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Old February 18th, 2013, 07:15 PM   #16
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

What Tom was expected to provide for that rate is completely unreasonable in my opinion.
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Old February 18th, 2013, 08:49 PM   #17
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

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I seldom find that any of the occasional 2nd shooters are worth the time, effort and money!
the weakest link is occasional.
i have two assistants, and this year i am thinking of hiring another one, but after three years of working together we are the team, i trained my guys, they know the shots I want. I would never have that variety of shots working alone, not to mention i would be dead tired by the end of every shoot.
But life is not perfect and sometimes i have to use "outsiders" , but again, those are the same shooters that i use two-three times a year when my guys cannot be on the shoot; so "outsiders" gradually become
family members :)
if you treat people right and pay well, as a rule, they appreciate that.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 10:12 AM   #18
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

I work from time to time as a second shooter. What I'm willing to work for depends on whether or not I need to lug all my gear to the gig, or if the gear is being provided. Easy work is cheaper than really hard work. More risk also raises the price substantially. Here in Florida, I've seen ads for scuba video gigs. I used to scuba dive years ago. No way would I do underwater work for what they were offering. By the way, they do scuba weddings in the Keys.

Sometimes when I take a job it's partly to scope out the gear. Last fall I got to check out the Canon XF-305 and XF-105. Sometimes it's to gain experience. I've only been in the biz 3 1/2 years. Figured on 5 years to get really established. From time to time, I get really lucky and work for someone who enjoys teaching the craft.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 12:59 PM   #19
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

I've been shooting medium format film recently. And now I really appreciate the value of having an assistant back in the film days...

"Process these rolls of film and push this one by a stop while I go eat dinner. While you're at it, make some proof sheets that I can show the client in the morning."

As it is, it takes me about 40 minutes to process 24 shots. Then I need to let it dry. Then I cut it into three shots per strip. And then the good shots go into the scanner. The really, really good shots go to an optical enlarger.

All hail digital! No film rolls to load and catalog. No chemical processing. Previously, the photo assistant was the analog data wrangler. Today, assistants might set up lights, handle gear, run audio, or run a second camera. The job is much less dull than before.

Then again, when you get that great shot and go all the way to a large print with analog, it feels much more like art - with or without an assistant. The combination of rarity and unpredictable imperfection makes each work seem much more special. But for productivity and perfection, digital rocks.

So the next time an assistant acts like the work is beneath them remind them of how dull assistant work was not so many years ago. :)
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Old February 21st, 2013, 01:21 PM   #20
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Here's my 2 cents.

You can think and act solo. And if you do, collaboration will be a pain. It will disrupt your thinking more than it helps.

Or you can think collaboratively from the beginning. You can think in terms of teamwork and develop the skills necessary to accumulate, train and operate from a team perspective.

Both are valuable.

This forum is about the single person crew - which is a very important working mode today - but it doesn't mean any of us will ALWAYS seek to work solo. Most of us expand or collapse our crew as the jobs demand.

What I'm really saying is a variation of the blurb I read on line long ago - "when the tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail."

If you think solo, that's how you'll solve your problems.

But when you NEED to be part of or even manage a team, if you haven't conditioned yourself on how to do that - if you haven't built the relationships and the processes necessary for team work - you're kinda hosed.

Just today we're turning in a proposal for a multi-part program bid for a series of local government public information web videos - and the proposal required listing the TEAM we'd be using. So my long standing relationships with competent local crew folks was critical.

Monday I was doing a project for a local not-for-profit - and it was ALL ME.

I think that's the new reality.

FWIW.
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Old February 21st, 2013, 09:45 PM   #21
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

agree.

i still think however that in the scenario presented in the OP, you have to stop thinking of it as an "assistant" and more of as an "additional camera operator" (if thats what theyre hired to do). to that end, i still think, at least according to pricing in my market (Houston) you will not get super experienced people for the fees mentioned above, and therefore you get all the problems that come with that (not following instructions, not knowing what to do in certain situations, etc,). i think, basically restating what i said above, you need to hire actual experienced freelancers as your assistants. any of them worth their salt will have no problem following orders, even if they are sometimes in charge on their own projects (many people work in lower positions on some projects and higher positions on others, so should be used to it). as for hiring good people making budgets too high, at that point you have to choose, i would say, between quality loss/poor quality assistsnts/going solo vs trying to find clients who will allow you to do your best work, even if it cost more.
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Old February 23rd, 2013, 01:30 PM   #22
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

I would agree with Bill also and might put it this way: Prepare for building block projects. Sometimes you'll need more blocks, sometimes less but make sure you have some blocks you can grab. Threre is only so much one person can do and you don't want to turn down possible work. Develop that network of trusted individuals to call on to expand your crew to meet the client's needs.
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Old February 24th, 2013, 07:02 PM   #23
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

I know a few guys that I would always trust as a second shooter, and they'd trust me. We know each other for a long time and I am also friends with most of them.
I even help them out once in a while as a camera assistant /sound recordist when their usual guys are all busy. I don't do that normally but when one of my friends asks me I know he really needs my help and he trusts me enough, although I am not a prefessional sound guy, but I kind of know how to hold a boom ;)

I rather work with people that I know well, because with strangers you never know what you get. Sometimes you really can't believe how incapable some people can be - the world is full of surprises :)

What I like best when working with people is when everybody knows what to do without somebody having to tell them. I'd rather work a job alone than having somebody "help" me who never knows what to do and how to do it properly...
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Old February 24th, 2013, 07:47 PM   #24
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Thanks for all the comments Guys

Much appreciated... I don't expect too much from a 2nd shooter at all....they simply need to give me enough footage to work with ( don't shoot 3 clips of 30 seconds each and expect me to be able to cut them to a 3 minute song) Fooatge really does need to be basically clean, well lit and in focus most of the time and surely that's not too hard? Maybe I expect too much from people but surely doing a bridal prep if you walk into a dark room, common sense tells you to turn the light on or open the blinds... also surely (especially with 3rd year film students) they can look into the viewfinder and see when you point the camera at someone in front of a bright window, it doesn't look right ??

I still try to avoid 2nd shooters as much as possible and go solo 99% of the time! It is harder, sure but at least you don't have to worry if your 2nd shooter is getting enough workable footage or not.

Great input on this thread!!!

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Old February 24th, 2013, 10:18 PM   #25
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

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To hire someone that is comparable to my experience is very expensive AND frankly they have their own business and don't want to be "the 2nd" so when I DO hire someone to shoot 2nd I look for someone that has a little experience in weddings, not film students because most film students I've run into all want to be the next Spielberg or (fill in name here) and have little if any interest in shooting a wedding.
The film students need to look at wedding video from a different angle. If they want to shoot a story they need to realize EVERY shoot IS a story.

The shoot is like music or a relationship, it needs to have emotion and feeling. What better place to try and capture feelings than at a wedding?

It seems like it would be a given, but for the interview I'd suggest asking feeling-type questions then work your way into asking what kind of shots they'd be looking for and how they'd take them.

disclaimer: I've never done a wedding video.
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Old February 25th, 2013, 06:27 AM   #26
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

John, while I can understand what you mean by stating the film students needs to have emotion and feeling, I think you might have misunderstood what I said.
For the type of wedding work I do, which is a doco style, once I start rolling my cameras at the ceremony, they never stop until the ceremony is over and the recessional is done. Not the guests but the B&G, the BP, the parents, grandparents and the officiant. So for my style, during the ceremony I don't want anything fancy, no sweeps, no crash zooms, no fast pans, no shots of anything but what I tell them I want in the way I tell them to shoot it. Medium, CU, wide, whatever. So if I tell them prior to the event, that I want them to cover the B&G at the altar with a Medium shot to get them B&G and officiant framed in, while I move from the front of the ailse to my position at the center or rear of the aisle, I expect my 2nd shooter to give me that. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing fancy, for me, just plain old, solid, steady, well composed and properly exposed footage. IOW, BORING! It's a ceremony, in most cases a religious type event and IMO not to be messed with. Now I do cut the dead air but overall it is left in it original form. So when shooting a ceremony with me, it should be pretty easy. Follow the action and BTW, watch for my hand signals. I am constantly amazed at the lack of understanding of even the simplest hand signals by some of the 2nd shooters I've used over the years.
Granted for prep and postceremony and even the reception I allow for some creative stuff, except they never do that stuff for me. I do all of that. All I need is for them to give me what I ask for, what I am paying them for and what I TOLD them I wanted before the wedding. Shouldn't be too difficult but guess what...
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Old February 25th, 2013, 06:57 AM   #27
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Hi Don

Right on!! Don't try and get clever and/or creative just shoot what I tell you and when I tell you!! That's what I'm paying you to do!!

I gave on on hand signals so I got an old Azden VHF lav set and wired in some ear buds and I put that on the "assistant" ...I keep the transmitter and lav mic clipped on my collar and I then talk instructions to my assistant.... Works well!! Sadly this assistant has flown the nest and her new lover gets priority over weddings!!

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Old February 25th, 2013, 02:45 PM   #28
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Don (and Chris) - like they say, you learn something new every day. Like my disclaimer said, I've never shot a wedding (and probably never will), so it appears wedding videographers look at the shoot differently than I would. "Just the facts, M'am"? So this is something new to me.

When I think of a wedding, I think of friends and relatives, moms and dads, great aunt Mary, sister Susan, the best friends, etc. They all have a story to tell about this occasion. Maybe one doesn't want to literally hear their story but perhaps just a few snippets. Some soundbites of interaction between some of the guests, that sort of thing.

A couple years ago I filmed a horse-drawn wagon at the start of a parade. Everybody was just standing there waiting to get the go-ahead and I asked the lady holding the reins of the horse if he could speak and no sooner had I said that and he gave a big whinny. Perfect timing! Yesterday I was showing the video in a meeting room to one person (she was in that parade) and it was the horse part she really liked. In fact, I had to replay that part a few times because a number of other people in the room (some who were also in the parade) wound up wanting to see it. Sure, they liked seeing themselves but the horse bit really made it for them.

As time goes on sometimes it's the little things, the moments, that we have the fond memories of. For a day of a wedding and the reception, there probably would have to be a lot of shooting to capture these kinds of key moments. This part sounds like it would be a good job for a B-roll camera.

So, I learned something today. Thanks guys for setting me straight and I'll look at wedding shoots a little differently now.
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Old February 25th, 2013, 04:12 PM   #29
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

I have done short form and cinematic style in the past and they're fine for a highlights piece but my clients want to see and hear all of it. while I do edit and cut certain things a bit shorter I am a firm believer with almost any work that you can not edit what you have not shot, so shoot it all or at least a bunch of it so you as the editor have the chance and choice of the material you include and which camera you include it from. Weddings are a way different beast than a narrative. I look at them like I'm doing a seminar. Until they take a break my camera is rolling since it's not up to me to decide what they consider important. Shoot it all! ;-)
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Old February 25th, 2013, 06:35 PM   #30
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Re: Do you really need an assistant?

Don - here's my "horse shot" at 00:20s,

Took this shortly after getting my first video camera, hand-held because I didn't have a tripod yet, on-board mic, ..... all the not so good things.

Speaking of editing: Seems like what is in vogue are 1/3-second clips (after editing). What is that TV series, The Amazing Race? Many of the clips are even shorter. Blink and you missed it! Watching the Awards last night where they played back some of the movies, they also had some very short clips.

Guess I have a hard time warming up to this short-clip style. It actually almost gives me a headache.

Last edited by John Nantz; February 26th, 2013 at 12:08 PM. Reason: Ooops! Had the wrong link!
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