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Did your FF equipment get you fired?


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#1 Erwin Landau

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 08:49 AM

The AC...

Basically a lower player on the set, most of the time not even credited, and still a huge player when hireing or fireing your Operator Behind.

I heard in the past and was involved in occasions where the Operator was forced to buy/upgrade to a different Follow Focus System in order to stay hired or get rehired. Mainly going from whatever system to the "Industry standard" Preston.

Just this week I was putting together an order for a Preston System for a fellow Operator, were the requirement to get rehired on a feature, was to get rid of his BFD and get a Preston...

Soooo....

The AC accused for the soft dalies from yesterday were the result of the shitty FF system that the operator owned... get an operator that has a newer or useable unit.

The AC does not like the Steadicam Operators FF because he has to turn this wheels, everytime they calibrate.

The AC claims that the fous marks never line up...

The AC claims he has neck trouble because the Handunit is to heavy...

Etc... you get the idea.

The result is always the same, the Steadicam Operator is a goner... or has to shell out 15 grand...

I Know for a fact that there are bigger operator stil making a happy living owning a 3A with a Seitz... how does that work out?

Any Ideas, stories, thoughts...


Erwin"Industry Standard" Landau, SOC
www.landaucamera.com
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#2 joe mcnally

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 10:02 AM

Hi Erwin
discussed this over Christmas time with colleagues in UK and our conclusion was if it can be avoided do not to take on the responsiblity of FF kit.
We offer the Genio FF but are guarded as to how we promote it. We explain to client that it is not the best in the world but perfectly adequate for most TV and light film jobs. We recommend that client discusses ff requirements with 1stAC and let them specify what they want then source it, pick it up, use it then get it back to whoever it belongs to. This seems to work quite well for us.
The hire company is happy the 1st AC is happy. OK so we lose a little bit in Genio hire but job is a lot less stressful. I personlly cannot see a time in the near future when I could offer a full Preston kit or Arri FF and not take a big financial loss on it.
99% of clients are delighted with the Genio system and its costs
Cheers
Joe McNally
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#3 Ruben Sluijter

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 01:26 PM

Unfortunately another example of blaming the tool and not the operator...which is just wrong.
Ultimately a good puller should be able to do good shots, no matter what you give him (seitz ?!).
It might take a little longer to get perfect or you may have to be a bit more 'creative' in how you deal with unit limitations but I think it's silly to put the blame on equipment so easily.
It's a matter of knowing and understanding the limits of what you're working with and that goes for any piece of equipment (whether it's focus, the Steadicam or even the camera itself).
All technology has problems yet why is it that some people get great results with so-called 'bad gear' and others don't...boils down to the skill of the person who works it.
It's just a shame not everybody sees that the same way (my experience it's mostly the younger/less experienced people who are very quick to blame the gear).
And it's doubly bad if you're being forced into spending a ridiculous amount of money (let's be honest) on a piece of kit that you don't even really need...

I always try to talk to the AC about their problems with the unit and see if we can work it out together without letting 'the others' know about it, usually this works out fine (maybe I'll ask if I can do one more take, if we're not 100% sure about focus, without letting on that it was a focus problem since I can take a little more heat than the AC)
Let's face it, a shot done with a state of the art Preston can be just as out of focus as one with a Seitz....

Peace, Ruben "A real softie" Sluijter
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#4 RonBaldwin

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 02:58 PM

Sad but true, especially in larger markets.

Years ago I was in dicussions with George Paddock about buying a Pro arm (I'd guess sometime in 1998). He asked what focus system I was working with, at the time I had a seitz (which worked fine btw). His advice -- and you've got to admire him for saying this -- was that I first upgrade to a Preston, then save up for an arm later.

Every ac has many follow focus nightmare stories (more often than not the failure is his fault). I'm certain the same ac will also have bad Preston experiences (no system is perfect). But the number of bad experiences with other systems will most likely outweigh bad experiences with "higher end systems" (Prestons, Scorpios, others?).

The Preston is a pretty stupid proof system. This is all that really matters when it comes to remote focus -- is it strong? is it accurate? does it get interference? is it simple to set up (very subjective)? I think this goes for your other gear as well (sled, batteries, chargers, xmitter/antenna, docking stand/cart) -- all the gak that the assistants are schlepping around all day while you are discussing the shot with the director, having a snort of scotch with the dp, or chatting up a lovely extra.

I think it's pretty f'd up that an ac's equip preference may determine if you get the job or not. But can you really blame him/her for trying to get the upper-hand by surrounding himself/herself with equip that is less likely to fail (especially in today's run-and-gun set environment). Before I got my Pro, I lost jobs to ops with "newer/better" sleds as well ones with "higher end" follow focus. In the end I had to cave...had to buy gear that the ac's AND the dp's wanted to use. The equip may get you the job, but your abilty/personality will keep you the jobs.
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#5 Charles Papert

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 05:28 PM

The equip may get you the job, but your abilty/personality will keep you the jobs.

Oh, bless you, you little muffin. So true.

I think the most critical thing that has affected this issue is that so often the 1st assistant who is already on the show is going to be pulling your focus, and they are not likely to protect you over their own interests (keeping their job). The second they have focus issues with a "less-than" system, regardless of whether it's human error or not, they have a really easy excuse to trot out to the DP.

The only qualification I would make to Ruben's comments is that a system that doesn't have good accuracy, or is too slow, or has interference issues (i.e. unpredictable in any way) is going to be a liability that even a great focus puller may not be able to overcome every time.
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#6 Ruben Sluijter

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 05:48 PM

The only qualification I would make to Ruben's comments is that a system that doesn't have good accuracy, or is too slow, or has interference issues (i.e. unpredictable in any way) is going to be a liability that even a great focus puller may not be able to overcome every time.

You're absolutely right ofcourse, and older/outdated equipment tend to have these problems more often than newer gear.
Which is really only logical since development never stands still and there are some very smart (and some not so smart) people constantly at work to improve stuff.
But that shouldn't mean you'd need to immediately buy every new toy the moment it's released simply because it's "new and improved" (now there's a contradiction in terms...)

Sadly that is the way it tends to go.
It's sad enough to lose a job because you don't have the newest UltimateMasterUltraPROArtsyFartsymusMK9-CineBroadcastHD sled with the new Rubber-Elastic arm...atleast that has some bearing on the work I actually do.
I find it even more depressing that I'll get turned down for a job because I don't have the latest all singing, all dancing remote focus unit (which really says nothing about my skills as an operator to anyone...).

Thankfully Ron does hit the nail on the head by saying "The equip may get you the job, but your abilty/personality will keep you the jobs."
Luckily that is still mostly true, even in this cynical industry!
Any tips on how to land the jobs, even though you don't have the newest gear...or even a Frank'n'rig?

Peace, Ruben "Fresh out of the box, and still smells like plastic" Sluijter
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#7 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 05 January 2004 - 07:28 PM

It is amazing though, as it is indeed the young guys that complain about gear the most. They have never seen a Seitz/WRC-3, so they just don?t understand setting end points. If anything ever pushes me into a Preston, it will be the auto-calibration. I?m continually amazed at how every now and then, you?ll find an otherwise intelligent person who just can?t wrap their brain around a BFD. Luckily this is rarely a problem and most guys in New York like the Bartech and with an M-1, I think it turns lenses far faster than the Arri system. Of course when it comes to hiring ACs, I remember who rolls with the punches and who doesn?t. Recently, I was on a job and my trusty Bartech Focus unit went down (hand unit) and the 1st was required to pull focus from the Iris slider. The funny thing here is that he is my regular 1st and back in ?99 when I bought the BFD package, I asked him if he wanted a rotary and a slider or could I get two rotary units (better for me, as it provides better back up). He was adamant that I get one of each because pulling focus and iris simultaneously would be a serious chore with two rotary units. So, I listened to him (along with a few other ACs I polled) and bought one of both. A fact I quickly reminded him of while he was pulling focus from the slider unit. His response, ?man, sometimes I wish your memory wasn?t so good.?

Oh, FYI, Jim fixed (and shipped back) the BFD the same day he received it.
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#8 Charles Papert

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 01:02 PM

An informal poll:

When a zoom is requested (at the last minute), I will offer to add the Microforce to the Preston hand unit while we are mounting the zoom motor, but more often than not they will insist that they are just fine with performing it on the iris slider. And more often than not, the zoom will be erratic and not properly feathered and another take is ordered.

Has anyone else experienced this? Is it an I'm-low-maintenance-I'll make-do philosophy, or is it a I'm-macho-I-can-do-anything bravado that's preventing them from accepting the grace of the Microforce? It only takes ten seconds to attach the thing, which is usually close at hand.

Eh?
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#9 RobVanGelder

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Posted 06 January 2004 - 02:10 PM

At my last HD panavised movie we always had every motor attached and when a zoom was needed we would always give the microforce in the hands of a second AC. Or to the director sometimes, that made it even harder. Generally, I didn´t feel happy with a zoom attached, it messed up the timing and my placement within the shot. sometimes it´s hard to distinguish between your body moving and the zoom, looking at the monitor.

The slider is not really a good thing for the zoom, I found. On my set it is still OK, but at this feature we had 5 of them from a rental company (with 6 camera´s) and most sliders didn´t work smoothly. Not enough or too much friction.

Ro van Gelder, Amsterdam, Holland
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#10 Charles Papert

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 12:18 AM

Agreed, it's not ideal to have another soul operating your zoom. I do like using the Gimbal Microforce for this reason, however I have found some "pumping" can occur while actively walking (it's not easy to isolate the thumb from the rest of the body with a sensitive zoom controller).

For those Preston owners/users who would like to see a way to operate the Microforce physically separate from the hand unit (no cables), Howard's got a nice solution on the way. Really more of a crane issue than a Steadicam one, but obviously there's crossover here.
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#11 ericoh

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 01:04 AM

Before getting into Steadicam just over 2 years ago, I was a camera assistant for 8 years, the last 4 years of which I was a 1st AC. I definitely understand how crucial focus is...

I remember many years ago pulling for Jeremy Benning on a low budget video with the old Seitz WRC (back when Jeremy first started steadicam 7 years ago). Often, the motor would move seconds after the pull was made. You almost could anticipate when it was going to fail...

When I first got my package, I started out with the Heden M28VP and a Bartech. I however was one of the unlucky ones that could not seem to get them to work together. I was experiencing drift when pulling towards close focus and only on certain kinds of lenses (Cooke S4's, & Ultra primes were ok, but not Arri high speeds). After several posts on the forum, I turned to the manufacturers for help. Heden was kind enough to send me another M28VP but to no avail. I still had the same problems. I then turned to Jim and helpful as he was we could not seem to find a solution. They were both understanding of my plight and agreed to give me a full refund. I subsequently bit the bullet, drummed up another loan, and bought a Preston.

During the period when I was having problems with focus, the assistants at the time were actually quite understanding and did not make a big deal of it. It happened on 3 separate shoots with 3 different pullers, all very experienced Firsts. They kept quiet about it and even when there was a buzz, they just excused themselves and said that they needed another. They did not blame me or my equipment. Maybe its because I was a puller before, but I think all it comes down to is a certain amount of professionalism and having the integrity to not to blame the people you work with in order to exonerate yourself. I know that there are always exceptions to the rule but I've always felt that "I watch your back, you'll watch mine" kind of attitude promoted comraderie.

Peace to all,

Eric Oh
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#12 JimBartell

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 11:39 AM

When I first got my package, I started out with the Heden M28VP and a Bartech.  I however was one of the unlucky ones that could not seem to get them to work together. 

FYI, this is the problem that was reported last year on the forum under the heading "Letter from Heden" posted on 2/3/2003 under "Follow Focus" conference. Unfortunately, Eric had already returned his unit 2 months earlier so I couldn't fix it for him. The problem had a simple solution once all the facts were known. I have modified numerous units since then and everyone has been pleased with the results.

Jim "missed it by that much" Bartell
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#13 Brad Hruboska

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Posted 07 January 2004 - 11:26 PM

Some years ago I was one of three Steadicam ops working on a television series, which at the time was a great break for me. I recall one night as wrap was being called my named being called over the walkie, the Ad wanted to see me. It seemed that my harness was making too much noise and they were sorry but Sound had landed a formal complaint to production about the squeeking of my harness leather, ( this was an exterieor scene btw) and the long and short of it was , fix the squeek, or we will not have you an the roster any more. I was floored. But dutifully, I otre the harness apart, and woke a friend up who owned a leather importing business, and over the weekend rebuilt the harness from the ground up with the heaviest lkeather available, and eliminating the quick release buckles. Production phoned me on Sunday to confiurm that I had fixed the vest and i told them I had, and they were pleased with the results.
I also recall years ago when the preston first came available that the AC had told production that a preston unit was mandatory for the steadiam op. He called me personally and said no preston, no job. So I had to rent one to replace my seitz. The handwriting was clear and I ordered a preston immediately, in fact it was the first upgrade to my 3A that i ever did, before the TB-6, and the pro arm, and all that. I tell young guys today, get the focus unit first, then a good transmitter and then any rig that makes a picture.
just my horrible 2 cents.
Brad H.
BTW I own a klassen/sauve vest and I love it, its quiet, easy on the old back, but the boom guy complains cuz its a little wider. But here in Toronto, about 2/3 of the union ops use it. You know everyone has something to complain about. You could give some people a million cash and they'd bitch about the colour. I remember being mocked by crew people about my trusty old model 2 as well, and maybe that sting of that criticism has meade me the gear monster that I am, Hence the PRO 2, Back mounted vest preston, three transmitters, digi clam, etc etc etc............
My old Model 2 made great shots. It was heavy and stable and the gimbal was slick, the topstage was tight, and it didn't shake any worse than the 3A did. :lol:
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#14 Erwin Landau

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 04:01 AM

I know that there are always exceptions to the rule but I've always felt that "I watch your back, you'll watch mine" kind of attitude promoted comraderie.

Peace to all,

Eric Oh

Jim you will remember the story of one of your BFD's that had to take the fall for the team...

An Operator on a feature was using 2 of Jim's BFD's.
One day all steadi dailies came back soft, it seams that one of the adjustment wheels got moved, bumped, etc. Nobody checked all day. Anyhow the blame was pushed to the BFD as there were also some issues with the unit and Cell phones in europe were the feature was shot...
So long story short, everybody kept tight and nobody got fired, but the BFD got replaced with a Preston...

Sometimes it works and you watch your back... and you still end up with a Preston.


Erwin Landau, SOC
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#15 JimBartell

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Posted 08 January 2004 - 11:58 AM

Jim you will remember the story of one of your BFD's that had to take the fall for the team...

I do remember this quite well. I first heard about it when the operator who bought the BFD's in question from the original owner called me with some question. Since I hadn't sold him the BFD's, I asked the original owner why he had sold them, as he was originally quite happy with them. He was very apologetic and explained he liked the units very much, but the AC who screwed up was related to the producer and was not about to take the fall, so the BFD's were the sacrificial victim. Since it was a very big budget feature the Preston was now affordable to the OP so he used this as an opportunity to move up.

There were no hard feelings and the OP still recommends the BFD's to other OP's, so all is well. Also, karma came around as a huge fight broke out between the star and the producers after the star was injured and a huge set had to be built in the US to duplicate the original European location as the star refused to return to Europe after he healed to finish shooting.

Jim "sacrificial lambs for sale" Bartell
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