Video Production: Crew Positions

Most people make a bee line for the door to be first to sit in traffic in the parking lot after a movie but, you might have noticed that at the end of most every flick there is a long list of credits.  In that never-ending scroll of crew titles is much to learn.  Some of you might even find it more interesting than your 11th grade physics text book.

The first thing the credits can teach you is seemingly obvious but, aptly applied to any video shoot.  That is, making a video is a team effort.  It takes a great deal of talented and focused people to make those moving pictures we take for granted these days, no matter the screen it is viewed on.  The credits also give you insight to the language of filmmaking too!  Each crew position has a funny name given to it and so often people will ask, who is the Best Boy and am I too old to be one?!

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Above the Line (and supporting members)

Producers – There are a great many producers and some get more words attached to their title, so it can be a little bit confusing who might be doing what but, every show has at least one.  Sometimes that person has another role on the crew in addition to producer, often this is the director, sometimes a writer.  Yet, not every producer role is the same.  Executive Producers rarely are involved with any technical aspects of a picture.  They mostly raise money and make sure that there will be a budget to make sure the show can pay for all the people, skills and equipment every show needs.  When simply named a Producer, that person is involved in all aspects of gathering the budget, crew, distribution and plan for a successful project, often from a  big picture point of view.  In the movies you watched, the producer can often be dressed for success, riding high and with the fanciest people, places and things.  Otherwise, the producer is ground down, struggling mightily to just keep all the pieces from falling apart.  The reality is, Producers need to know filmmaking’s inner workings from start to finish and that is no easy chore.  Co-Producers and Assistant Producers will work with other producers and help in all the details of the production.  A Line Producer will be the budget person always with an eye to the finances and schedule, which are the real boss’s on any video!

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Production Coordinator – These people assist with drawing up the battle plans for any production.  Production Coordinators manage all the resources for any job.  This ranges from organizing crew, equipment and location needs.  This is as complex as knowing who has what skills, what skills are needed, what equipment will support the scenes expected to be shot on what days, which they help to schedule and making sure permits are had and the locations selected are secured and are aware of the needs of the project.  Oh yeah, they have to make sure lunch shows up on time too!  If that wasn’t enough, all of these details need to written down and shared with the appropriate parties and creative thinking is needed to make it all fit in the budget, which they helped to create and make sure the proposal they drafted for the client is met to a tee!  Once underway, the Production Coordinator will liaise with the client to monitor progress and their satisfaction.

Screen Writer – From the fertile minds of Writers, pictures from the mind transform to words on the page, to the vibrant images on the screen.  Whether writing to adapt another work into the shooting script, or beginning from scratch to make something entirely new, the writer makes the foundation that all the work will be based upon.  No matter if toiling in the dark of their neurosis alone, or collaborating to make a group effort, writers take the script through many versions in the hopes of one day becoming the blockbuster we come to love.

Director – There can only be one!  While it isn’t exactly Highlander, there is only one person filling this role for every shoot. The director is the person charged with making sure that the film has a cohesive vision.  This is the same for a video.  Every show has a purpose and that purpose can be met many different ways.  What is the most effective and did the efforts of all cast and crew serve the style in achieving that goal?  That is for the director to decide.

StringLine Pictures - Video Crew - Director of Photography

 

Director of Photography – This role used to be credited as Cinematographer but, everyone these days needs a bigger title to their name, like your kid brother somehow is vice president of the lemonade stand now, but didn’t get a pay raise…  I digress.  The Director of Photography or DP in biz lingo, is in charge of the camera department and is the go-to person for heads of all other departments.  This person works closely with the director and could very well be the director depending on the size of the crew.  They are in charge of making sure that visually all the goals of the director’s vision is met, with whatever tools are needed to achieve that end.

 

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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…

stringline pictures - camera crew 2Script 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!

stringline pictures - camera crew 3Best 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.

Finding the Right Video Production Team

Finding the right video production team for your project can be fairly daunting, especially when you consider how many positions can be on a crew. While many video production crews vary in size, these are the key roles that are necessary for a successful shoot. If you are looking for a premium production crew in the midwest, make sure to reach out to us at Stringline Productions. We would be excited to bring your vision to life!

Want to learn more about the video production process? Check out our blog post on Post-Production, where we cover everything that happens after filming is complete!