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Framing up for focus


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#1 Mike Braaten

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 02:02 AM

I just got off a shoot with RED camera for very little pay. Suffice it to say, the only thing I learned is that I won't take anything below a certain rate anymore.

My question is: What's the usual workflow for focus/exposure checks on music videos, commercials and features?

On this shoot I was asked by the AC to constantly frame up and do multiple run-throughs to check focus (using the RED focus button) and by the DP to check lighting (using the RED exposure button)..

I ended up in the rig most of the day aiming the camera. Is this standard practice? Mostly I shoot reality TV and there are multiple cameras to check lighting and focus is irrelevant because its 'covered in interview.'

Do I need some of that industrial-grade gimbal lube you guys are always referencing?

Thanks as always!
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#2 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 02:07 AM

I just got off a shoot with RED camera for very little pay. Suffice it to say, the only thing I learned is that I won't take anything below a certain rate anymore.

My question is: What's the usual workflow for focus/exposure checks on music videos, commercials and features?

On this shoot I was asked by the AC to constantly frame up and do multiple run-throughs to check focus (using the RED focus button) and by the DP to check lighting (using the RED exposure button)..

I ended up in the rig most of the day aiming the camera. Is this standard practice? Mostly I shoot reality TV and there are multiple cameras to check lighting and focus is irrelevant because its 'covered in interview.'



Suck it up Buttercup. It's part of the job
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#3 Mike Braaten

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 02:10 AM

Suck it up Buttercup. It's part of the job
[/quote]

Thanks Eric. Hey does anyone know how to sell gear on this webzone? I have a rig for sale!
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#4 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 02:15 AM

[quote name='Mike Braaten' date='11 May 2010 - 12:10 AM' timestamp='1273561825' post='55910']
Suck it up Buttercup. It's part of the job
[/quote]

Thanks Eric. Hey does anyone know how to sell gear on this webzone? I have a rig for sale!
[/quote]


Well if you go to the classifeds section and read the pinned post it explains how to do it.
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#5 Mike Braaten

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 02:40 AM

Thanks, Eric. I was just joking at least for now. I may sell at the end of this year if things don't turn around.

It's frustrating, ya know... All I get offered are these low-rate bullshit jobs and I keep reading all the posts on this site on how I'm ruining the craft of Steadicam by taking them. I believe it, too... I tried for a while to man up and turn down anything less than a modest quote of $1000/12 for me and the gear and I didn't work for six months... what do you think that means?

This business is fucked up.
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#6 Charles Papert

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 03:16 AM

Since most reality is shot on smaller size imagers than the RED, focus is less of an issue, of course. On a low-budget RED shoot you would be lucky to get an AC who has the chops to pull focus on the fly, since they probably haven't had film experience. Exposure--well, I'm assuming you aren't transmitting HD or cabled to a reference monitor if the DP is relying on the false color for exposure to that degree. This part at least will improve with Scarlet/Epic and the Redmote, where having to hit buttons and examine the results should become quicker and easier.
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#7 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 08:29 AM

Sounds like your AC and DP didn't know their jobs.

If not pulling on the fly wirelessly the AC should at least be measuring and setting marks. Don't even need the camera for a lot of that process.

Likewise the DP...didn't have a light meter? Don't know how to use one? Sheesh.

It sounds like you learned that low money is not the only reason to choose what jobs you say "yes" to carefully. Sometimes a low paying job has other benefits, but sometimes it's just an indication that you're dealing with idiots. You need to learn to interview your potential employers. Even then you can get burned.

The on-set politics of protecting your health and well-being on a set is another topic. Not as simple as "suck it up", particularly on low budget sets where corners are cut everywhere and you're working for people who don't understand what we do and what we need. The Steadicam Operators Handbook has some excellent advice on the subject.
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#8 RonBaldwin

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 09:52 AM

I haven't seen a light meter in a while...at least not the ones with the little white domes on them. All I see are the new fangled light meters that are shaped like cameras, mounted on dollies, and tethered by mounds of cables.

As far as the working for peanuts in these hard times, you gotta eat but in the long run it really screws up what we and others before us have fought for. Unfortunately there are more chefs in this kitchen than there are hungry people.

RB
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#9 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 11:17 AM

I agree that it sounds like neither the DP or the AC knew what they were doing. I shoot with the RED all the time and I don't even use that color check button. As for the AC, it depends on the lenses you were using but it's fair to say that the should get their marks with a tape measure most of the time.

An out side of the box answer is to either get a rolling stand or (what I use) a cart/stand. Then when the AC or DP want to look, you can point at the rig and say, "knock your self out". Obviously you will need to frame up for both the AC and the DP (as Eric said, it's part of the job) but you might have saved a few lifts if your stand was on wheels.

A side note (part 2) is I go out of my way when shooting with the RED on steadicam to use cards and power the sled from my rig. The 16 gig cards can do most of what you want on the RED apart from high frame rates. The combination of the drive and the battery not on the camera does help quite a bit over the course of the day.

My 2 cents.
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#10 Mike Braaten

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 11:23 AM

Thanks Mark. I've heard stories about ACs and DPs who are able to pull on the fly and light with a meter or by eye... I thought they were just the stuff of legend! I've definitely worked for people who were much more cognizant of the physical demands of Steadicam than the group I was with this weekend. I'll check out the Handbook for advice on protecting my health.


Ron: I definitely understand working for peanuts lowers rates and quality of life for everybody. I'm pretty lucky to be in the pipeline for a couple reality shows a year that pay me more for my shoulder work than I've made (so far) with Steadicam. I can afford to be more choosy in which jobs I take and after this latest reaming I'm going to dig in again and say no to any cut-rate jobs. It just isn't worth it.
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#11 Mike Braaten

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 11:37 AM

Mike: I'll go to Matthews and buy a rolling stand today.

I'm a total weight weenie: I have a cable to power RED off the sled. Best $300 I ever spent! I tried designing my own mounting system out of 1/4" screws and washers so I could ditch the dovetail plate as well (I know I'm a pussy, thanks).

It's a little more difficult to convince DPs to shoot to the CF cards. I usually try to sell them by saying that the DIT on "District 9" used CF cards exclusively because they're virtually free from dropouts, etc, but it's tough to convince these guys when they're used to just shooting off the drive all day. That and we didn't have a second who could manage the data, at least on this shoot.
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#12 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 04:08 PM

Mike: I'll go to Matthews and buy a rolling stand today.

The stand most people use is the American Steadicam Stand. Backstage makes the pneumatic wheel brackets for it. For the stand if you buy it at the factory they give you a nice discount. The wheels cost more than the stand.....

~Jess
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#13 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 08:40 PM

Ron,

Good point. :-) I haven't used my meter in awhile either, since I'm working mostly in video and operating my own shoots (Steadicam or otherwise). If I'm controlling my own iris while in the rig, or if the camera is tethered and being painted on the fly, that's one thing.

But if it's a "film-style" RED shoot, and the DP is not operating the Steadicam but is futzing around endlessly with the exposure while the op sweats in the rig, that's another thing. (that's what I read into the Mike B's post). Use a meter, call out the exposure, the AC sets it, and the op undocks and goes to #1. Yes?

A really good AC combines measuring, marks, and a Zen-like ability to judge distances and "feel" the lens barrel on the fly. Some DP's can judge exposure largely by eye, but not as many as perhaps think they can. For us mere mortals, some form of metering (handheld or zebras) to establish base exposure, plus quick doublechecks as setups and conditions change, is mandatory. Particularly these days where the latitude of digital cameras is closer to reversal film than negative, and exposure mistakes mean some nasty problems in post.
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#14 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 08:45 PM

Jess,

Can you describe why the American Steadicam stand is preferred?

I guess the pneumatic wheels are a part of it, but I can't tell from pictures if there are other significant differences from, for instance, a baby roller stand.
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#15 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 11 May 2010 - 09:00 PM

Can you describe why the American Steadicam stand is preferred?

I guess the pneumatic wheels are a part of it, but I can't tell from pictures if there are other significant differences from, for instance, a baby roller stand.

It is a very beefy steel baby stand. The thickness of the risers is that of a junior stand so no flex no matter how much weight you throw on it. With the wheels that backstage sells you get a rather stable setup that doesn't need a sandbag. The pneumatic wheels are much better than the solid ones that american sells. Most importantly it is black so it won't get confused with the grips stuff. Back when I used a c-stand the grips were constantly trying to steal it at the end of the day. The black powdercoat finish isn't nearly as durable as chrome but it is worth the trade off. Spray exposed metal with corrosion-x every once in a while and you won't have any troubles with rust.

Not sure what mitchel has in their lineup but with a normal beefy baby rolling stand I would expect thinner risers and smaller hard rubber wheels.

~Jess
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