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Traditional Prep Day On Red?


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#1 Rick_Pearson

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 01:48 PM

I am gearing up for a production run with RED. Our 1st A.C. is heavily experienced on the camera, so is our 2nd A.C.

I know that prepping the camera package is all about checking for broken bits, misalignment of pieces, and things that might not be up to par functionality wise, but my question to all of you is this. How crucial is an official prep day to a low budget project when working on the RED?

We'll be inspecting the gear before it leaves the rental house, and their techs will be doing the same. Our A.C.'s have worked with this particular gear from this rental house before as well. Should we still be doing a prep day using our 1st A.C? Production is emphasizing that every dollar matters, but they're also not looking to save a dollar at the cost of ten on a shooting day.

Your thoughts will be much appreciated.
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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 02:43 PM

I know that prepping the camera package is all about checking for broken bits, misalignment of pieces, and things that might not be up to par functionality wise, but my question to all of you is this. How crucial is an official prep day to a low budget project when working on the RED?

Kinda sounds like you answered your own question, it's crucial. There's just so many things that can go wrong with that camera that you'd be foolish not do a prep day.

For example, I just got a call from a rental coordinator asking advice about a problem he's having with one of his Reds that was out on a rental. The client was using NDs with an IR filter, 50-150 Red zoom, and every time he put an ND in, the focus would shift. Apparently, he checked everything and narrowed it down to the filters. Ruined his shooting day, but they might have caught it in prep and got another set of filters.

Another time, I was AC'ing on a low-budget short and during my prep the backfocus ring skipped a gear and stopped working. The owner had to take the whole mount apart, clean it, lube it, and put it back together again which took several hours. That would have destroyed our shooting day if it had happened the next day on set.
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#3 K Borowski

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Posted 07 October 2009 - 04:51 PM

A prep day on a low-budget shoot is twice as essential as it is on a big-budget shoot, because the low-budget shoot doesn't have money to afford reshoots!

Think smart. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.
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#4 Ryan Thomas

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 11:05 AM

Yeah, I don't think you should ever go without a prep day. They almost always save your butt.
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#5 Jean Dodge

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 10:14 AM

What kind of answer would you expect in a forum for professionals? Of course you should always have a full prep day...

But let's for a moment assume there was a REALLY good reason to try something different.

If you absolutely wanted to save money, you might possibly talk to your first AC and figure out a way to schedule YOUR shoot day for a day or two after a bigger job wraps, a job where your first AC is working with the EXACT same package and can certify to you that he or she prepped the gear well and that it worked perfectly... and then hopefully the rental house didn't mess it up checking it back in and then out to you.... see what I mean? Even then it is a gamble. And you can BET that the one piece of gear that is different - something as simple as a tripod spreader - could fail and ruin the entire shoot when you suddenly get the dreaded "bambi on the ice" moment and have no one to blame but yourself. Never mind all the finicky, delicate ELECTRONIC parts of a Red package.

Your best bet would be to schedule two or three jobs of your own back to back that have the same requirements for a camera package, prep them once and use the same crew and gear for all jobs, shot quickly in succession or even simultaneously - shoot three green screen and three tabletop setups in a row, with different products or spokesmodels, etc for example and then bill each client for the same prep day, I guess. Doesn't sound totally ethical but it might be one way to go if you are determined to shave some bucks off someplace.

There is always the temptation to ask yourself "What would Roger Corman do?" but the answer is, he would get EVERYONE to work for free but two people - the first AC and the sound mixer. Everyone else on set is primarily a creative person and willing to work hard and professionally for the experience - and none of them would bother to waste their time doing so with questionable gear package and prep.

So in the end you see that you are trying to reinvent the wheel here and that in the real world it can't be done. Either you take a huge risk with no prep day or you do it right and be a professional.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 11:34 AM

The question is why would the RED camera be different than any other camera in needing or not needing prep?

In fact, I might argue that one aspect that needs more attention in pre-production with the RED camera over other traditional HD videotape cameras is the workflow, and some of this pre-production work may spill into the prep day, to make sure that the data wrangler is properly set-up, etc. Otherwise, the AC prep issues are more or less the same as with any other camera, i.e. to make sure everything works. You don't want to be setting up a Steadicam shot on Day One only to find that you are missing some tiny bracket or cable, etc. You want to make sure that all the lenses are working properly with the backfocus of the camera, you want to have the proper framelines already decided and set-up, monitors prepped, viewing output settings tested, etc. You don't want the first three hours of the shoot on Day One to be spent fiddling with these issues, the prep is sort of a rehearsal for the first day.

If time really is money, then not spending the money for a prep day is really wasting money because, in essence, that prep time will just be spent on Day One getting set-up, rather than shooting. So now you've got an entire crew on the payroll as the AC's "prep" that morning rather than just the AC's at the rental house the day before.
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