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Job Skills Training – Positions & Responsibilities
A production assistant, also known as a “PA,” is a member of the film crew. The title, PA, is used in filmmaking and television for a person responsible for various aspects of a production. The job of a PA can vary greatly depending on the budget and specific requirements of a production as well as whether or not the production is unionized. Production assistants on films are sometimes attached to individual actors or filmmakers.
In unionized television and feature film, production assistants are usually divided into different categories: "Set PA", "Truck PA", "Locations PA", "Office PA", or "Set Runner" and "Extra PA or Daily.” Variations exist depending on a show's structure or region of the United States or Canada.
Office PAs usually spend most hours in the respective show's production office handling such tasks as phones, deliveries, script copies, lunch pick-ups, and related tasks in coordination with the production manager and production coordinator.
Set PAs work on the physical set of the production, whether on location or on a sound stage. They report to the assistant director (AD) department and key set PA if one is so designated. Duties include echoing (calling out) "rolls" and "cuts", locking up (making sure nothing interferes with a take), wrangling talent (actors) and background, facilitating communication between departments, distributing paperwork and radios, and related tasks as mandated by the ADs. Set PAs usually work 12- to 16-hour days with the possibility at the end of a shoot to work more than 20 hours a single day and are regularly the "first to arrive and the last to leave.”
Grips are lighting and rigging technicians in the filmmaking and video production industries. They constitute their own department on a film set and are directed by a “Key Grip.” Grips have two main functions: The first is to work closely with the camera department to provide camera support, especially if the camera is mounted to a dolly, crane, or in an unusual position, such as the top of a ladder. Some grips may specialize in operating camera dollies or camera cranes. The second main function of grips is to work closely with the electrical department to create lighting set-ups necessary for a shot under the direction of the director of photography.
A Grip builds and maintains all the equipment that supports cameras. This equipment, which includes tripods, dollies, tracks, jibs, cranes, and static rigs, is constructed of delicate yet heavy duty parts requiring a high level of experience to operate and move. Every scene in a feature film is shot using one or more cameras, each mounted on highly complex, extremely expensive, heavy duty equipment. Grips assemble this equipment according to meticulous specifications and push, pull, mount or hang it from a variety of settings. The equipment can be as basic as a tripod standing on a studio floor, to hazardous operations such as mounting a camera on a 100-foot crane, or hanging it from a helicopter.
Second AC (Assistant Camera) and DIT
The 2nd AC is a key member of the camera crew who is responsible for the smooth running of the entire camera department.
Second ACs help the Camera Operator to position and move the camera. They are responsible for loading and unloading film magazines and/or digital recording media, changing and charging camera batteries and changing lenses. They must work quickly so that the flow of filming is not disrupted.
They also operate the clapperboard (or “slate”), fill out and file all camera sheets, deal with film labs and order the correct amount and type of film stock. Second ACs work closely with First ACs (focus pullers) and also may supervise camera trainees.
Depending on the size of the production, 2nd ACs may start work two or three weeks before the first day of principal photography, assisting the Director of Photography (DoP) and Camera Operator with any tests required on cameras and/or recording media and with artists.
During the shoot, 2nd ACs begin work early in the mornings, unloading, organizing and preparing all of the camera equipment for each day's production. During rehearsals, they mark-up the actors' positions, enabling the 1st AC to calculate any changes in focus. When the camera starts to roll, 2nd ACs mark each take with a clapperboard, which identifies the take and enables the Assistant Editor to synchronize the sound and picture in preparation for editing.
2nd ACs position themselves next to the camera, where they can anticipate all camera movements and monitor how much film stock or digital recording media is being used. They must know when a new film magazine or digital drive should be prepared. At the end of each shooting day, 2nd ACs pack away all the equipment, label up film and/or digital media and dispatch them with detailed camera sheets.
Formal training for this position will not be provided but students need to be aware of the role and responsibilities of this position.
DIT (Digital Imaging Technician)
A Digital Imaging Technician works directly with the cinematographer. They are responsible for image quality control, on-set color correction, and managing a production's workflow. With the digital camera revolution, the job has seen a huge shift from on-set engineering to computer workflows.
The DIT can be responsible for a wide variety of tasks including: data management and loading; audio syncing; transcoding footage for dailies; operating waveform and RGB scopes and video monitors to insure picture quality; backing up footage on hard drives; setting up playback monitors for the director, producers, actors, hair and make-up, and art department; making supply and equipment runs for the camera department; and assisting with load in/out for the camera department.