Pre-Produce, Pre-Produce, Pre-Produce!

Monday, July 12th, 2010

One of my earliest experiences as an young aspiring operator came when I was asked to operate steadicam on an NYU thesis film. They were shooting on 35mm, and that really excited me. Up to this point I had only operated with video cameras, and outside of the Steadicam Operators Association Workshop, I had never professionally operated any other rig than my Cinema Products Steadicam SK. For this job I would need more power! Fortunately I knew of a young Steadi Op that had taken the plunge and bought a Master Series rig. Since we had trained together at the SOA workshop he was kind enough to lend me the rig.

I picked the rig up on the way to my gig. That was my first mistake. When I got to the location I laid out the gear and began setting up. Aside from a quick once over I had no experience with this piece of equipment. So here I am, rig built, camera mounted, and no power. The batteries were charged… Why no power. Well it turns out that my personal Steadicam did NOT have a power switch… And guess what… This one did. I had no experience with the rig and more importantly did not Pre-Produce. After a quick, embarrassing call to the owner I was able to power on the rig.

Pre-Producing is the process of setting up and testing your equipment ahead of time… And most importantly producing the result you’d like to achieve in a controlled environment. And when it comes to Steadicam there’s nothing too small or too simple to test ahead of time. Those often are the very things that bite you in the ass on the day. More importantly… Pre-produce everything at once. This means if you plan on using a wireless video transmitter and wireless follow focus systems… You should set them up along with a camera and lens all at then same time. The best scenario (If you have the luxury) is to attend the camera checkout with the rig and build there. In the field, on the day, you will be under too much pressure.

So why am I sharing this embarrassing story? (which occurred 10 years ago I might add) Because its an awfully common mistake of young operators. The assumption is that it all just works… And it doesn’t. Too often I hear stories or get calls from operators in the field that just realized they didn’t have the correct part or cable on hand. Its embarrassing and can easily be avoided. Furthermore if you get a call for a job that would require that you put yourself in the uncomfortable position of arriving on set without pre-producing… I would suggest turning it down. It’s akin to shooting yourself in the foot.

So remember… Pre-Produce, Pre-Produce, Pre-Produce!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.