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class="Paragraph" Video Tap Etiquette

class="Paragraph" Published : 4th May 2004

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I was wondering what the general consensus is, among professionals, about who gets to look at the tap, and for how long.

I was on a shoot where the Art Director all but refused to get out of the Directors way. This person was glued to the monitor like an 8-year old watching Saturday morning cartoons. I, the Gaffer on that shoot, simply need to get a sense of the framing so I could light accordingly; otherwise I steer clear of the tap.

Is there a known access hierarchy or quota on it?

Nathan "in tap turmoil" Milford
Gaffer, Best Boy and Beyond!
New York


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>I was wondering what the general consensus is, among professionals, >about who gets to look at the tap, and for how long.

>Is there a known access hierarchy or quota on it?

Not that I've seen.

The film shoots I've worked on usually have a couple of larger tap monitors available, but even if there's a single 8" as you mentioned, anyone may have a look, and if someone's face is right in the monitor for an extended period of time, it's not rude to ask them to step aside for a moment so you can see what's going on.

The camera eyepiece is another matter. I always ask first before I look in there as a courtesy to the DP, the 1st, and the operator.

And when I stick my head directly in front of the lens for a moment or two (as I often do on film shoots when checking out matte shots), I always check with the DP first.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC


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I love video taps. They keep people out of the viewfinder. I think everyone should be able to look if they need to or want to. If they hog it, though, words will be spoken.

I've worked with DP's who wouldn't use video taps and wouldn't let anyone except for the camera crew to look through the viewfinder. The director just had to trust in the camera crew. I think that's a bit extreme, but we sure did work fast.

Art Adams, DP [film|hdtv|sdtv]
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/


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Video monitor :

I feel that it's for the director and the DP. Anyone else is a guest and should quickly step aside without being asked.

Blain Brown
DP
LA


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When I was a first AC I played a semi-mean trick on a semi-green script supervisor.

She was always asking to look through the viewfinder, which wasn't in itself a bad thing. Having a sinister streak, though, I decided to have some fun. One time when she put her eye to the viewfinder I reached over and turned the camera on. She leaped back, saying "It's running! It's running!" I quickly turned it off without her seeing and told her that she pushed too hard on the eyepiece, and that's the way the camera turned on.

For the next couple of days she did her best to see through the finder with her eye about an inch away from it.

Yes, I did tell her eventually.

Art Adams, DP [film|hdtv|sdtv]
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"


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I used to abhor the video tap and prohibit it from being on set if I was shooting. I'd let the director look through the viewfinder whenever s/he pleased, obviously, but I didn't like tap. Eventually I lightened up and allowed for tap, though to this day I've yet to work with a director that wants to look at it...at least on the student level, a bad black and white tap is no way to watch performance, and even if it were good, why not actually watch your talent? Still though, tap is viewable only by the gaffer, the camera crew, the director, the production designer, the producers, and the continuity director, who I like to have as a second pair of eyes looking for stray objects in frame (like cables or lights during a complex move) because when I'm operating I tend to not see things that I'm not composing for.

Again, on a student level at least, having anyone else looking at tap slows things down immensely, as people lose sight of making the movie and focus on watching it. And on HD shoots, you get a whole gallery of people suggesting lighting in ways that destroy professionality.

But this may be an entirely different perspective.

Will Beckley
Northwestern University Senior/Cinematography Student


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Art Adams writes :

> I love video taps.

So do I.

One monitor for me, which is calibrated against a grey scale at the start of the shoot and checked occasionally with all the controls then taped off.

As many other monitors as they like, preferably as far away from the set as possible.

Different colours and set-ups of these other monitors is desirable, that way they can argue amongst themselves which one looks best, this generally takes so much time that I can get on with my job without "help"

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


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Hi,

Wouldn't it be preferable just to transmit it and have some little LCD monitors so anyone can have a look?

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London


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My favourite video tap story dates back to the time that I was demonstrating our first primitive b & w offering to a worthy DP who was then shooting with and looking through the side viewfinder of a Mitchell BNC.

He listened to what I had to say and then said "Are you telling me that after all these years when we have been shooting b & w films with a color viewfinder, that now we have color film you want me to use a B & W viewfinder?!

David Samuelson


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>Wouldn't it be preferable just to transmit it and have some little LCD >monitors?

This is exactly what Clint Eastwood used on "Mystic River".

Eastwood and his DP Tom Stern dislike the whole "video village" concept common on Hollywood sets. So they took a Modulus 3000 transmitter from a steadicam and put it on the A camera, then ran the signal to a frame converter and then broadcast it to two small LCD screens. This enabled Eastwood to keep an eye on the frame while staying close to the camera where he likes to stand so he can watch the actor's performance.

This method is also used by several music video directors like Chris Robinson and Little X.

Wendell S. Greene
Cinematographer - Los Angeles


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Wendell Greene wrote:

>Modulus 3000 transmitter from a steadicam and put it on the A camera, >then ran the signal to a frame converter and then broadcast it to two >small LCD screens.

What’s the frame converter doing and how was it ‘broadcast’?

Thanks,

Karl Lohninger
Sound mixer
Los Angeles


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>Wouldn't it be preferable just to transmit it and have some little LCD >monitors, so anyone can have a look?

Been there, done that.....on several music video shoots for various labels, with varying results. This can be a detriment or a boon depending on the level of professionalism or experience of the crew.

Use sparingly.

Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, Texas


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Wendell Greene writes :

>So they took a Modulus 3000 transmitter from a steadicam and put it on >the A camera, then ran the signal to a frame converter and then >broadcast it to two small LCD screens.

You have some terms confused in here but I and others do this all the time. A Modulus 3000 transmits the video signal on the UHF band (actually illegal in the US, but that's another subject...). What Clint had in his hand was a small UHF tuner feeding an LCD screen and an NP-1 battery to power them.

You could buy a cheap LCD Watchman TV but there are a few companies that are packaging these together with much higher quality components for better reception, increased brightness & resolution of the screen (especially in daylight viewing), longer battery runtime and superior ruggedness for professional use.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


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>So they took a Modulus 3000 transmitter from a steadicam and put it on >the A camera, then ran the signal to a frame converter and then >broadcast it to two small LCD screens

EEmmmm??? Isn't everybody doing more or less that already??? Lots of guys I know and myself and have been doing that for years. Hardly breaking new ground here.

And were just in Canada...imagine...

Daniel Villeneuve, c.s.c.
Directeur-Photo/Director of Photography
Montréal, Canada


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>Lots of guys I know and myself and have been doing that for years. >Hardly breaking new ground here. And we're just in Canada...imagine...

Yes, but you know it doesn't count because you're using a metric UHF band.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
http://www.cinematography.net


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>You have some terms confused in here but I and others do this all the >time. A Modulus 3000 transmits the video signal on the UHF band ...

Mitch, thanks for the clarification!

Wendell S. Greene
Cinematographer - LA


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Phil Rhodes writes :

>Wouldn't it be preferable just to transmit it and have some little LCD >monitors so anyone can have a look?

Not if you don't want your dailies all over the internet by that afternoon.

(I wonder what transmission frequency Clint Eastwood's crew used on MYSTIC RIVER...)

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


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Hi,

>Not if you don't want your dailies all over the internet by that afternoon.

The thing is, I will never work on a production upscale enough for that to be any kind of concern, and I suspect that it's barely a concern for the vast majority of people...

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London