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The Camera Assistant

Book Description

Veteran camera assistant Doug Hart describes in this comprehensive technical guide all of the important facets and duties of the first and second camera assistants' jobs. Whether it is feature films, episodic television, documentaries, commercials, or music videos, The Camera Assistant: A Complete Professional Handbook explains both the practice and theory behind it with a concentration on technique rather than equipment. In addition, personal anecdotes from the author's years behind and beside the camera provide insight into this demanding field.

Key topics include film formats and aspect ratios, testing lenses and camera equipment, focus theory, film loading and labeling, scene blocking, marking actors, shooting tips, slating, paperwork, equipment maintenance, set etiquette, and finding work. This is not a camera equipment handbook; it is a comprehensive procedures manual which describes and explains the most important responsibilities of the camera assistant on the set, the theory behind the practice, and the methods that get the job done properly and keep the assistant frequently employed.

Douglas C. Hart has been a freelance first-camera assistant on feature films, documentaries, television shows, and commercials for more than 20 years, including 10 years (and 10 films) as first-camera assistant to Gordon Willis, ASC, as well as work in 42 states and 26 foreign countries. His work includes Presumed Innocent, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cosby Mysteries, and CBS's Central Park West. He is a member and former president of the International Photographers Local 644, IATSE, and teaches the Camera Assistant Workshops at the International Film and Television Workshops in Rockport, Maine.

Table of Contents

  1. Front Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright
  5. Contents
  6. List Of Illustrations
  7. Preface
    1. About This Book
    2. About the Author
    3. The Union
    4. Trainee Program
    5. Continuing Education
    6. Workshops
    7. Camera Assisting
    8. Technical Books
    9. Preferences
    10. Individuality
    11. Teaching
    12. Intentions
    13. Priorities and Attitude
  8. 1 Introduction to Camera Assisting
    1. What is a Camera Assistant?
    2. Accepting Responsibility
    3. Preventing Mistakes
    4. Tell the Director of Photography
    5. Generalities
  9. 2 Responsibilities of the Camera Assistant
    1. Overview
      1. Director of Photography
      2. Camera Operator
      3. First Camera Assistant
      4. Second Camera Assistant
      5. Still Photographer
    2. Compromises
    3. Additional Camera Crew Personnel
    4. Individuality
    5. Geographic Differences
    6. Other Departments
      1. Grips
      2. Sound
      3. Script
      4. Gaffer and Electrical Department
      5. Teamsters
      6. Assistant Director
      7. Production Manager
      8. Production Office Coordinator
      9. Others
  10. 3 Film Formats and Aspect Ratios
    1. Film Gauges
    2. Film Formats
    3. Anamorphic Systems
    4. Film Aspect Ratios
    5. Advent of Sound
    6. Wide-Screen Formats
    7. 16mm Formats
    8. 35mm Nonanamorphic (Spherical) Formats
    9. 35mm Anamorphic Formats
    10. 35mm Anamorphic and Horizontal Formats
    11. 35mm Multistrip Systems
    12. 65mm Nonanamorphic (Spherical) Formats
    13. 65mm Anamorphic Formats
    14. Running Time for Various Film Gauges and Formats
    15. High Definition TV (HDTV)
  11. 4 The Camera Equipment Checkout
    1. The Importance of the Checkout
    2. Camera Equipment Rental Houses
    3. Before the Checkout
    4. Rental House Personnel
    5. The Philosophy of the Checkout
    6. Reserved Equipment Packages
    7. The Camera Equipment Checkout Checklist
    8. The Rental Contract
    9. Case Labeling
  12. 5 Shooting Tests During Checkout 103
    1. Tests
    2. Registration Tests
    3. Flicker Tests
    4. Ground Glass Markings Test
    5. Making Dailies Projection Leader
    6. Ground Glass Position
    7. Lens Aberrations
    8. Lens Sharpness
    9. Lens Color
    10. Emulsion Tests
    11. Specifying Printing Lights
    12. Filter Tests
    13. Wardrobe and Makeup Tests
    14. Actors’ Screen Tests
    15. Lab Continuity Test
  13. 6 LoadinglUnloadiig
    1. Manufacturer’s Film Can Label
    2. Changing Bags
    3. Darkrooms
    4. Camera Trucks
    5. Magazine Maintenance
    6. Loading Procedures
    7. Recanned Raw Stock
    8. Short Ends
    9. Magazine Labeling
    10. Magazine Case Labeling
    11. Film Can Labeling
    12. Multiple Film Stocks
    13. Ordering Raw Stock
    14. Storage of Raw Stock
    15. Shipping of Raw Stock and Exposed Film
    16. Dealing with Laboratories
    17. Hand Tests (“Slop” Tests)
  14. 7 Lenses
    1. Lenses in General
    2. Prime Lenses
    3. Anamorphic Lenses
    4. Lens Mounts
    5. Zoom Lenses
    6. Special Lenses
      1. Macro Lenses
      2. Tele-Extenders
      3. Wide-Angle Adapters
      4. Proxars (Plus Diopters)/Split Diopters
    7. Cleaning Lenses
    8. Matte Boxes/Sunshades
    9. Lens Flare
    10. Transporting Lenses
    11. Condensation on Cold Lenses
    12. Changing Lenses
  15. 8 Filters
    1. Sizes and Shapes of Filters
    2. How Filters Work
    3. Color Correction Filters
    4. Color Compensation Filters
    5. Neutral Density Filters
    6. Graduated Filters
    7. “Attenuator” Filters
    8. Diffusion Filters
    9. Polarizing Filters
    10. Special Effects Filters
    11. Behind-the-Lens Filters
    12. Behind-the-Lens Diffusion
    13. Multiple Filters
    14. Filter Factors
    15. Mired Shift Value
    16. Cleaning Filters
  16. 9 Focus
    1. Overview
    2. Focus Theory
    3. Circle of Confusion
    4. f/stops and T/stops
    5. Depth-of-Field
      1. Macro Lens Depth-of-Field
    6. Depth-of-Focus
    7. Hyperfocal Distance
    8. Depth-of-Field Calculators and Charts
    9. Camera Lens Depth-of-Field Calculator
    10. Following Focus
    11. Choices: Who Should be in Focus?
    12. Splitting Focus
    13. Four Categories of Shot Focus
    14. Focus Marks
    15. Eye vs. Tape Focus
    16. Dolly Shots and Crane Shots
    17. Camera Operators and Focus
    18. Video Assist and Focus
    19. Panavision “Blue Line” Lenses
    20. Long Lenses
    21. Zoom Lenses
    22. Aperture Pulls
    23. Plus Diopters
    24. Split Diopter Lenses
    25. Panatape
    26. Rangefinders
    27. Electronic Focus Gadgets
  17. 10 Setup and Maintenance
    1. The Morning Routine
    2. Warmup
    3. Cleaning the Camera
      1. Viewfinder
    4. Lubricating the Camera
    5. Flange Focal Depth Checking/Film Gap Setting
    6. Shutter Opening
    7. Movement Phasing
    8. Setting Up
    9. Service Carts and Handtrucks
    10. Bringing Equipment to the Set
    11. Morning Chores
  18. 11 Shooting Procedures
    1. Set Etiquette
    2. Chain of Command
    3. Never Distract Director or Actors
    4. No Eye Contact with Actors
    5. Never Leave Camera Unattended
    6. Unplug and Cover the Camera
    7. Moving the Camera
    8. Scene Blocking
    9. Directors’ Finders/Real Lens Finders/Camera-as-Finder
    10. Marking Actors
    11. Hiding Marks
    12. Numbering the Marks
      1. Removing the Marks
    13. Color Charts and Gray Scales
    14. Setting the Eyepiece
    15. Keeping the Camera Quiet
      1. Lubrication
      2. Pitch Control
      3. Blimps and Barneys
    16. Magazine Noise
    17. Setting the Aperture
    18. Camera Cases
    19. Troubleshooting: What to Do When the Camera Stops
    20. Once the Camera is Rolling
    21. Following Focus
    22. Zooming
    23. Aperture Pulls
    24. Shutter Changes
    25. Simultaneous Moves
    26. Filming in the Cold
    27. Moving Cameras
      1. Dollies
      2. Cranes
      3. Insert Cars
    28. SteadicamJPanaglide
    29. Camera Reports
    30. Safety on the Set
    31. Checking the Gate
      1. Pull the Lens
      2. Through the Lens
      3. Pull the Gate
    32. Cleaning the Gate
    33. Reloading Etiquette
    34. Film Break-Off
    35. Recordkeeping—Shot Notebook
    36. Multiple Camera Shooting
    37. Efficiency on the Set
    38. Looking at Dailies
    39. Film Handling and Camera Problems
    40. Raw Stock and Processing Defects
  19. 12 Slates and Slating
    1. Why Slate?
    2. Single System/Double System
    3. Information on the Slate
    4. Types of Slates
    5. Roll Slates
    6. Tail Slates
    7. Second Sticks
    8. False Starts
    9. Silent Slates
    10. Getting Started
    11. Slating Procedure
    12. Etiquette of Slating
    13. Perspective and Timing
    14. Documentary Slating
    15. Time Code Slating
    16. Commercial Slating
    17. Multiple Camera Slating
  20. 13 Paperwork
    1. No Shortage of Paperwork
    2. Camera Reports
      1. Identification
      2. Contents
      3. Instructions
    3. Camera Reports for Short Ends
    4. Daily Film Reports
    5. Daily Film Inventory
    6. Combination Forms
    7. Purchase Orders
    8. Time Cards
    9. Equipment Lists
    10. Call Sheets
    11. Keep Copies of Everything!
  21. 14 Video Assist Systems
    1. The Theory and Practice of Video Assist
    2. Video Assist—Help or Hindrance?
    3. Video Assist Flicker and Flicker-Free Video
    4. Video Assist on the Set
    5. The Video Assist Beamsplitter
  22. 15 Tools and Supplies
    1. Assistant’s Tool Kit
    2. Essential Items
      1. Basic Tools
    3. Optional Items
    4. Assistant’s Supplies
    5. Travelling Heavy vs. Travelling Light
  23. 16 Education of a Camera Assistant, and Finding Work Afterwards
    1. Film School
    2. Equipment Rental Houses as Training Grounds
      1. Working at a Rental House
      2. Visit and Learn
    3. Student Films
    4. Ads in the Trade Press
    5. Work as Production Assistant
    6. Workshops and Seminars
    7. Trainee Program
    8. Finding Work
    9. Freelancing
    10. IATSE
    11. Non-Union
    12. Membership Procedure
    13. Union Organizing
    14. Did I Leave Something Out? Got a Better Way?
    15. Send it to me for the Second Edition!
  24. Appendix A: Bibliography
  25. Appendix B: Expendable Supplies Shopping List
  26. Appendix C: Camera Equipment Checkout Checklist
  27. Appendix D: Useful Formulas and Charts
  28. Appendix E: Film Magazine Takeup
  29. Appendix F: Screen TimeICamera Running Time
  30. Index