I'm at day 5 of a 6 day shoot and I have had bad and good moments on my first time as a 1st ac. For the last 3 weeks I've shot 3 different students thesis on HD but this was my first time working with a s-16 or any film package for a thesis. I'm so pooped out, I just want to make sure what I've been doing is right.
1. Putting all the camera department related items in one designated location
2. cleaning and checking gate before first shot of the day, after lens change, after unloading mag.
3. do nessesary cleaning of lens before mounting it on the camera.
4. created an AC box for my 2nd AC and me to put various tape, small plates, washers, slate boards.
5. get measurement on mostly every set up, unless the action is past infinity on the lens,
6. following focus for the most part.
7. checking the equipment after wrap
8. not letting anyone touch the camera other than camera department
9. rigging up seats, camera mounts, whenever there is an akward position the DP is trying to shoot from.
Being a cinematography major I realize how important lighting a shot is, so any time the DP is trying to move the dolly or camera to the next position, I would tell him to just concentrate on the lighting and I'll put the camera/dolly/jib where ever u need it to go. I think it takes a ton of load off the DP with a small crew.
#5 started slowly saving me a lot of time getting to know the lenses I was working with, first day it would take me about 20 seconds to mount the lens, getting measurements just to realize when I got to changing the focus, it was at infinity.
Knowing the max and minimum distance and being able to mount a lens in a snap definately helped pick up the pace a lot.
#4 The first 2 days before I made a makeshift AC box, my 2nd AC and I ended up misplacing a lot of little things like washers, nuts, screws etc. This little box I think saved us the most time.
#9 In my opinon helped the DP a great deal, being able to keep steady in very tight spots where a tripod wouldn't fit. This I think helps you think fast on your feet and thinking logically.
I heard if the actor leans towards the camera, it's about a 1-2 feet difference in the focus, how crucial is that on lenses wider than 25 on a MS?
Since the lends package we go has 4 lenses 9.6, 12, 16, 25, following focus and marking focus is so difficult, on a zeiss. The numbers jump from 5 to 15, 10-18, etc in such a small space on the lens. How the heck do you know when your focus is right on the money, and what if you have to follow focus in that small area? I don't want the dailies to be out of focus or I'd be letting a lot of people down. Anyone have good ways of knowing/marking the focus ring etc to get almost precise focus in between the gaps?
I also was unloading a 400ft mag when half of it unravled on me. It took me soooooooooo long to roll it back together and a lot of condensation was getting inside the tent. Would that damage the film? Is there a way to keep the inside of a loading tent dry? It was not exposed yet, so I was wondering if they would still be able to use it even if the tent had moisture in it.
If anyone else has anything to add on here to keep things more organized / keeping the DP happy / speeding up any 1st AC tasks please feel free to reply. I didn't find one thread about 1st AC in this forum, even though this forum is for cinematography, I think first AC and gaffer are the backbone to a good DP.
I think you did good, relax and enjoy the job. You are lucky to have a secon AC for a 16mm shot, I Spent 5 years as an AC before DP'ing and almost never got to have a loader or second AC, no matter it was 35mm and a 25 Box package or 16mm and 6 Box package. About focus, have a plastified copy of AC Manual depth of field Charts always with you, so you can check out with the lens and stop you are working, how much is you Near/Far limit of focus, It has always worked fine with me, unless you are using Shift and Tilt bellows from ARRI, that can be painful if you are ridiing on a dolly and cam on a jib with random cam movement. As for Zeiss Primes, depending on lenses focal length I have found that if you are using primes 9.5, 12 if people or subject is somewhat more than 12 feet from cam, it is not that critical to keep focus good, you said that MS at 1-2 ft, that is critical, but if you calculated good, then ok ( that is what charts are useful for ) keep always your depth of field charts with you and HMI / Shutter angle flicker charts too. Always check before shooting that lenses do focus properly with a Siemens chart set 5 ft from cam try to see if focus by eye matches closely with what lens barrel says. Check that PL mount screws are tighten properly to cam body, it may tend to loose a little or much due to cam shaking or violent moves, and lense start to "dance" on the PL mount, focus wont match lens barrel also. Important: Lens index mark should always face operators side, check that your white or red distance markings correspond to what you feel comfortable working with ( meters of feet ) Good luck
We actually did have a dolly/porta jib shot and getting the focus was a real challenge especially cause I didn't even have a whip. I found that the kroziel follow focus gear with zeiss primes do not work well together. Many times i'd have to losen the lens a tad to be able to stick the follow focus gear on to the lens. Either gear would hit the back end of the lens or hit the part of the mount to secure the lens. When i would have to rack focus, the lens would shorten and hit the gear which I was also concerned about since it could tweak one side of the lens. Are there smaller follow focus gears to rid that problem or is there an easier way? I think I should definately get a siemens chart and the depth chart also, that seems really helpful. I always made sure the witness marks are on the operators side and I use feet since it's more common in the US.
We were actually using a 1.8k HMI par, but I did not know about any flickering nor did the DP say anything about it. I'm going to have to talk to him about that. If I wanted to just double check on the focus, I took my lighter out and lit it to set the focus on the flame, do any of you do that? I also heard if an actor leans towards the camera a bit, it's usually a 1-2 feet difference.
Anyways, I appreciate the information you've given me. When I scrounge up some money I should get me those 2 charts.
Oh, as for enjoying the job, I loved being first AC. I love being around a camera, but the only down side was I was 1st ac/grip/PA/craft service/gaffer
It sounds like you're having fun. I loooove 1st AC work but yes it is tiring. The first day of the shoot I'm on now, (no 2nd AC...bummer!) I started to fall asleep in the car on the way home; I felt like I was about 8 years old again or something. About the loose PL mounts; they tighten if you turn the ring to the left, not the right. Also, Chrosziel (I can't have spelled that right...) makes adaptors for follow focus units & matte boxes which allows you to use them with smaller/shorter support rods and different lenses. I'm not sure of specifics though.
To me it sounds like you are really trying your best and doing really fine. About the depth of field charts, you can make your own with http://www.dofmaster.com. However it doesn't go beyond f2.8 or something like that which is a shame.