The role and duties of a camera assistant

Guochen Wang

Camera assistants perform many essential roles in film or TV productions. This paper will examine the requirements of camera assistants and explore their duties and responsibilities.

The definition of camera assistant, according to Camera Assistant: Job Description, Duties and Salary is as follows: “A camera assistant prepares and positions cameras that are used to shoot visual images for motion pictures and television shows. By keeping the equipment in good condition and ready for immediate use, the camera assistant, who works closely with the camera operator, plays an important role in ensuring that the production phase of a video project runs smoothly.”[1] This means that a camera assistant in a production team has to be responsible for camera equipment and has to work smoothly with camera operators. This same source states that “Camera assistants are the backbone of the camera department on set. These technicians aid camera operators in setting up gear, keep the sensitive equipment in tip-top shape, and trudge over hill and over dale to lug the DP’s Panavision on location.”[2]

A professional camera assistant must be capable and flexible. Douglas Hart, in his book The Camera Assistant: A Complete Professional Handbook, says that the job of a camera assistant “involves technical expertise (an understanding of photography, mechanics, optics, electricity, and electronics), certain physical attributes (manual dexterity, quick reflexes, excellent peripheral vision, good judgment of time and speed and distance, physical strength and considerable endurance),and considerable mental and attitude control (organizational ability, consistency, good memory, patience, extraordinary concentration under conditions of stress and distraction, common sense, flexibility, adaptability, a briskness of attitude and demeanor, boundless energy, and a good sense of humor).”[3]

The responsibilities of a camera assistant are various. The most important of these, according to Hart, is “the care and maintenance of camera equipment.”[4] In Camera Assistant Duties, Jason Prader clearly states: “Camera assistants maintain studio equipment, such as camera lenses and lens filters. They also construct camera rigs and attach accessories for certain shots.”[5] Hart provides a useful, detailed list of what a camera assistant should be responsible for. The ones relevant to me are:

” Make Sure Equipment Inventory Complete

Make Sure all Equipment in Working Order

Determine Expendable Supplies to be Purchased

Order and Obtain Expendable Supplies

Assemble, Warm Up, Balance, and Prepare Camera for Shooting

Clean and Lubricate Camera Movement as Required

Check Flange Focal Depth as Necessary

Check Shutter and Movement Phasing as Necessary

Keep Camera Clean and Properly Lubricated

Keep Camera as Quiet as Possible

Check Parallax and Rack-over Status

Check for Camera and/or Magazine Scratches

Ensure Camera is Running at Correct Speed

Ensure Security of Mounted Camera

Never Leave Camera Unattended

Find Out from D.P. which film Stock(s) are to be Used for Each Set of Location

Determine Proper Focus Setting as Required

Determine Split Focus Settings as Required

Determine Depth-of-Field as Necessary

Set Focus on Lens

Set Aperture on Lens

Prevent and/or Eliminate Lens Flares

Execute Variable Shutter Changes as Required

Execute Focus Changes( Follow Focus) During Shot as Required

Execute Focal Length Changes(Zooming)During Shot as Required

Execute Aperture Changes ( Aperture Pull ) During Shot as Required

Execute Use of Color Correction Filters, Special Effects Filters, Graduated Filters, Mattes,      and Diffusion Filters, as Required

Clean Filters as Required

Change Lenses

Clean Lenses as Required

Ensure that Lenses are Properly Supported on Camera

Check Gate for Hairs, Film Chips and Debris

Keep Accurate Record of Lenses Used, Filters Used, Exposure, Shutter Settings, Focus,     Aperture, and other Variables, if Required

Change Camera Batteries as Required

Ensure that Batteries are Properly Charged

Notify Assistant Director of Footage Remaining in Magazine and When Reloading is Necessary

Find Additional Camera Crew Personnel as Required and Refer to Production Manager for Hiring

Ensure that Entire Camera Crew is Notified of Next Day’s Call Time and Location ( don’t trust the Production Staff to do this!)[6]

As the web journal, Camera Assistant, emphasizes,” The first assistant cameraperson, also known as the focus puller, is primarily responsible for ensuring a sharp picture. He or she works closely with the camera operator (under the direction of the director of photography) to measure the distance between the lens and the subject, and to maintain proper focal distance during camera movements. Tracking shots and crane movements will require AC to collaborate with both camera operator and the dolly grip or crane operator to ensure consistent focus.”[7]

Being a Camera Assistant can be a hard job. It involves more responsibilities than most people think. A good camera assistant must be capable and flexible. As the journal article, “30 Tips for being an Outstanding Camera Assistant,sums it up: ” Camera Assistants are usually the first people to start work and the last people to finish.”[8]

 

 

REFERENCES

1.

“Camera Assistant: Job Description, Duties and Salary.” Education-portal. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://education-portal.com/articles/Camera_Assistant_Job_Description_Duties_and_Salary.html>.

 

2.7

“Camera Assistant.” Get in Media. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://getinmedia.com/careers/camera-assistant>.

 

3.4.6

Hart, Douglas C. The Camera Assistant a Complete Professional Handbook. Boston: Focal, 1996. Print.

 

5

Prader, Jason.”Camera Assistant Duties.” EHow. Demand Media, 10 June 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://www.ehow.com/list_6614892_camera-assistant-duties.html>.

 

8

“30 Tips for Being an Outstanding Camera Assistant.” Through The Lens Film School. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://filmcameracourse.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/30-tips-for-being-and-outstanding-camera-assistant/>.

 

 

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