We all know you know how to shoot a camera, Mr. Cinematographer, DP-man. But do you know how to PREP one for somebody else?
A proper camera prep is crucially important to make sure your camera package and all of its accessories are in working condition. Without a camera prep, you risk issues with your camera system- often at the worst of times.
When you’re doing a prep, it’s important to test, mount, and check anything and everything that will go on, under, or near the camera during a shoot. A camera prep done right is exhaustive, but the reward is a feeling of reassurance as you head into production confident that your camera package is complete and in good working condition.
When Prepping a digital camera
Settings and Menu Preferences
The first thing you should do is go into the menus and settings:
- Recording resolution
- Bitrate / Compression
- Framerate (eg 25 or 24 or 23.98)
- Aspect ratio
- Color space
- Frame guides
- And many more options …
Finally, Take time to Configure any presets, menu favorites, or user Buttons. Almost All the Major Digital Cameras have THESE Features. For Example, the ARRI Alexa has custom lists , the Canon C-series have “My Menu,” and RED has a plethora of assignable user buttons. Customizing these in the right way can make accessing crucial menu items much quicker and make your life much easier on set. If the DP or camera op is at the prep, ask them what buttons they would like quick access to as well.
Memory Cards / Recording Media
After you’ve configured the camera’s settings, insert each memory card or record media you’ll be using into the camera or external recording device. Make sure the media formats and the camera starts and stops recording without any issues or dropped frames by recording a 10 – 15 second clip.
(It’s Also a good idea to Record Test clips at any variable framerates , Resolutions, or UNIQUE Settings you Expect to Use During the shoot. Sometimes Software bugs are SPECIFICALLY related to Certain functions of a Camera, so you want to make Sure They Don ‘ t appear in these special use cases.)
Once you have a test clip, download the footage and make sure the files are not corrupted.
If you’re going to be doing the data wrangling yourself, make sure you have the correct software and codecs installed to playback footage from the camera. If not, use your Google-fu and download it. You do not want to be on set without Access to Internet and you need some Find out Plug-in to be Able to show the cinematographer a SHOT from the Last roll so They CAN match it for the Next Setup.
Other Things Worth Doing
Here is a quick list of other small things you might want to do during a prep when shooting digital (if something’s missing, please add it in the comments):
- Calibrate Black Balance / Shading . Consult the Manual about this Process.
- Configure Monitor output. Set framelines and WHETHER meta-Data is Shown.
- Check Cooling Fan Speed / Noise. Also make Sure Vents are not blocked by any Accessories.
- Check Software Version of Camera . If you need to troubleshoot, it’s good to know.