Is this role right for me?
To do this role, you will need to:
What does a Second Assistant Camera do?
Second Assistant Cameras (2nd Assistant Cameras, 2nd ACs and formerly known as Clapper Loaders) are key members of the camera crew and are responsible for the smooth running of the entire camera department.
2nd ACs help the Camera Operator to position and move the camera. They are responsible for loading and unloading film magazines, changing and charging camera batteries and changing lenses. They must work quickly so that the flow of filming is not disrupted.
They also operate the clapperboard, fill out and file all camera sheets, deal with film labs and order the correct amount and type of film stock. 2nd ACs work closely with 1st ACs (Focus Pullers) and supervise any Camera Trainees.
Depending on the size of the feature film, 2nd ACs start work two or three weeks before the first day of principal photography, assisting the Director of Photography (DoP) and Camera Operator with any tests required on film stock or/and with artists.
During the shoot, 2nd ACs begin work early in the mornings, unloading, organising and preparing all of the camera equipment for each day's work. During rehearsals, they mark-up the Actors' positions, enabling the 1st AC to calculate any changes in focus. When the camera starts to roll, 2nd ACs mark each take with a clapperboard, which identifies the take and enables the Assistant Editor to synchronise the sound and picture in preparation for editing.
2nd ACs position themselves next to the camera, where they can anticipate all camera movements and monitor how much film stock is being used. They must know when a new film magazine should be prepared. At the end of each shooting day, 2nd ACs pack away all the equipment, label up film cans and dispatch them to the labs with detailed camera sheets.
Most 2nd ACs are asked for by a Camera Operator or 1st AC, and work on a freelance basis. They often work on a combination of commercials, promos and features.
What's the best route in?
You will need to serve an apprenticeship as a Camera Trainee before progressing through the ranks of the Camera Department to 2nd AC.
Because the job involves an in-depth knowledge of and feel for the camera, actual experience of handling camera equipment and stock is vital.
You could also start off by working in a camera rental facilities house such as ARRI or Panavision which would provide a good route to an apprenticeship.
Where might this role take me?
You could go on to become 1st AC and eventually, Director of Photography.