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Camera Prep Checklist

  1. Prep starts with talking to the DP and discussing the order. The DP will probably specify what cameras, how many cameras and the lenses (zooms, primes, specialty lenses), what camera head they prefer (or may be the choice of the Operator). How much film stock or recording media is needed. It’s up to the AC to order all cables, accessories, supplies, and all other equipment.

  2. How many batteries? Don’t underestimate—not all batteries will hold a full charge and battery capacity may be impaired by factors such as low temperatures. You won’t always have time to allow them the proper recharge time. Err on the side of caution—most batteries take a surprisingly long time to charge. Standard practice is for the AC or Second to take them home at night to charge.

  3. Another big item for AC camera checkout—all those cables! You need to test every one and make sure the connectors fit properly and, of course, that they are the right type of connections for the cameras, monitors, and other equipment you will be using on the shoot. Always have at least one backup for every cable you’re using. Cables are a frequent source of problems. Be prepared!

Camera prep on the checkout day cannot be haphazard. It’s important to be methodical and make sure every base is covered—a checklist is invaluable in making sure nothing is missed.
• Assemble every piece—check against order list!

• Be sure everything fits and operates.

• Test camera with a professional test chart.

• Possibly test different “looks” as specified by the DP or DIT.

• Test camera at all frame rates.

• Shoot a framing chart.

• Shoot color chart to test color rendering.

• Resolution/noise/color space tests if requested.

• Different ISO, color spaces, RAW, Log mode, etc.

• Test that marked focus matches actual distance for lenses.

• Have a lens test chart or borrow one from the rental house.

• Test all media (digital) or mags on film shoots.

• Test and charge all batteries.

• Check tripods, spreaders and heads.

• Sometimes a high-hat hasn’t been ordered, add if needed—same for handles, focus handles.

• Check cases, clean if necessary.

• Label cases with camera tape.

• Put everything back in cases, arrange to your liking.

• Check that you have all expendables.

• Go through your personal kit, make sure you have all tools and supplies (often the rental house has them for sale).

• Second AC may take home batteries to charge overnight.

Some other tasks that will be part of a proper camera checkout day:

• Learn how new rigs work and pre-configure them.

• Organize equipment within cases in a way you prefer.
• Troubleshoot and fix hardware problems with rented gear. The rental house staff will be glad to assist you and repair or replace anything that isn’t working properly.

from Cinematography: Theory and Practice, Blain Brown


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