Friday, September 4, 2020

Willem Kampenhout on The Art of the Camera Prep

What is the one skill you’d give to up and coming Camera Operators and Assistants?

The art of the camera prep.
Pictured: Camera Prep Artist

As a rental house manager, I hear and see this firsthand. From the last-minute emergency calls to the shows that come and leave without an error, there is a wide gap between the productions that truly utilize their time and their equipment. The fastest way to close this gap? Equipment prep.

Equipment prep is like dating before marriage. You’d hate to show up on your wedding day asking, “What’s your name?” 

So on your prep day, what are things you should go through as a part of your prep?

Here is a brief list:
  1. Fully build the camera with all of the necessary accessories for your job. 
  2. Power on the camera, check the settings and adjust to your project
  3. Make sure all accessories are functioning properly. This includes:
    • Batteries / Charger 
    • External monitors / Client Monitor
    • Lens mounts / Lenses
    • Follow focus / sync Wireless
    • Video out / sync Wireless
    • Ensure media records / downloads properly
    • Matte boxes, filters
    • Focus assists / Range finders
Next, now that your camera is built, turn to support. Camera support is all about what holds or moves the camera. Do you need:
  1. Tripod (adequate size for the payload)
  2. Handheld Rig
  3. Slider
  4. Gimbal
  5. Steadicam
Each of those above options will require a change to your camera build, so do a full run-through of the changeover OR get a 2nd camera to live on the specialty support. Sometimes a 2nd Camera is cheaper than the time spent moving the camera to and from the main tripod setup. 
You can find anything online.

So now that your dress rehearsal is complete, pack your camera up carefully. I recommend using a “camera coffin” wherein a fully or mostly built camera can be set into a case and snugly fitted to your custom camera build. Load everything into your vehicle and double-check you have everything. It doesn’t hurt to double and triple check your checkout list from the rental house so know that you indeed have everything. 

Now you are set and ready to go! On the first day of production, Camera will be the first team ready to go and all other teams (lighting, set dressing, cast) will be faster in their setup as they can now see exactly what the first shot will be. 

So, Producers, budget for an equipment prep. It will save you money. Even on a super tight budget, camera crews may take a 1/2 day prep rate and that money spent will greatly outweigh the costs of a 30-minute camera delay. Do the math. It’s worth it!

Willem Kampenhout
is part of the team at Mystery Box LLC in Pleasant Grove.

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