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On set/location camera handling do's and dont's tips....


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#1 Stephen Perera

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 03:12 AM

All tips welcome for handling camera whilst on set/ location shooting....what are your do's and don'ts.....scratch test after loading by running off how much film? gate hair checks when lens is changed but why if you shoot with one lens only would you take it off half way and check the gate? etc etc anything and everything you do when you are shooting that I can add to my 'to do' and 'not to do' list!


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#2 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 10:40 AM

Scratch tests should be done in prep so that the offending magazine can be sent off for repair, and never comes to set. Checking the gate for 'hair' is usually done after a 'good' take. It's necessary because 'hair' is not just hair. It can also be a build up of dust or emulsion particles from inside the magazine. If you're using a zoom lens, there's no need to remove it to check the gate. Simply zoom all the way in, and open the iris up, and you should be able to clearly see the gate through the lens. With the aid of a flashlight, you can check for 'hairs'.


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#3 Stephen Perera

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 10:43 AM

thanks very much that is great advice....Im using a Cooke Varokinetal 9-50mm


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#4 Stephen Perera

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 12:17 PM

Scratch tests should be done in prep so that the offending magazine can be sent off for repair, and never comes to set. Checking the gate for 'hair' is usually done after a 'good' take. It's necessary because 'hair' is not just hair. It can also be a build up of dust or emulsion particles from inside the magazine. If you're using a zoom lens, there's no need to remove it to check the gate. Simply zoom all the way in, and open the iris up, and you should be able to clearly see the gate through the lens. With the aid of a flashlight, you can check for 'hairs'.

 

OK I tried that...zoomed all the way and open the iris but cant see anything with the torch etc....so whats the norm on AATON then....so I produce a good take and I want to "check the gate" as you all say...that means I have to take the lens off.....when this is done I see the mirror down position and thus the gate is covered.....so what do i do hit the advance one frame switch which takes the mirror off and exposes the gate and thus I lose one frame to the light to check all is well???? (I really enjoyed your reel by the way)


Edited by Stephen Perera, 08 October 2017 - 12:19 PM.

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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 12:26 PM

 

OK I tried that...zoomed all the way and open the iris but cant see anything with the torch etc....so whats the norm on AATON then....so I produce a good take and I want to "check the gate" as you all say...that means I have to take the lens off.....when this is done I see the mirror down position and thus the gate is covered.....so what do i do hit the advance one frame switch which takes the mirror off and exposes the gate and thus I lose one frame to the light to check all is well???? (I really enjoyed your reel by the way)

My apologies, you also need to 'inch' the shutter into the open position. Posted before the caffeine had kicked in... :)


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#6 Stephen Perera

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 12:32 PM

My apologies, you also need to 'inch' the shutter into the open position. Posted before the caffeine had kicked in... :)

 

I did that but the Cooke Varokinetal on the Aaton XTR zoomed at 50mm at T2.5 doesn't allow me to see the gate down the lens with the torch as the many elements throw up too many reflections.....nice looking as they are I might add haha......the only way I can see the gate is inching the shutter to open (thus exposing 1 frame) after taking the lens off...is this ok????? thanks for your help


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#7 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 12:35 PM

Checking the gate through the lens can be tricky, but it's a handy technique in dusty environments. If you have to take the lens off instead, that's fine also. 


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#8 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 04:14 PM

I've personally never heard of Stuart's method, but it may work if you get it down. 

 

Personally for my projects, I never check the gate (from the inside) when I shoot 16. It's so much easier to pull the magazine off, and give the whole works a good cleaning, then it is to see a fine dirt particle on the gate from the inside. Also... and this is critical, unlike 35mm where you may push the frame edges, with 16mm, you're probably not. So the moment you crop in to 1.75:1 or 1.85:1 for a "finished product" you no longer need perfect edges, so even if there is a tiny bit of build up, you'll never see it in the finished product. 

 

So my advice... owning the same camera, is to clean the gate well, do a scratch test beforehand and use new film. Then run it and not worry about it. If you're shooting something hypercritical and have a professional AC on set, they will take care of all that stuff, you won't have to worry at all. But for personal projects, I haven't found a reason yet to care. I've had WAY more issues with specks of dust on a digital imager that you can't see on set, which turn into a huge problem in post, then I've had with any issues with edge build up from a film camera gate. 


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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 04:30 PM

The point of a gate check is to see if you need to do another take because of a hair in the gate that may have ruined the final circled take.


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#10 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 08:21 PM

Extending what David said...If you pull a coax mag the "hair" or grit can fall out,  so one does not know if it was there in the first place...so pulling a coax mag is not an effective gate check...

 

Re the philosophy around the work process,  16 vs 35mm....There is no real reason to do 16mm any different.  For a scripted production, narrative for example,  gate needs to be checked after the good take,  at least before you move the camera or let the actor leave,  stuff like that.  If one is working alone,  under too much pressure,  then it gets tough,  but if one has a crew,  even an inexperienced one,  it's good to aspire to good practice.  I mean,  this is how people learn,  as long as someone above them can show the way...

 

Stephen P.  Before you shoot your up coming project,  I urge you to spend a little time observing or assisting somehow on a small art film/ micro indie set that's shooting film.  You will soak it up like a sponge and be in a better place.  Even if you have to travel to be there,  sleep on the floor and eat 2 minute noodles...The trick is to find the right project...

 

EDIT: spelling


Edited by Gregg MacPherson, 08 October 2017 - 08:21 PM.

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#11 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 08:31 PM

IIt's so much easier to pull the magazine off, and give the whole works a good cleaning, 

It's often only the pressure of the film in the gate that holds the dust and hair in place. If you remove the magazine, the dirt will go with it, and then you'll never know if you had a hair in the gate. You should always check by removing the lens and examining the gate from the lens side.

 

Checking the gate through a zoom lens is a little tricky, but it's really just a matter of finding the right angle to look through. The longer the zoom, the easier it is.


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#12 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 08 October 2017 - 09:21 PM

Always used to check the gate by taking the lens off in 16mm.. when I was an assistant ..why not, its easy.. tricker with with some huge 35mm zoom on a 35mm camera.. do the torch thing.. esp the Aaton.. . as Gregg/Stuart says the "hairless" gate could be a double edged sword .. most small stuff would go through but if you got a big hair it would stay there, pull the mag off and its gone.. you would never know it was there in the first place.. for scratches if no obvious build up .. take off mag.. hold to the light at an angle to see if anything is there visually ..  I wouldn't take the risk of never checking unless in a very dusty, sandy environment where it could do more harm than good.. but on a drama you would have time to take the camera to a car or building to check it.. 

 

The older SR,s with the built up gate..used to catch every single hair in the universe .. I remember seeing 3 in there at once !  .. alot of hairs/crap are on the film itself .. not always a mag or black bag problem..


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#13 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 01:10 AM

Stephen,  small point....normally there is no problem with pulling a lens re exposing the frame in the gate.  In fact you may add light to a couple of adjacent frames,  but this doesn't matter..there are normally a few frames at least after someone calls cut.  When pulling the mag to clean gate etc (one might do this at a gate check if your stock tended to have buildup,  or if you had seen a hair, after pulling the lens, or doing the dance with the zoom lens still mounted.....note that all the film outside the mag throat,  and a little inside as it gets in the light trap,  will be flashed....so one would run on for a tiny burst..

 

Trust me,  get in the battle on a short film somewhere,  observing or assisting,  and learn a bit before you make unnescesary errors going it alone .....


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#14 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 01:22 AM

As Gregg says above.. I worked on film school shoots for free ... although I wasn't a student there.. they will usually want anyone to help as long as they see your not a nut case.. plus no one can really shout at you when your doing it for free.. and better to make mistakes on those shoots than a real one..


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#15 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 01:37 AM

The point of a gate check is to see if you need to do another take because of a hair in the gate that may have ruined the final circled take.


Thanks for the reminder and explanation. I too was trained to check the gate after critical shots, but it's so rare to get hair in the gate on these 16mm coaxial quick change mag cameras, it always seemed redundant and of course, I got into the habit of not checking. Funny enough, the worst issue I've ever had was a problem with the pressure plate, scratching the crap out of the remjet. So even if I had pulled the lens off to check, I wouldn't have noticed it until I pulled the mag off. So I think that's why the "habit" of doing that, is something that stuck with me.

On 35 I always check the gate because I'm pushing the edges. But I do see your point of there possibly being a longer hair that goes through more of the image. I'd love to experience that issue some day... maybe my cameras are just THAT clean, issues like that just haven't come up! :shrug:
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#16 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 01:53 AM

Hairs do happen Tyler.  I was cinematographer on a documentary once,  with a very experienced cinematographer stepping in to do the underwater work (Arri SR),  turning in 800' of beautiful but unusable footage with hairs as bad as you can imagine...no gate gate checks underwater I guess..No idea how it happened.

 

I was on a four week drama as focus,  AC and loader (SR) ,  no hairs until the last day,  when hairs suddenly were there.  Probably a contaminated change bag.  I do remember upsetting the boom op by complementing what he thought was a mediocre lunch.  People are strange...

 

 


Edited by Gregg MacPherson, 09 October 2017 - 01:54 AM.

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#17 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 01:57 AM

If one is working alone,  under too much pressure,  then it gets tough,  but if one has a crew,  even an inexperienced one,  it's good to aspire to good practice.


I assume the OP will be working alone with his personal camera, which is the reason he is mentioning any of this. Like I mentioned above: "If you're shooting something hypercritical and have a professional AC on set, they will take care of all that stuff, you won't have to worry at all."

Can we all agree, there is a lot more to being an AC then the topic at hand? So if Stephen want's to learn more about AC'ing in general, I agree he should visit an actual set that works with film because there are literally four dozen other skills that are necessary and not discussed in this thread.

I will add, because I'm a one man band most of the time, I just shoot. I rarely have the time to take the camera to a clean environment, check things out and re-assemble the camera. This is isn't a big problem with a lightweight clip on mattebox and prime lens. But when you're working with bigger/longer glass with fixed matteboxes, it becomes a nightmare getting things apart. Stuart's flashlight suggestion is cool, I'll have to try it and see how well it works. If it does work well for me, I'd absolutely adopt a process like that for the future and it's a cool trick.
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#18 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 02:04 AM

Hairs do happen Tyler.


Maybe on Arri cameras... LOL :D

The Aaton mag's don't have huge pockets where the film goes that can hold dirt/hairs etc. It's more like the ACL/NPR then anything else.

My process is to clean the mags before loading film and keep the bag super clean. Then I take the mag out of the bag, blow it off with an air gun and then run some film through the mag with my finger, before putting it on the camera, to insure it doesn't pick up anything right away.

I also clean the front and back of the gate with an air gun and use some alcohol and shammy tips to wipe down the gate and rails before shooting anything.

I do this process on every load and so far it's not let me down. For sure not saying it's the best or "right" method at all. Just stating, I've not had any issues personally with the same equipment Stephen has.
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#19 Stephen Perera

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 02:26 AM

thanks everyone for taking the time to help me out as usual and yes of course would like to walk into a set to see how its all going down as that would be invaluable......I'm listening to podcasts and watching anything and everything in the way of advice from seasoned people (im good at spotting the amateurs a mile off)......I'm just looking to start off with 'good habits'.....

 

BTW the nearest opportunity I have to attending a real set is the fact a good friend of mine is Antonio Banderas's private jet pilot and if he films anywhere near (my choice) I can attend a set! Sir Banderas is from Malaga, just 90mins up the road from me in Gibraltar.....


Edited by Stephen Perera, 09 October 2017 - 02:38 AM.

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#20 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 09 October 2017 - 02:27 AM

No need to be defensive Tyler,  we're all just talking here...

 

However,  I think an idea worthy of asserting itself is that a small inexperienced crew can pull itself up by it's bootstraps, with some determination and tutelage from someone who knows the way...yes we're talking about more than gate checks..most of us have assumed this I think...So this, I believe,  is maybe the most interesting core notion when teaching new people in workshops and defacto film schools etc...how to learn quickly to become a small integrated team that paraphrases,  and aspires to,  the standard practices for what may be called a "narrative" single camera shooting style....though the same protocols apply to non narrative styles that have pricise intentions and technical demands...

 

Why would one avoid that,  it's the most interesting thing one could be attracted to,  on a social,  interactive level with your crewmates....?  The thing of being a one man band,  with no crew support,  is sometimes inevitable,  but in no way does it deserve it's own glamorized myth. 

 

I wonder if modern human beings are less able to co-operate with and help each other when they begin learning about film...everyone must own a camera and call themselves a cinematographer,  but there is no pragmatic requirement for this..a group of a few people need a camera,  discrete roles, skills,  integrated behaviour....

 

I'm reminded (again) of my high school Latin teacher, walking the coridoors smoking,  a splendid failed philosipher/ aesthete type,  offering....."people never change...only the times change"....


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