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Things Imran has learned: No. 14


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#1 Imran Naqvi

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 06:31 PM

Agreed to do a deal for a DoP whom I would like to work with more often, and initially I was told it was going to be a Moviecam Compact.

Fine, lovely camera!

Three days before I'm due on the set and the day before they start shooting their deal had to be adjusted from the Moviecam to a Millennium, stupidly I assumed this was the XL.

Have a friend lend me a cable since I've never had the pleasure of a Panaflex camera on my rig, and he casually mentions "oh yes I heard about that one, it's the anamorphic job", but still, no problem it's an XL right?

Show up this morning bright and early. It's not an XL it's a Millennium, ooookay now I'm worried, I'm out of my comfort zone and this camera, to me at least, looks a beast. Not helped by the fact that the DoP keeps saying how much he dislikes the camera because it's a beast.

First shot of the day? Lo-mode, obviously.

Now apparently this camera has a new style video tap, and I'm assuming it has a new housing, but we have the low mode bracket and everything should be great right? Ummm no, it turns out that I can't get the plate to attach where I want it to because the height of the vid tap is just high enough to be blocked by my fore and aft adjustment knob (its a 3a top-stage) so I cannot balance it on the left to right at all.

The best part is, never having seen this camera and having done searches on the forum about the Millennium I didn't see this problem coming and the AD, the DoP and the producer all want to know when I'll be ready (because of course the shoot was behind schedule from yesterday).

So I did the only sensible thing. I forgot to lock down the plate, went to check drop time,whilst crouching down underneath for some reason and dropped the camera on my head. I like to think I prevented it from smashing into little pieces by using my head to cushion the blow.

Of course everyone rushes over and asks if everything is ok and is anything damaged on the camera. To be fair when someone does ask me how I am, I ask about the camera.

So I did the sensible thing, I said, I can't balance this in low-mode and give up on the day. Eventually I go back to the DoP and say sorry again but if he wants me to I'll stick around and I'll do any and all high-mode stuff, and of course he's wary because I dropped a camera on my head, but he agrees and I finish the day. Of course nothing I do for the rest of the day erases the morning from my mind, so even when I get what's wanted, it's not good enough for me.

You know I love this gig, but some days, the world just kicks you in the balls, and keeps kicking, and I can't blame anyone for any of this but myself.
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#2 Charles Papert

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 09:45 PM

Sounds ugly Imran, but Lesson # 14 is an important one and thank you for sharing it, and hopefully you may save someone else from that particular pain.

We were discussing the importance of prep in a thread recently (I couldn't find it). Over the years I've learned for myself that the stress of trying to figure out how to build the camera on shoot day is one of the most stressful things I can think of. There are certain cameras that I feel fully comfortable with and in these cases, I will ask the 1st AC over the phone what lenses we are using, if there are any red flags he knows about for unusual configurations, how he likes to mount the Cinetape etc.(I'll also call the DP and have a similar discussion) and effectively "build" the camera verbally. If there are any doubts or unusual plots afoot, I'll do whatever I can to get into the prep if my schedule allows. I'll always ask for a prep day but very often production won't cover it, and while it is one of those situations that if you have to hold up production to get up and running, you can obviously point out to the hand-wringing AD/DP/director that you should have been given a prep day, regardless of this fact it still sort of makes the camera department look bad and there will be a lot of pressure to get things cooking. So like I said, I will do whatever I can to get into the prep, paid or not, because it relieves the uncertainty of the first day.

On my current show I was unable to make the prep due to another job, and it was an Arricam LT which is very easy to configure, but I still was a bit on pins going in the first day. We didn't do any Steadicam that day but myself and my assistant were kept busy on A camera, although I stole out during private rehearsals to at least get the sled ready to go, awaiting the camera body. On the second day, the rumor of an upcoming and unscheduled Steadicam shot emerged so we handed off the next shot to B camera while we built. As it turned out, it took us every last minute available to get the rig totally up to speed due to a variety of small factors, none of which could have been entirely foreseen.
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#3 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 09:59 PM

Imran,

Thanks for sharing - you're a brave lad. We all get eaten up sometimes; its unfortunately part of the game we play. Hold your head high and bounce back. And, obviously, try and ask more questions ahead of time next time and swing by the rental house. On that note, try and bring your rig by the various camera houses and get to "know" the usual suspects.

"so we handed off the next shot to B camera while we built. "

This is a very smart choice and not something all "A" Camera operators would think to do. Bravo Charles.
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#4 RonBaldwin

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 10:35 PM

I've had trouble recently getting them. The recent upm's that said no assumed the assistants would prep it for me (they were either stupid or lying...more likely a bit of both). They said no worries, steadicam wasn't up first. These guys are fools. Both times it was. Luckily I ate it and happened to show up at the rental house to at least balance/pwr up the camera on my sled. I guess that's what they count on.

Maybe I'll make up a form and have them sign it when they refuse so I can produce it on set letting the adults know what they are waiting on and why.

rb
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#5 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 06 July 2008 - 10:52 PM

Sounds like a really bad day, Imran. Chalk it up to experience and new lessons learned. And thanks for sharing.
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#6 Imran Naqvi

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 12:44 AM

Thanks guys, I thought carefully about posting about my day because despite the fact we all have horror stories it's easy to get worried about admitting you failed on a shoot.

At the same time, I don't think you get anywhere by fooling yourself into thinking it was fine and nobody will find out, so I'd rather admit my mistake, prove I can do better and hope that people remember that I came good in the end. I did joke with the DoP that when he tells the story of the op that dropped the camera on his head, would he add that the guy stayed and finished the day.

Also I'm going to meet my machine guy tomorrow and I'm going to get him to make me a riser plate so I won't have this problem again, unless any of you guys can tell me what I missed and how I should have built the camera.
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#7 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 09:18 AM

Also I'm going to meet my machine guy tomorrow and I'm going to get him to make me a riser plate so I won't have this problem again, unless any of you guys can tell me what I missed and how I should have built the camera.


Check out the XCS camera plate. It is about 20mm tall, which I keep in my AKS for times when I need a little extra clearance. (Like low mode with a 435. A pesky bolt head on the camera's low mode plate hits my top stage)

BTW, I'm not familiar with the 3A, but was it not possible to reverse the top stage or reverse the rig 180 and spin your monitor around to the other side to allow you to mount the camera and access to the side to side adjustment knob?
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#8 Imran Naqvi

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 03:46 AM

The 3a topstage has an off center gear rack on the the plate so you can't put the plate in backwards as you lose your fore-aft (fine) adjustment.

Also much like the 3a rig my EFP also has a nosebox with a cable coming out of the front of the post rather than through the top, so I can't just flip it roud the other way because there isn't enough slack on the cable to let it face 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
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#9 Charles Papert

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 11:14 AM

But you could have mounted the camera backwards on the dovetail and rotated the monitor 180 degrees, achieving the same thing?

Might have been tough to get lens control cables to reach that far unless you receiver had flexible mounting possibilities.
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#10 Imran Naqvi

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 07:57 AM

You're right that hadn't occurred to me, I've never tried that.

I think because the Blackbird is quite a lump and the camera was was already front heavy, so adding the battery and monitor to effectively the front, I would have trouble balancing it, but I'll try it for next time, thanks.

One nice thing about Millennium is the LHS has plently of space for velcro so attaching the Bartech reciever there isn't a big deal.
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