Regular reader DP Ed Moore, from the UK, sent in an idea for a post for operators concerning how they can make our jobs easier. I thought this was a great idea, especially since I spend my day trying to make their jobs easier. Here are a few tips.
The following are given with great affection for my Operator friends. No offense is meant. I hope you get a laugh out of them:
Don't wait until we're rolling camera to tell me that you see a bump. We've done three rehearsals. Wake up.
Don't leave your coffee cups, half eaten sandwiches, candy wrappers etc on the dolly for the rest of the day. I understand you can't always leave to throw it away, but if it's been on there since breakfast and we're on the third shot, it's time to pull the trigger. I'll just put it on the camera cart and then blame it on you.
Don't leap off the dolly. You're not dismounting a horse and if the brakes aren't on you can make something really bad happen.
Don't tell me every move to make if I've proven to you that I know what I'm doing. I generally know which way to orient the dolly, how much floor I need, how high low-mode is, and whether or not I need a riser. Believe me, if I need help I'll ask. I need your input, but some things are pretty self -evident.
Don't get accessory happy. I can almost always set up the dolly correctly so that you don't need a seat offset. I've managed to make it ten years without using one (that's the last time I remember using one. It flipped and dumped the DP on his ass. Sorry, Frank). Give me a chance to set up the dolly in the right way for the shot before you start yelling for stuff. If you're still not happy, I'll get you what you need.
Do include me in conversations about the shot. I need all the info I can get and my contribution may make your job easier.
If I blow a take or a rehearsal, turning around and yelling won't help. I know I screwed up. I'm very sorry. I'm your friend. And I'll start changing your gear settings when you're not looking.
I have to see it at least once. Don't expect the first run through with actors to be perfect especially if the stand-ins did it differently (and they usually do). I know I have to match movements, hold eyelines etc.
Communicate with me. Tell me how I can do it better, or conversely, how I screwed it up if you can see that I don't get it.
Use a finder. I don't want to lay it twice.
Yes, I can do a boom and a move at the same time. I actually do this for a living. If I can't, you've got the wrong guy and it'll be pretty evident very soon anyway. I'm just as good at my job as you are at yours. Can you pan and tilt at the same time?
When I'm at work, I'll give you 110%. It's my job to make sure you can do the shot safely and as comfortably as possible. I drink Budweiser.
Watch my back. If you see me forgetting something, not doing something right, are uncomfortable with a shot set up, tell me. Don't watch me lay the track in the wrong spot and wait until I'm done before you mention it. We're a team. Watch out for me and I'll watch out for you.
I have a name. Learn it. Use it. I know you're big time DP and all but I'm a big time Dolly Grip and the whole motioning up and down thing with your thumb without saying anything is just insulting. This is a phenomenon mainly associated with commercial and television DPs. For some reason, some cameramen think it's cool to never address the Dolly Grip personally but to communicate through a series of cryptic finger displays. I know some do this from time to time if the set's loud or they're trying to be quiet. I don't mean you. A certain few do it very dismissively all the time. Believe me, I've worked with the best, they don't do this. This doesn't make you cool, it only makes you a jackass.
Don't tell me what kind of dolly to use. I don't tell you which head to use. I've been doing this a long time and I know the right tool for the job and which machine I'm most comfortable with. Every dolly is different and some Dolly Grips can make a Fisher Ten sing while others are more comfortable with a Chapman Hustler. It's my job to make sure you don't notice which brand of dolly you're on and if I do it well, you won't. I'm the one who has to make it work. Let me do my job. Help me, help you.
Operators- send in your own tips, pet peeves, etc. I'll put them in a post. I need all the help I can get.
These tips all pre-suppose that the Dolly Grip is experienced and is engaged in what's going on. Otherwise, I probably deserve whatever I get. I count Camera Operators among my best friends and what you do is truly a joy to watch. These are just some helpful suggestions to help us work better as a team. You know who you are.