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The Camera Assistant's Number 1


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#1 Spencer Hutchins

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 10:55 AM

From the experienced Camera Assistants out there, what is the most important aspect of the 1st or 2nd camera assistant's responsibilities that should be the most practiced from a student about to enter the industry?

Thanks in advance.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 11:53 AM

The ability to organize and remain calm and meticulous even when others around you feel the need to rush and whip themselves up into a frenzy. This doesn't mean you move slow at all times no matter what, but it does mean that you remain composed and not allow yourself to get sucked into someone else's maelstrom.

This calm demeanor can only be facilitated by your organization, both with equipment and a clear delineation of duties. Especially when there are multiple camera packages and crews (A, B, C, etc cameras), having the Key First or Key Second in charge of who needs to do what and when and where and with what keeps the entire department running at peak efficiency.

Experience also comes into play as someone who has been around for a while will be able to anticipate the needs of the setup and future setups in the day and in days ahead. That said, the crew is primarily a reactionary force, ready to fulfill the oft-times changing desires and demands of the Director, the DP, and other Keys. So the ability to stay on your toes, remain alert, and calmly execute the responsibilities of your specific job is probably the most important skill a Camera Assistant can have.
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 01:34 PM

Brian's description is excellent. I think that thoroughness is a massive part of it. For every direction you're given, that implies a bunch of other things for you to do that are left unsaid. You have to do those too.

For example you're given a camera position. Not only do you go there with camera but you also go there with all of the things you need to keep close like lenses, filters, magazines, and your extra battery.

Another quick one: If you're given a lens to change to, you have to remember to change any other stuff like donuts, perhaps the mattebox if you're going from a prime to a large zoom, give the gate a quick check while you're at it, make sure the lens and filters are clean.

Oh, and don't get huffy when the director and/or DP keep changing their mind. It happens.:P
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#4 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 19 November 2008 - 03:23 PM

Remember that you are a camera ASSISTANT not a second DP, director, camera operator, gaffer, or whatever.
Many questions will be answered by just observing and assimilating.
Keep the DP/camera operator comfortable.
Anticipate.
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#5 Marque DeWinter

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Posted 02 December 2008 - 07:45 PM

To go against Brian just a little bit...

Speed is still very important. You need to be fast, precise, organized, and move with a purpose. As a 2nd I feel my job is to make sure every need, be it equipment or information or anything, that the 1st AC, Cam Op, and DP needs that its your job to provide whatever you have available to them. Do not though sacrifice your abilities to get the job done quickly. Learn to adapt fast. You may be comfortable with doing things a certain way but you need to follow the lead of the department. Being able to work well with others is what will keep you employed.

~Marque

PS: If you don't know, don't say you don't know but rather say "I'll find out" or "Can you show/teach me?"
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