How to be a Second Assistant Camera

Posted on August 20, 2007

The Good Joe

  • Eat before you arrive. As soon as the grip truck arrives your main priority is to unload the camera equipment, load the mags for the day, and help build camera. Once all that’s done, you can maybe grab a bite to eat if they’re still setting up the shot.
  • Learn how to load mags quickly but carefully. You’re the only person that physically touches the film. Everyone’s hard work is in your hands.
  • Make sure a fresh mag is always on standby. Do this when you have some down time. Production should not have to stop for ten minutes when they run out of film because you have to load a new mag.
  • Wear cargo pants or get an AC pouch. You’ll be stuffing lens and mag covers in them as well as pens and a tape measure. You’ll also need some tools. For the bare minimum, I’d get a D-Ring and dry erase marker with eraser.
  • Get the slate ready for each shot. When slating use a word for the letter, so it’s clear what you’re saying. So for scene 2B, say “Two-Bravo.” You can also get creative and come up with slating themes. Just make sure it’s okay with the director and doesn’t throw the actors off by making them laugh. Apparently scene “Thirteen Admiral Ackbar” can do this.
  • Keep pre-torn pieces of red tape on your pants. You’ll need to access these quickly to give the actors foot marks.
  • Live near the camera. Someone always has to be by the camera, and that will either be you or the 1 AC.
  • You’re the 1 AC’s arms and legs. Keep the lenses nearby since that’s what you’ll most likely be running to get.
  • At the end of the day, download the film, possibly load a new roll for the next day, and help break down the camera.
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Written by Joey Daoud

Joey Daoud is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. His past films have appeared on Netflix, The New York Times, and National Geographic. He is also a YouTube creator across multiple channels with videos garnering millions of views. In his free time, he likes to climb mountains, scuba dive, and brew unique coffees.

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  1. modifoo

    Have lots of differently coloured rolls of camera tape. Use one colour for each type of film. Use one colour for markers for each actor.

    Check the coffee/tea/snack supply of the Operator, the 1st AC and the Grip.

    Have lots of canned air.

    Agree on the routine for changing lenses with the 1st AC.

    Keep an open ear; anticipate.

    Log everything used.

    “If you are on time, you are late”. 2nd AC is one of the first on the set, and one of the last to leave.

    Be humble.

  2. Kelly

    Thanks for the industry advice chaps!

  3. Luciana

    Hello i have question, maybe you can help me. Do you think its necessary to cover around the magazines with gaffer tape? I am using arricam lt magazines and 235 shoulder magz. Thnks

    • Joey

      No, if gaffer tape is the only thing that’s keeping light out or the film from busting out then the mags have some serious problems. I only used tape on mags for labeling the roll, film stock, etc.

  4. Jason@VanEman

    Always be a good time keeper and turn up at least 15 minutes before you are expected to start work. Strive to be efficient and organized – Your aim is to be an outstanding Assistant.

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