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Do you use a Steadicam Assistant?


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#1 Tom Janetzke

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 12:56 AM

How many operators here have a Steadicam Assistant that they bring along on jobs?
How often do you use them?
Do they have to be part of a union?
Do they have to be a 1st AC?

Just wanting to see who's doing what and how.
It would also be nice to see what people are charging to have a steadicam assistant.

-Tomzke

"People are like Slinkies: Not much use for them, but fun to watch fall down stairs." ;)
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#2 Matt Sanderson

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 03:22 AM

Dear Tomzke:

Most operators have used spots at one time or another.

It really depends on the weight of your rig relative to the shot and
movements you are trying to achieve.

If a complex number of movements, turns and objects are to be
negotiated during a block or take then a spotter may be useful since
your eyes are pointed downward monitoring your video feed.

Spotters generally fall into the same category as PAs or sometimes
come from the Grip department.

Spotters do not necessarily have to be part of a Union, depends on the
project. If the project is Union then it's usually better to have a Union
based spotter assigned to you by the PM or DP.

No, spotters are not 1st ACs.

A 1st AC works in a darkroom loading film into the cameras magazines,
controls film inventory and camera reports. Pulls focus and slates on set
working with the 1st assistant.

If your working a non-Union shoot spotters would most likely earn the
minimum wage in your Country or State.

Union spotters might be a slightly different rate but probably not much
different or far off from the minimum wage.
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#3 James Puli

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 07:08 AM

Hi Guys

I am a 1st and 2nd AC based in Melbourne Australia, but I often put on another hat as the ONLY SPECIALIST Steadicam Assistant in Australia.

Depending on the production will depend on wether or not they hire a specialist Assistant for the Steadicam operator. I work pretty much in film 90% of the time and am slowly making my way into TV at the moment, which in honesty needs more Camera Assistants generally. 1 out of every 10 jobs for me is as Steadicam Assistant.

I find I work mostly as a Steadicam Assistant when the Steadicam Operator is day playing on features or TV Dramas where time is of the upmost importance and the AC's generally wont know or care about how the Steadicam is being built.
What generally happens is I will be building the Steadicam with a 2nd Camera body, and use the lenses that are on set, while the Steadicam Operator is operating main camera, giving the DOP a break from Operating. (Not all productions here have operators, its just as much a luxary as a Steadicam)

Like Matt said before, either myself or the grips will be responsible for spotting the Steadicam Operator through a complex movement / shot. I tend to leave it to the grips simply because when any thing goes wrong (I dont want to be in the way lol) and they can just take the rig off the operator give it to me and its all good, while the operator is talking with the DP and Director, and often rehursing or watching block throughs while I deal with any problems that may occur. These can range from dead batteries through to arms going down and a quick dash to the grip truck to rig something out to get the shot done before we get the arm properly repaired.

We all work together. A specialist Steadicam Assistant is an extreme luxary. I know of only a hand full of productions in the past couple of years that have hired them, and they have all been American films shooting in Australia.

Matt - 1st AC works in a darkroom loading film into the cameras magazines,
controls film inventory and camera reports.
This is a good description of that the 2nd AC actually spends their time doing (when there is a 2nd ac on a job of course). Generally the 1st AC will simply set up the camera, make sure its working properly and then pull focus during the shots.

Spotters are nearly always Grips. And if they are not, they will be a spare AC or a Safety Supervisor. The Grips and Safety people are the only other people on a film set that I would trust any where near my Steadicam when operating. The Grips are the Steadicam Operators best friend. No PA would ever get that job.

JP
Melbourne Australia
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#4 IanMcMillan

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Posted 21 September 2005 - 09:19 AM

Dear James and posters,
A point of Order!
I've had a couple of reds so excuuuuuuuse me (thanx Steve Martin)
If the 1st AC is spotting, who is doing focus?
There is no speacialist SC focus pullers in Oz because they would starve.
All the good focus pullers here in Melb. can handle a SC as they handle dollies, cranes and sticks.
I am now retired because of lack of work but when I was doing TVc's, series and film, all my focus pullers could set up and dynamically balance a rig because they were shown how and they were interested.
On the Mighty Awful Flower Arrangers, oops, Power Rangers, Peter Terakas (RIP) could pull focus sitting in a directors chair 20 feet away on a night shoot and at the end of the take you just had to look at him and get the nod. Never was there a bad Neg report. One operator did ask him to move once every 15 minutes so we'd know he was alive but that was Pete. And thats being a first AC.
If anyone noticed a bit of vitriol, well yes, it's there. Sorry.
Macca
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#5 Iain Marcks

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 01:48 PM

all my focus pullers could set up and dynamically balance a rig because they were shown how and they were interested.


i'd assume this would be the steadi assistant's main concern, in addition to pulling remote focus. my plan is to join the union this year (as an assistant) and find a steadi operator to attach myself to while i learn to fly in my off-time.

iain
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#6 Juan M.Ramos SOC

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 03:17 PM

Hi.
I always use a steadicam assistant,only for the rig but It's normal in Spain because Camera crew doesn't include the rig as a camera crew equipment deparment,When I shooted in U.S,camera deparment take the rig as a another part of camera equipment and they really keep focus in all that I needed.
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#7 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 04:19 PM

[in Spain] Camera crew doesn't include the rig as a camera crew equipment department

Thats very interesting... is it held by the grip department? Does the 1st assistant get a tech rate for dealing with steadicam? In the US, the 1st assistant gets a bump in wages called a Tech Rate for remote heads, steadicam amongst other types of "technical" equipment. If that were to happen in Spain, I bet your rigs would be verrrrry welcomed into the camera department.
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#8 thomas-english

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 07:07 PM

Wow 1st AC's get a bump for dealing with complicated kit? Nice...

I think this is a really interesting question but really I would not consider a Spotter (Grip) or Focus puller (1st AC) as a Steadicam assistant. I define a steadicam assistant as:

Someone that comes in and catches your rig (some grips moan about that but almost all will do it if they need to)
Knows how to set up your wireless video link
Humps your flight cases and magliner
Finds out the costume and make-up girls name and finds out if they are single

I think someone like James Puli that actually knows how to set up your rig properly and balance it would be defined as a super-assistant. I know the Mumbai guys all have super-assistants. They don't even balance their sleds; they just mooch in, do the shot and go and chill.

There is also some Steadicam ops that recommend and get such regular 1st AC's, their focus pullers know their sleds backwards. These guys often give their focus pullers their first opportunities at operating Steadicam.

I go through phases of if I see a good runner I bump them to Steadicam assist for that day and steal them from their menial production walkie talkie jobs and I'll try take them onto the more grueling jobs that come up. They make other contacts in the camera department and start getting work as a trainee or video village and I move on. I wouldn't pay a Steadicam assistant any more than a runners rate and I expect them to meet people, move on and find better work.

Often I prefer to work alone and just have the DoP s choice of 1st AC and the grip spotting me.
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#9 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 07:19 PM

In the Live TV world we come as a team. A package deal. Because they are not only doing all the things that y'all spoke of, but they are also coiling a fiber or triax cable behind us at a full run. And yes they get a good wage and a bump to play with us

They are worth their weight in gold in my book!
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#10 Amando Crespo

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 07:41 PM

Wow 1st AC's get a bump for dealing with complicated kit? Nice...

I think this is a really interesting question but really I would not consider a Spotter (Grip) or Focus puller (1st AC) as a Steadicam assistant. I define a steadicam assistant as:

Someone that comes in and catches your rig (some grips moan about that but almost all will do it if they need to)
Knows how to set up your wireless video link
Humps your flight cases and magliner
Finds out the costume and make-up girls name and finds out if they are single

I think someone like James Puli that actually knows how to set up your rig properly and balance it would be defined as a super-assistant. I know the Mumbai guys all have super-assistants. They don't even balance their sleds; they just mooch in, do the shot and go and chill.

There is also some Steadicam ops that recommend and get such regular 1st AC's, their focus pullers know their sleds backwards. These guys often give their focus pullers their first opportunities at operating Steadicam.

I go through phases of if I see a good runner I bump them to Steadicam assist for that day and steal them from their menial production walkie talkie jobs and I'll try take them onto the more grueling jobs that come up. They make other contacts in the camera department and start getting work as a trainee or video village and I move on. I wouldn't pay a Steadicam assistant any more than a runners rate and I expect them to meet people, move on and find better work.

Often I prefer to work alone and just have the DoP s choice of 1st AC and the grip spotting me.


Thomas... YOU´RE ON THE WAY!. You have reason-

This is all I need about my assistant.
In my professional life, I ever had long time assistants. Mr. David "The Viking" for 7 years,Mr. Nacho "Granaino" for 5 years,Mr. Luis "smiling-boy" for 2 years..
And THEY ARE ON THE CAMERA CREW, WITH ITS CREDITS AT IMDb and the scroll film.
I can´t understand my friend Juan Ramos SOC in his post. May be, or perhaps we are living in different countries.
All my assistants are ready to transport, balance, doing focus puller, assist my back, take care about me, drive when I´m tired bring me a water bottle... All I, or we needs to be confortable and enjoy on set ...
My assistant it is not only this... Is the man whom I travel, work, is my partner in the car, is partner with all problems with clients, producers,... He is a guild.
Of course, I´m the op. and his boss and sometimes can be discussions, but all my assistants was for long time with me (they grow up and goes to camera op or... Time to fly away).
It´s my way.
Best for all
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#11 Twojay Dhillon

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Posted 08 July 2011 - 08:21 PM

How many operators here have a Steadicam Assistant that they bring along on jobs?
How often do you use them?
Do they have to be part of a union?
Do they have to be a 1st AC?

Just wanting to see who's doing what and how.
It would also be nice to see what people are charging to have a steadicam assistant.

-Tomzke

"People are like Slinkies: Not much use for them, but fun to watch fall down stairs." ;)


I started as an uncredited/Non-Union/PA-rate Cam Dept Gopher. Learned a ton from doing so and the sacrifice was well worth it. Saved a decent chunk of change by living like a pauper for a few years and am now starting my lifelong journey as a Cam Op/Steadicam Op. Met a lot of awesome people along the way and should I turn out to be worth a crap -- I owe them more than I can ever repay them. Even so, I will attempt to repay them with copious amounts of liquor and good food!!! :D
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#12 John atkinson

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 09:04 AM

In the Live TV world we come as a team. A package deal. Because they are not only doing all the things that y'all spoke of, but they are also coiling a fiber or triax cable behind us at a full run. And yes they get a good wage and a bump to play with us

They are worth their weight in gold in my book!


Plus they have to be invisible, but always right behind you, keep the audience and talent out of your way or vice versa and tech your systems, tally, prompter, program, power. Plus carry your cases and fetch drinks and snacks. The times I was not able to use a qualified assist only made me look bad when in fact it was production making that decision. As you say it is a team.

JA
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#13 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 09:55 AM

So I see we are talking about two different worlds here in the US... Live TV and Feature Film/Episodic. I guess the Steadicam Assistant is more of a Live TV gig.

Where as its the 1st AC on Film/Episodic that will set up the rig (if allowed by the operator) and the dolly grip will then spot the operator and grab the rig... just the same if it where hand held. Its the responsibility of the dolly grip to relieve to weight from the operator between takes. This frees up the camera assistants so that they can check marks and prepare for the next take.

The 2nd AC will also be the one responsible to pull the rig from the truck and put it to bed for the day... again, if the operator allows them to.
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#14 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 05:14 PM

There are definite differences between Episodic and Live TV, In Live TV,....Years ago I was allowed an assistant who pulled focus!, He would sit in the audience with the Bartech and roll focus, He was there with me all the rehearsal days and knew all the moves, a seperate stage hand was my cable wrangler and safety, As years passed by, they barked about the seperate focus puller and I started pulling focus on my own, That has now been the norm for many many years....so just a safety now. On non TV/Live jobs I will always walk the shot first and if I see the need, ask for the AC or Main grip to watch my back and surroundings during the take. On shots involving non professional extras, such as concerts or Live TV audience, it's especially crutial, no one wants to crash into someone who steps into your path as your sprinting with the rig.....It's happened to me, Not fun.
Sometimes it's needed and sometimes not, But ALWAYS good to have.
I'm sure alot of busier LIVE guys come with their assistants all the time.
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#15 James Puli

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Posted 10 July 2011 - 06:28 AM

lol Thomas - i wrote that post 5 years ago, before I called myself an Operator, because I was a Specialist Steadicam Assistant, and regularly worked with many of Australia's top Steadicam guys. Some times I was already on the job as a 1st or 2nd AC, but others hired me just to look after the Steadicam, mainly when guys were day playing. Needless to say the operators I was working with loved it.

To this day, I still "wet hire" my rig to other operators (mainly DOP's who can like to do Steadicam) and I go on the job with my rig, build it, set it up, do everything with it except operate.... and then pull focus for the job. Its great fun, as Ive got a great group of clients who I do this with. Plus as I'm an up and coming operator here, it allows me to take a step back, watch and learn more.

Now that Im being put in a position to choose my own assistants alot more, I will still generally do most of the balancing of the rig myself (just because I prefer it at the moment), but will always either choose an AC who has done Steadicam before or go through it with them before the shoot. Especially when doing live TV and or while being tethered. And obviously the complexity of the job will dictate who I hire .... same as a DP hiring his Focus Puller!

JP

Edited by James Puli, 10 July 2011 - 06:29 AM.

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