From the Crew of Thor

Be the best you can be.
I feel that it is wiser to be the best AC in the world than an average cinematographer. Not all will agree with me, but you should pick what you are best at and pursue it fully. It usually brings a lot of joy and fulfillment.
Think outside the known areas. We need people who studied and loved cinematography in color correction, stereography and other visual fields as much as in lighting and camera.
- Haris Zambarloukos BSC, Director of Photography

My advice to student operators is experiment in as many different styles of operating as you can, so you are conversant with as many styles as possible.
Experimenting with the hardware is vital - hand-held rigs, Steadicam, remote systems, friction heads. That way, whatever piece of equipment is thrown at you, you have the practical skills to use it for the shot.
Be as comfortable as you can when you operate. Think about your physical choreography of how you move around the dolly for example. Plan your `dance steps` when you are with the camera.
It`s your job to translate the director`s and DP`s instructions into camera moves.
So always talk through your set up with your 1st AC and dolly grips so you are all on the same page.
Every job will be different so be prepared to have different amounts of input on a daily basis. Be flexible and enjoy that flexibility of work pattern.
Listen to your dolly grip and establish a good relationship: it is one of the most important you will have on set! The grip is your eyes when you are operating and locked in your world. They have a lot of valuable experience to draw on - so listen to their advice. They will not only aid the execution of your shot, but will look after your safety.

A good exercise is to sit down with the script of a film and then watch the film to see how the written word is told visually.

Try to work out why the DP, director and operator have done things the way they have. Is the camera moving a lot? Not moving at all? Are the actors moving in a frame? Is the camera moving with the actors? How is the shot framed? Why is it framed in the manner it is?
A simple example: I worked with Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut. He always liked to place the center cross on the leading shoulder of the actor - which generally resulted in more headroom than normal. To Kubrick, this made the viewer more aware of the environment the actor was in and more threatened and dominated by that environment.
Be especially attentive to editing styles.
Come to a conclusion on how the shot is telling a story. That way you have a concept behind your set up and framing.
Learn to communicate well with those around you. Be attentive; remember you are in a team.
Learn about eye lines so it becomes second nature.
Keep fit! That means strong, supple and agile. Look after your back!
- Peter Cavaciuti SOC, A-camera operator

I`ve worked with some great dolly grips and ACs over the years and when given the chance, they will make the shot so much better. That was the case on Thor with Patrick McArdle (B-camera 1st AC), Tim Guffi n (B-camera 2nd AC), and Ryan Vonlossberg (B-camera Dolly Grip).
Remember that you are part of a crew. Your First AC, Second AC, and Dolly Grip are there to make the shot as well. Try to keep everyone on the same page and it will make your life go much smoother. Remember not to micro-manage your team. Let them know what you want but then let them do their job.
Study and read as much as you can on editing and VFX. Speaking the language makes your job so much easier. With so much post-production manipulation going on, you should know what you can do to make production`s job easier once it is handed off to post.
- Denis Moran SOC, B-camera operator

(First published on the 2011 spring/Summer Issue of the Magazine of the Society of Camera Operators SOC, acknowledgement to the Society for their permission to publish this article on our website.)


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