This week, we have part 2 of our detailed series on video production crew members. These talent folks have their hands on the camera, equipment, and technology to make the set look beautiful and acquire picture and sound.
Camera, Lighting, Sound Department
Camera Operator – Should your shoot need more cameras and person’s to operate them, you’re going to have more of these fellas on set. You can identify them easily by the fact they often eat their sandwiches with only their viewfinder eye open. With a keen sense for framing, color and lighting, they will work with the Director of Photography to bring art from a highly technical skill.
Assistant Cameras, 1st and 2nd – Now here is how you know all the tricks are coming out of the bag. Assistant Camera persons or AC’s, can come in two flavors and are there to help when your shoot needs highly technical persons to assist the Camera Operator, so the operator can drown out the world and only see what the art demands. The 1st AC is the first, if there is a 2nd. Getting harder now huh? If there is a 1st AC, the 1st sets up the camera, makes all the settings correct and assembles the lenses and accessories so they are ready for the Camera Operator. The 1st AC can also be known as the Focus Puller if they maintain focus for the camera operator. The 2nd AC will gather all the tools and accessories as needed for all the changing demands because the 1st AC never leaves the camera they are in charge of. If needing to use a clapboard, the 2nd trots out in front of the lens for a cameo! Of course, in a world of do more with less, the Camera Operator, who could also be the DP will often do all the roles of the AC’s if they are not part of your shoot day.
Production Sound Mixer / Boom Operator – Depending on the size of the production, this could be one person or more. This person records the audio on location using any number of methods that could be direct to camera, separate, or both, known as dual system sound. Knowing all the varied and distinct advantages to different microphones, how to place them and when to use them is the hallmark of this black art mastering sorcerer. All of this is important and it avoids costly and time consuming re-recordings of audio not captured correctly in the field. Stressful? Only if you don’t fully immerse yourself in this role and the reward for doing so is, everyone wants a top notch audio guy with them! Should the mixer be recording and adjusting levels, the boom operator swings the microphone to and fro to capture dialogue and the environment as needed. They also listen to make sure the audio is “clean” and may have to familiarize themselves with the script to know who is talking and when. A word of warning. An audio tech is always listening. Always…
Script Supervisor – Video shoots are well orchestrated exercises in disorderly tumult. To the untrained eye, scripts are shot out of sequence, cast and crew can change daily based on the scenes needs. Equipment is shuffled and strewn about. It’s kinda like you invited your in-laws over for the weekend you planned a garage sale. But never fear! The script supervisor is here to make sense of it all! After consulting the shooting schedule and the script, the Script Supervisor will review what was already shot and what will be needed again to be sure that the film will be able to cut together both verbally and visually. It is called continuity and someone has to know where we’ve been so we can get to where we are going.
Grip – While many people think this role is to move equipments around, the Grip is actually the camera operators right hand man. All the support that a camera needs in terms of dollies, cranes, high hats, assisting when no AC is present and getting all of those things moved from location to location and setup properly is the job of the Grip. On shoots with more than one camera, A camera is handled by the Key Grip.
Gaffer – This is the chief lighting technician. The Gaffer works with the Director of Photography to use lighting and shadows to create the desired effects needed for the shot. Knowing which lights in terms of power, color, shape and effect are the paint and brushes of this skilled artist. Just as important as pooling light is drawing shadows and sinking blacks in all the right places. You know who this person is when they light up like the Muppet Beaker when you cross their wires!
Best Boy – Is not a boy and not even necessarily a man, but they are the best! Or more correctly, they are the right hand “man” to the Gaffer. This person makes sure that all the equipment that is ordered shows up to the location, at the time it is needed. That gear is organized and readily accessible for the crew and any issues with faulty or damaged gear lands in the lap of the Best Boy. Wear a cup.
Digital Imaging Technician – In the alphabet soup you will come to know, this person is simply the DIT. In many ways this person has replaced the Loader on what used to be true film sets, back when we shot on film. The role here is to take the footage from your cameras, download it, duplicate it, confirm what was shot, save the metadata and apply a Look Up Table or LUT to your footage. Today’s high end cameras can fool the novice to thinking the brilliant and incredible image they saw in the viewfinder is missing when they look at the dull and faded images that are recorded in RAW and viewed just after shooting. No, shaking it like a Polaroid will do you no good. You need to treat the image with a variety of filters and techniques to bring that hidden beauty back to life and that initial LUT tells the Editor what that image was intended to be.
Check in again next week when we talk Post-Production.