When you start out in the world of camera assisting, you soon find out that just showing up to set with yourself is only half the story. If you’re really serious, you bring a kit.
What’s in this kit? a voice from nowhere asks.
Glad you asked, hypothetical listener.
In this post, I’ll cover the basics in your typical kit for a 1st or 2nd AC.
If you’ve been in this business for longer than five minutes, you should already be aware that tools are necessary to make equipment fit together as intended. At the very least, you need a flathead screwdriver to secure a camera to a tripod baseplate.
Part of the AC’s job is to troubleshoot the gear you’re using. You might find you need to take a bracket apart and fit it together in a new configuration. A screw that’s too tight to loosen by hand that needs pliers. You find you need to add new attachments to the camera. Or perhaps you’re working with old gear that’s had a rough life.
The AC doesn’t need the same tools as an electrician or gaffer or production designer. They will, however, get a lot of use with the following:
- Screwdrivers – Flat and Phillips in a variety of sizes
- Multi-tool (fulfills several requirements on the list but I wouldn’t trust their screwdriver attachment often).
- sharp pocket knife and/or razor knife
- allen wrenches – metric and standard
On-set production requires a lot of tape. This is especially true for the camera assistant, who needs several varieties of tape in various sizes, types and colors.
- Gaffer’s Tape (Black: 1 inch wide and 2″ wide; White: 1″ wide – also dubbed “camera tape”).
- Painter’s tape – might come in handy, especially for times when you don’t want to use up your expensive gaff tape.
- Spike Tape – essentially a thin line painter’s tape but not quite. You should have 3+ colors of this as you use it to mark locations of actors and camera. Each lead actor gets their own color.
Cleaning and maintaining the gear in top condition is so important. You don’t want a take ruined by a dirty lens.
- Kimtech wipes – use these dry cloths to clean lenses, monitors, etc.
- wet lens wipes – use when needed, often the dry wipes do the trick.
- microfiber cloths
- Rocket Blower
- Canned Air
- Pancro or similar lens cleaner
Other Camera Expendables and Tools
- Markers – Black sharpie, dry erase markers in black and other colors
- Pen – for taking camera notes
- Camera Reports
- bongo ties – very useful to secure loose wires around the camera.
- Measuring tape – to measure focal distance.
- Slate and insert slate
- Color checker card – an ideal thing to capture for your editor to use later on.
- penlight or headlamp – very useful if you’re in a dark location.
- scissors – you don’t even know how many times I’ve needed scissors on set.
- T-marks – easier than tape marks, just throw ’em down and remember to pick them up later.
So you’ve got all this stuff, right? Where exactly are you going to put it?
If you’ve got a lot of gear, you might want to invest in a good sized, sturdy bag. I’ve got a common bag for a lot of camera assistants — the Cinebag. When I first started out, I just toted a cheap tool bag from Harbor Freight. I eventually upgraded to a nice Husky toolbag which I still sometimes use.
You also should keep common tools, such as your multitool, some cleaning stuff and writing utensils close by. Many camera assistants will have some sort of utility belt – a la Batman – to accomplish this. I went Cinebag on this too and got their AC pouch, but there’s plenty of great brands out there to check out, such as Setwear and Portabrace. Get one that works best for you.
Ready to gear up?
That covers the basics (and that’s a lot of basics). Your kit will likely grow and expand and change from job to job, as you realize what you really need and what might be provided already on set.
Oh! And one more thing. When you start buying this stuff, you’ll notice the cost adds up. Especially when buying $20 rolls of gaffer’s tape. So price shop amongst as many sources as you can and most of all – label your gear. I, for one, put my name on tape especially, as it can easily be lost and picked up by another department on set.