I’m still currently in talks with Matt regarding the schedule for filming Duet. Whilst I await on this I felt like now would be a great opportunity to clue myself up as to the exact roles and requirements of a camera assistant. In my mind they are the personal assistant to the DP meaning tasks would be changing camera gear (e.g. lenses), rigging lighting, noting shots, really anything involved with the camera and lighting departments. Especially as a smaller unit I would have more expected from me.
A camera system is a self explanatory title; to offer general support for the camera operator or DP. It is a physically intensive role and the responsibilities can vary dramatically dependent on the production and camera operator. Some may make you carry out simple tasks like collecting kit and assisting rigging whilst others may want help with movement (i.e. grips) or for you to operator for some shots.
To be successful in this role you need to have good working knowledge of the relevant equipment and technology, whether this is existing or research is needed prior to filming for particular items. The ability to work as part of a team and take direction is a must as often you may need to carry out instructions with great accuracy and precision to detail. Finally physical fitness can only be a benefit as long hours and moving heavy equipment can take its toll.
A camera assistant role can be a great starting point for multiple departments. Typically it can lead into camera operation, but it also opens avenues into lighting, gripping and photography. For larger film crews there can be multiple camera assistants typically numbered due to their importance. The 1st AC is one of the most skilled jobs as they are responsible for focusing by working to a system of marks on the lens by the operator or DP. Having experience in operation can prove a useful asset as you may need to judge focal lengths if scenes vary from these predetermined focus marks.
Looking ahead to Duet in particular I will need to keep an active approach and assist the DP in whatever is required. I feel I have enough experience in operation so can happily take a hands on approach. I also feel I have a strong knowledge of kit, however lenses can be my shortcoming, this could be the case of asking for advice as this project is a great device for learning. If I extend onto the lighting I will happily be in my comfort zone so I don’t anticipate any problems. Keeping my ears open I can hopefully predetermine some scenes and help make turnovers quick and work to the exact vision of Director and DP.