July 7th, 2015 – Day 0 – Camera Prep
Today I was relieved to find out everything works – at least, after some tweaks. Not that I was worried, but there’s always the chance that – no matter how small – something won’t function and you won’t be able to fix it. Regardless of any major issues, you typically still run into small issues and during today’s prep a few cropped up:
1. The 80mm bellows did not sit right with the lenses. We switched to a donut instead. Not ideal since it’s one more thing to handle during lens changes, but better than light leaks in the mattebox.
2. Some of the lenses are sticky. On the 50mm, for instance, the smoothness of the focus ring snags at the 5 foot mark; I can already see myself cursing the lens during some tracking shot where I’m floating around that mark. Not much we could do except let the rental house know.
3. The camera had a sensor frame rate of 5.xxx fps and wouldn’t let me change it. I still don’t know why, but in this case, the simplest solution was to reset the camera to factory defaults. Voila: 23.98 fps.
The Assassinaut Movie Camera Package
As promised from earlier today, here’s our camera package:
- RED Epic Dragon with Low Light OLPF
- (4) 128GB REDMAGS
- (4) V-Mount Batteries
- (3) REDVOLT Batteries
- 5″ Touchscreen
- Side Handle
- Kowa Anamorphic Lenses
- BPM 1/8
- IRND 0.3
- IRND 0.6
- IRND 0.9
- IRND 1.2
- IRND 1.5
- IRND 1.8
- TV Logic 5.6″ Onboard Monitor
- O’Connor O-Box Mattebox
- O’Connor CFF-1 Follow Focus with Whip and Speed Crank
- Handheld Grips
- EasyRig Vario 5
- O’Connor 2060 Mitchell Mount Head
- Standard Sticks
- Baby Sticks
- 7″ Marshall Monitor (for on-the-go video village)
- 21″ Panasonic Monitor (for staying-put video village)
- Rubbermaid Cart
And of course we have all the bits and bobs that go along with everything: donuts, rods, cables, spreaders, and whatnot. If there’s interest in listing out everything, let me know and I’ll update.
One last shot of the camera built back at the crew house:
Meeting the Department
Camera prep is always a great time to meet your team and establish some basic workflows. Over the past few days, I spoke with our 2nd Assistant Camera (2nd AC) and Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) over the phone, but it’s never the same as shaking hands face-to-face.
I’m excited to work with them and they seem enthusiastic as well. Time will tell how we mesh as a team, but the beauty of feature films is you can get in a groove and really hit a stride with others.
Both have experience in camera, but it’s limited and I expect to be training them in certain areas. It’s always tricky, however, as you never quite get a full grasp on someone’s experience and I struggle with toe-ing the line between showing somebody how something is done and patronizing them.
Ultimately, my belief is that over-communication is better than under-communication. I’d rather tell them how it’s done and have them say, “I know” than assume they know what’s happening and have it done poorly.
So I spent some time at the prep today describing to the 2nd AC and the DIT how I expect certain workflows to happen on set – specifically reloading of the camera and lens swaps.
Even if they have done both, I insist to do it “My Way” because it keeps me positive that the lenses (expensive) and the footage (the most valuable asset) are protected and cared for at all times.
As 1st AC, anything camera related falls under my umbrella of responsibility and I need to be able to confidently say to the DP, the producer, or the director, “The footage is backed-up and safe. The lenses are well-taken care of.”
Doing it “My Way” gives me that confidence.
But Back to the Camera…
Most of the time you use the camera prep to “learn” the rig: how to set it up, the best place to mount things, how to distribute the weight, and familiarize yourself with any quirks of the gear.
It’s also important to test every piece of equipment. Some examples from our prep today:
- You have your 2nd AC check all power options for the monitors and make sure they were all displaying.
- You record clips on every single REDMAG and confirm playback on your computer.
- Mount every lens and make sure all the accessories fit on the rods without issue (for us, the 100mm being the longest and the 40mm being the shortest were the crucial ones here).
I could go on. There’s a reason our prep lasted several hours and it’s not unheard of for larger camera packages to require several days of prep-time.
By the end of our time, we had a functioning camera package that the director of photography (DP) and I are confident in. Among other things, he tested the lenses as well as the handheld configuration to give notes on monitor placement and weight.
I’m feeling good about the camera as we head into Day 1.
There’s No Turning Back Now
Looking at your name on a call sheet really gives you a sense of, “No turning back now.” So you smile, set your alarm, and get in bed – then spend the rest of the night awake reminding yourself of all the small tasks you need to kick-ass at to do a good job.
Tomorrow we start bright-and-early with a 7 AM call-time and the first shot at 8 AM.
As Alan Shepherd says in The Right Stuff as he was launched into space, tonight I pray:
“Please God, don’t let me fuck this up.”