As a blogger, I am always thinking of the next few subjects to write about. So here is how I got to today’s subject. My usual assignment on set is to operate the slate (also known as the clapper). I was wondering about the official “industry” job title of the person operating the slate. I discovered the term “clapper loader”, which is a responsibility Second Assistant Camera. (or 2nd AC), a member of the Camera Crew. I am not a 2nd AC, but on a small Indie set, responsibilities will not line up with industry standards.
So I decided to give a brief primer on the Camera Crew.
The Camera Crew is responsible for setting up and using the camera, and for keeping track of the media used to record the sound and images.
Director of Photography
The Director of Photography (DP) is the senior crew member after the Director. The DP manages a number of departments, including Camera Department, Lighting Department, Electrical Department, and Grip Department. Read my post about the Electrical and Grip Departments. The DP is the chief of the Camera Crew. The DP has to bring to life the Director’s vision. The DP and Director work with the above-mentioned departments on camera equipment and lighting and any necessary gear.
The Camera Operator, or Cameraman, is the person who actually operates the camera. The Director of Photography is typically the Camera Operator, in which case they are called the Cinematographer. If there are multiple cameras in use at once, the other cameramen are called Camera Operators.
First Assistant Camera
The First Assistant Camera (1st AC) is responsible for keeping the camera in focus – thus the unusual term “focus puller”. The 1st AC does not actually look through the lens. The focus is changed on the fly, governed by the 1st AC carefully observing the relative position of camera and subject. The 1st AC builds the camera and is in charge of positioning the camera. They also document what has been shot.
Second Assistant Camera
The Second Assistant Camera (2nd AC) works directly with the 1st AC. The 2nd AC operates the clapperboard at the beginning of each take. They tape camera marks to the floor, to ensure actors position themselves at the right place. They keep track of the medium (film or digital cards), such as when film is received, used, and sent for development. They supervise the transportation of cameras. If there is not a separate Film or Digital Loader, the 2nd AC performs those duties as well.
The Loader is responsible for the actual medium that the camera shoots on, albeit film or digital cards. If there is no Loader on set, the 2nd AC performs this duty. The Loader transports the medium to and from the camera. In the case of film, they ensure the film canister is properly labeled for sending to the developer. For digital, they work with the Digital Imaging Technician to manage the data.
Digital Imaging Technician
The Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) manages all digital media. They are responsible for ensuring the quality of the data, for example, applying color correction. They produce backups and provide material to the editors. They are knowledgeable of all digital equipment such as cameras and computers.
The Steadicam is a trademarked camera stabilizing rig, which the Operator “wears” on their body. As the Steadicam Operator moves, the camera stays level.
Camera Production Assistant
The Camera Production Assistant helps the camera crew as required with any necessary duty, and to learn the process.
I learn a lot just by preparing these posts on the technical aspects of production. What stands out most to me regarding the Camera Crew is that the 1st AC, as the “focus puller”, controls the focus without actually looking through the camera.
Please provide feedback or questions in the Comments. I would really enjoy hearing from you.
Wikipedia: Clapper Loader Focus Puller