SPC, Necessity or Choice? at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Most Recent Additions... > SPC - Single Person Crew

SPC - Single Person Crew
Who said "One is the Loneliest Number?" You'll never walk alone here.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old December 5th, 2016, 09:05 AM   #1
Trustee
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 1,653
SPC, Necessity or Choice?

SPC, Necessity or Choice?

I want to play the devilís advocate here for the sake of discussion. This is something I deal with a lot. I have come to believe that working as a SPC is more of a choice than an imposed condition created by the clients some claim it is.

I work in situations where I do everything from SPC jobs to shoots where I might hire a crew of seven and never touch a piece of gear. More often than not I have at least an assistant with me. Those are jobs I could do alone if I chose to but I choose not to do it that way.

When adding a second person you have three things to consider: What do you need? An audio guy, a second shooter, or a grip/assistant? Job details usually dictate the need for the first two, it is the third role that is overlooked and undervalued.

I learned the value of an assistant/grip over ten years ago. There was a one year period when I had the pleasant opportunity to hire a professional Hollywood trained grip whenever I wanted. The guy was amazing. He knew everything about almost every piece of gear I use except the cameras. In fact he not only would not shoot, a camera was the only thing he would not even touch. He was worth his weight in gold and I took him all over the country with me. He knew what I was going to need next before I knew I was going to ask for it. Unfortunately for me he went back to Hollywood.

These days budgets are different, I fully admit that. On travel jobs I often get a red flag from the client if I request bringing a second person with me because that impacts their budget in a way I cannot absorb. So I hire a local guy in that area now if I can.

On local jobs (a small percentage of my work) I almost always have an assistant. Here comes the devilís advocate part. I hear other small operators like me claiming all the time that it is the clientsí fault that they have to work alone. I do not believe that at all because I donít do it very often. How do I pull that off? I do not leave that choice up to the client, it is my call not theirs. These days I can find all of the good help I want for a day rate of $200.00. That is a steal and I am usually more than willing to pay it myself if I need to. It does not have to be itemized on a quote to give the client something they can axe. The way I quote things it is built in or I simply decide to pay it myself. It is my decision. I think the guys that are screaming it is the clients fault they MUST work alone either are too cheap to pay it or donít understand the value of the second person. No offence intended, Iím the devil!

What I can get for $200.00 is incredible. Often they are not assistants or grips they are competent video pros willing to make some cash. I have done it myself for other guys. I like to work and if I am not busy with one of my own clients I love to freelance in many other roles.

Now here is the real value of a second person on set. My product is always better because of it! Instead of being superman that has to be audio guy, lighting guy, video shooter, and director my mind is free to work on the plane where it should be. That is why I do it!

So for me, it is not a question of ďwill the client let me do it?Ē I ask myself if the product will suffer because I am too busy doing it all alone? If the answer is yes I find a way to have help at hand, even if it costs me to pay for it. It is not the clientís choice.

Kind Regards,

Steve
__________________
Steven Digges
Still learning twenty years later.
Steven Digges is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 5th, 2016, 11:11 AM   #2
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Great post, Steven!

One overlooked benefit of the second person is security. While you're looking through the viewfinder, you have a second person who can stand by any equipment cases. When out in public, a single person might get harassed, while people might think twice if there are two or more people. Also, when the camera and sound are rolling, the second person can temporarily stop people from walking in front of the lens.

At trade shows, I've generally shot with two people. It's much easier. One can handle the camera while the other talks with the person to be interviewed, manages the lav, etc. I think of it like this: the person with camera and headphones is myopic - they see the world through a keyhole. The second person can have more of a 360 degree perspective with a simple turn of the head.

Regarding the unattended equipment thing, this is why I put together a kit I can carry on my back when traveling solo. Nothing gets set down, ever.
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 6th, 2016, 11:19 PM   #3
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Posts: 3,758
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Always by choice, not necessity.

If I can carry all the gear I need comfortably and not use a car, it's usually just me but there are exceptions even to that. For example, I needed to shot interviews in a dark location and I use an assistant to carry a smallish LED at a proper key light angle because I don't like the aesthetic of on camera light. The client's paying for that of course.

If I need more gear than I can comfortably carry and I need to use a car, I'm hiring an assistant. As an urban shooter there's no way I'm going to practically deal with a car, parking, having to lug gear.

BTW I've had shoots where I've hired an assistant because I needed a second person to be grip/gaffer to expedite setup even though I can avoid using a car.

If I'm shooting in a location where someone needs to keep an eye on any sitting gear, yes, I'm hiring an assistant.

It depends what I feel I need. If the client balks at the money then I work them trimming back on the needs. I won't do solo if I think the client won't like the end results.

BTW I see some people doing multi camera shoots with "unattended" cameras. I will NEVER offer that to a client. If there's a camera there's a set of eyes. Otherwise that's a very unprofessional accident waiting to happen IMHO.
Craig Seeman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 6th, 2016, 11:53 PM   #4
Trustee
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Byron Bay, Australia
Posts: 1,139
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Usually when I've asked for a 2nd person in the budget I've been granted it, but I also know when to push my luck and when to keep my mouth shut. I agree sometimes you're better off paying help out of your own pocket and perhaps artificially lifting your rates, so clients don't try to take line items out of your quote.

Having said that, I'm more inclined to hire an assistant than a 2nd shooter these days. With 2 shooters, your problems are multiplied - both people have to carry their own gear, change lenses, manage media, etc. And I've rarely worked with people who meet my standards as a 2nd shooter. With an assistant though, everything I do becomes easier and that allows me to focus on making my shots better and getting more of them. An assistant lets me work more efficiently to get all the coverage, instead of me focusing on getting half of it done while stressing if the other guy is actually getting the coverage I asked for. Plus it's not rocket science to find someone who can carry tripods, hold a reflector, or dump cards, even at more client-friendly rates. If I really need 2 angles of something, they can grab my b-cam quickly or just monitor a locked off shot for me.

And the same goes when I work for others - I'd much rather run around carrying gear and making their lives easier, than constantly trying to stay out of their reverse-shot.
__________________
Camera Operator/Editor in Northern NSW, Australia
Sony FS700R || Adobe CC Suite
John Wiley is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 7th, 2016, 11:41 AM   #5
Slash Rules!
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 4,721
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

I think it depends what kinds of budgets you work with and what rates are for those assistants in your area. I am on what you could call the low end, maybe the extreme low end of the spectrum most of the time when I shoot. Therefore, I may not be able to get a decent enough rate to pay another person and still make the job worth doing.

$200 in Houston will not get you great people (grips) for a full day, maybe okay people or maybe good folks for a half day.

Also depends on nature of job. Shooting b-roll in available light? SPC. Shooting a lit talking head interview? Would be nice to have another person, but can be done by one person. Shooting 7 of those interviews in the same day and each one is supposed to look different (background, lighting)? I think you need at least another guy. Client won't pay that much -- the rate for another guy on a job that in my experience/opinion requires it (even if I don't line item it, just lump it all together, and they say "too high" regardless), and job description can't change to accommodate what one person can reasonably handle? Pass on job.
Josh Bass is online now   Reply With Quote
Old December 7th, 2016, 03:30 PM   #6
Major Player
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Creswell Oregon
Posts: 380
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

It really depends on what I am shooting, as I do a few different kinds of production. One of the things I do is live, multi-camera production where I hire camera operators and will direct and switch cameras. Depending on the gig, I might also bring in someone to do live graphics and audio.

Other times I work on shoots where I am hired by a producer to be part of a larger crew. Usually I am a camera op or DP on these shoots.

Yet with other shoots, it is up to me to produce, shoot, and edit. However, I still like to hire a dedicated sound guy, especially when there are more demanding audio requirements.
__________________
My Website - www.nweventvideo.com
Adam Grunseth is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 8th, 2016, 11:15 AM   #7
Trustee
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 1,653
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Thanks for the input so far. Interesting to see how everyone approaches this.

Craig, I have worked in NYC many times. I always hire local gear and help, no other way to do it when you travel in. As far as transporting gear as a local shooter what a PITA that must be. You guys bring real meaning to the necessity of going light. When I work in my base city I have to resist the temptation to fill up my pick up truck with too much gear. That is a luxury I know you don't have.

I do know this topic is about choice and ultimately the budget! We all have to turn a profit.

Kind Regards,

Steve
__________________
Steven Digges
Still learning twenty years later.
Steven Digges is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 12th, 2016, 04:23 AM   #8
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 27
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Having a second set of hands & eyes invariably makes a better product, whether it's watching the gear, helping you sweat less in front of the client, cross-checking you, a human stand-in for light/camera test, or just someone to talk to that's not the client.

We should all try to sell this value add to the client. But some will not listen or their hands are tied by people who don't understand any of this. We have a choice to pay it out of our pocket. That works for those who are booked frequently enough to where it's just a question of operating margin. It's tough for those who just get by to pay the rent. And the rest is somewhere in between on that scale. You also have the trade-off of upgrading to that next piece of equipment to raise your production value, or affording the assistant. Of course having the assistant with that old gear could still produce better work and get you hired more, which then makes you the money to buy that gear anyway. So there is no simple answer.

Working in NYC I build my kit, choose my lighting, camera, etc. all around being able to a job SPC because it all fits on a rolling cart I can get from the parking garage through the freight entrance and to where I need to go. That works all the way to a lit 2 person interview. But whether I do it myself is always a choice not a necessity. BTW - in NYC having more crew also adds insurance cost when you do your worker's comp/disability audit at the end of the year.

One opportunity that is often overlooked is partnering with someone else. You can always be each other's second hand. There are days where I have downtime and am either doing post production that's on a flexible schedule or am just following up with business leads. While still productive, it's not billable time. I could make $350 that day helping a fellow shooter out instead, being a well trained set of eyes and hands. He/she can return the favor others days. It requires trust and reputation. Sometimes it works better if you're not shooting for the same clients. I always enjoy helping other people out but limit myself to a few days a month. And I also invariably make their work better and always learn something along the way. And I have a few regulars that always call me first to check my availability.
Jan Klier is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 12th, 2016, 12:37 PM   #9
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Camas, WA, USA
Posts: 5,513
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

A retailer shot a video at my employer once for use on their sales floor. It was a one camera shoot with interviews and extensive b-roll. I was the facilitator on our end. We had three people interviewed.

They flew in:
* The producer
* The director
* The camera op (with 2/3" ENG-style camera with zoom.)

They hired:
* Grip 1 (with truck)
* Grip 2
* Audio (with gear)
* Makeup (with supplies.)

It still took all day. (Learned some good tricks.)

In house, I've done similar with a single interviewee and one skilled assistant (though we skip makeup.) And while they did locked down and shoulder, we use a jib for smooth b-roll moves.

The bottom line is that it's a lot of work for two people. Too much for one person.
__________________
Jon Fairhurst
Jon Fairhurst is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 23rd, 2016, 04:38 PM   #10
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Pembroke Pines, Florida
Posts: 109
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Congrats to you if you can get someone competent for $200 for 10; that is a great way to race to the bottom and keep rates low for professional freelancers.
Mark Bolding is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 23rd, 2016, 09:41 PM   #11
Slash Rules!
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 4,721
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

AMEN to that sirrah!
Josh Bass is online now   Reply With Quote
Old December 26th, 2016, 01:13 PM   #12
Major Player
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Juneau, AK
Posts: 810
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Well, here I come, to play 'devil's, devil's advocate.' I do almost
everything as a SPC, without an assistant. Now first, let me say,
I have nothing against assistants. I LOVE it when I have one.
On some of my larger jobs, I have hired someone. One was for
a 'talking head and Broll' shoot where we needed 7 different interview
set ups, in one dingy building, in 4 hours. Luckily, that client understood
the need and gave me a budget to hire an assistant AND a field producer.
I usually have maybe 2-3 shoots like that in any given year. I also work with
the local correspondence/home school office and use high school
kids (who are being home schooled), who have a interest in filmmaking.
I get an assistant and they get a chance to work on a real shoot. And I
let them actually shoot (a second angle, it's a bonus if they can actually
make it work). I also pay them a small sum, but to a high school kid
it's good money. They help me carry stuff, set up lights and so on,
and the good ones know how to set up audio and run a Bcam so I figure
they should get lunch and a little cash from it.
But now to get real. Most of my shoots are by myself. I'm often, not going to
be able to get a high school kid to help on my shoots, if it works with their schedule,
I might get lucky. Anyone else, who could help in my area, already has a full time
job. If you live in a big city with a talented pool of freelancers....then maybe you have
a shot. But not where I live. Care to guess how many people make their living as
a freelance video guy in my area? Hint, it's lower than 5. That's the first strike.
What about any travel shoots. Paying for a 2nd ticket and hotel room? Not gonna happen.
It doesn't help that we have one airline serving us, who has a monopoly on air travel.
Which makes air travel quite expensive....in fact most of the time you don't even
have the budget for air travel. Instead the client will hire a kid with an iPhone to send
you some footage to go with what you shot and expect you to make it go together
seamlessly.
Then there is the fact that the amount of video work in my area is very small.....which
is why there is almost no one doing it. In other words there isn't much competition, but
not much work either. Which means, anything you take from the budget to pay someone
else, is money you won't make. Now depending on how much work you are able to get, that
may, or may not be a problem. Here, it's a big problem. You may get one job in an average
month, with a $2500 budget. That is the sum total that you will be making. You must
pay mortgage/rent, food, car, everything from that amount. Hire an assistant? You live in
a much different world than I do :)
Gabe Strong is offline   Reply With Quote
Old December 27th, 2016, 02:33 PM   #13
Trustee
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 1,653
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Hey Mark,

Neither my rates or the rates I pay are on the bottom or even close to it. I am not driving anyone's rates down.

As I said, $200 is for a video assistant. That means they usually help me unload my truck, set up and strike. They don't shoot, record audio, or do the real lighting. They have no responsibility in the outcome of the product. For that rate I have all the help I need and they are glad to have the work. If I need a second shooter or audio pro they are paid accordingly.

Many of them ARE professional freelancers and they know I am fair or generous with my rates. Rates also vary greatly geographically. Wherever I go I pay local rates.

Kind Regards,

Steve
__________________
Steven Digges
Still learning twenty years later.
Steven Digges is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 24th, 2017, 05:10 AM   #14
Major Player
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Posts: 744
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

Generally necessity for me. Most of my video jobs are low budget, under $2000. Sometimes under $1000. Most of my clients are small business owners, often one-man bands themselves. I live in a fairly small city.

There's no way I can produce, shoot, edit and deliver + hire extra help and still pay myself a decent wage on those budgets.

As my business grows, big budget projects become more frequent (I am getting more and more large business/corporate clients). And when I do get jobs like that, I certainly hire help where I can, if it's warranted.. I have a big event shoot coming up where I've hired 4 camera operators.. looking forward to that one.

But for most of my work, I can easily do it myself and still produce high quality content. And I'm generally happy to do it that way.
Jody Arnott is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 17th, 2017, 08:24 AM   #15
Inner Circle
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Los Angeles, California
Posts: 2,035
Re: SPC, Necessity or Choice?

I do both. I've done, just to prove to myself I could do it, three camera, two person interview shoots by myself. Lit with sixteen lights. But I was working at a prodco and we had our own studio, I took all day to set it all up, then it was just a matter of turning on the cameras and hitting record. I just cruised between the three cameras, making slight framing adjustments, checking focus and sound. It was fun and the end result came out beautiful, one of the best looking interviews I've ever shot.

I do some OMB for a broadcast client, all green screen one and two camera interviews. But I've been shooting the same interviews for ten seasons of the show, I know the room inside out, and I have the setup down to a science. I can do the entire green screen setup in less than two hours, we shoot two or three interviews, I am done in less than four hours.

Generally though, I hate OMB, I have to work too hard and yes, in professional production, it is the client cheaping out. I much prefer a 3-6 person crew, two cameras, sound mixer, grip/gaffer/PA, we can do amazing things with that little crew like shoot a multicamera docu-reality show. I am shooting a doc in South America, leaving in a few weeks. But luckily the producers have hired me a sound mixer, gaffer and utility there, with a small grip van. Lots of run & gun segments on the street with handheld LED panels, gimbal and wireless mics, but half a dozen sit down interviews and we are shooting a musical performance as well. I couldn't do any of this OMB.
Dan Brockett is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Most Recent Additions... > SPC - Single Person Crew

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 09:17 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network