If it isn't, there is no way to track it in post. If the shot wasn't slated, discuss what to write on the report with the Script Supervisor.


What do you write on the camera report if it didn't need to slated AND it was MOS?


Repeat the previous answer and write MOS on the report.


If there are any doubts as to what goes on the slate and the report, you take orders from the Script Supervisor regarding scene numbers and such. Any other notes regarding the film stock, exposures, etc. will come from the DP.
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#12 Johnathan Holmes

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 12:43 AM

Some 2nd ACs here will use a stopwatch to time from when the slate it marked until when cut is called and then calculate how many feet were rolled during that take to figure out the dial numbers and footage numbers without having to ask.

I have never objected to reading out dial numbers if a 2nd asks me to, but I usually work out a system of hand signals to automatically let him know at the end of each take.

The stopwatch trick is a safe bet if you can keep up with it. I've laminated and made up a small table that lists running times and footage counts for 16mm, 4-perf and 3-perf and I tape it to the back of the slate so I can quickly look up the time and see how many feet were rolled.
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