The IATSE 600 Camera Assistant and Community Manager for Focus Puller at Work Aidan Gray conducted a two-hour interactive live training on the importance of camera prep. The resulting video is a nice basic overview of all the important parts of camera prep from communicating with other crew members, checking all parts of a camera kit, adjusting the back focus of lenses, checking wireless video transmission signal, tips on traveling with gear, etc.
Prepping a camera rig correctly and thoroughly is without a doubt an important pre-production procedure for every camera assistant and for the whole camera department. If done right, it will ensure smooth production on set and avoid many stressful moments and potential angry looks from other crew members.
Aidan Gray is an IATSE 600 Camera Assistant and Community Manager for Focus Puller at Work. In March 2021, he conducted an interactive live training on the importance of camera prep to ensure success on set.
The resulting two-hour video can, of course, be watched in full length on Vimeo. Even though the video itself is around three months old, I think the information included in it is somewhat timeless and it could be a useful resource for many camera assistants among our readers.
Camera Prep 101 with Aidan Gray
As Aidan mentions, the video does not go so much in-depth on every procedure of camera prep, it is more of a basic summary. He begins with some pre-prep questions that need to be solved before even beginning the prep itself.
I think it is important that he says that being nice to the people you work with goes a long way. Aidan does not forget to mention the importance of communication between all the members of the camera department – DP, all the camera operators, assistants, etc.
Aidan walks through the whole process of camera prep and he is showing some of them on the RED Komodo and ARRI Alexa rigs he happens to have at hand. During the live stream, he also answers some questions from the viewers.
Aidan recommends working with a camera prep checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything. It is important to inspect every lens, camera sensor, filter, and monitor for dust or scratches before taking them from the rental house and signing for it.
He briefly explains the difference between horizontal and vertical prep. Aidan shows what to pay attention to when inspecting the tripod and head and then he goes over to the camera itself and the lenses. He talks about the use of charts to check back focus of lenses.
He also tests the wireless focus pulling rig, the range of antennas, etc. As he says, mapping the lens is also important. It is good to map all the lenses in the whole range. Even though it might not be needed according to the shooting plan, there might be some last-minute changes and tweaks so it is good to have everything prepared.
Tips on traveling with gear
Aidan also mentions some good tips on traveling with gear. It is important to include the most vital parts of the kit in the carry-on luggage. Secondly, it is a good idea to find and contact local rental houses near the location so that you have your contact person and customer account there in case something gets lost on the way and you need to quickly rent it locally.
Another thing is traveling with batteries. Firstly, it is not possible to fly with battery packs larger than 100Wh, so a good accessory is the so-called “shark fin” that allows mounting two batteries on one battery plate for powering large power-hungry cameras with these smaller batteries.
Last but not least, apart from securing and packing them densely, it is good to zip-tie cases with different color zip ties before checking them in with the airline company. That way you can immediately tell whether the case has been opened or not when claiming the baggage at the destination.
If you are further interested in more resources, tips, and tricks on how to properly prep camera for jobs, take a look at the following articles. They are also being referenced to by Aidan Gray in his video:
Do you often work as 1.AC? What do you think about the tips Aidan Gray gave in the video? What is the most important thing about prepping a camera in your opinion? Let us know in the comments section underneath the article.