Video Production

Putting theory into practice

by Steve Dawkins and Ian Wynd

Drama short productions roles and responsibilities

Back to production roles and responsibilities

We have based the below outlines of the various roles and responsibilities on our experience of working with students whilst filming drama shorts on locations in various parts of the United Kingdom and Europe. Each job is realistically broken down into its various parts within the production process. We recognise that some roles are absent or merged with others and we make no apologies for this as it faithfully reflects our experience over the past ten years or more of how student drama shorts tend to function in terms of roles and responsibilities. We would suggest that the Director for your drama short copies relevant sections of the above and hands them to the specific crew members with the instruction ‘please follow this’.

Director

Although you may be assisted by a First Assistant Director (First AD), you have full control of the project and every aspect of the video is overseen by you, it is you who makes the final call on any decisions of a technical or creative nature and it is you who ensures that morale runs high in order to keep moving the project forward during production. It is your sheer determination and vision that will successfully lead the project through the stresses of production. If the drama is a ship, the production team, its crew, then you are their captain!

Pre-production
You will need to:
  • Edit the script
  • Ensure script turns into a suitable screenplay
  • Oversee production of thumbnails, storyboards and scripts
  • Work with all heads of all areas to ensure that your vision is being carried out
  • Select cast
  • Select crew
  • Have final say on location selection
  • direct technical and actors rehearsals
  • co-ordinate and have control over all aspects of pre-production
  • work closely with your First AD and delegate effectively
  • communicate effectively with everyone
Production
You will need to:
  • co-ordinate and direct, with your DoP, camera, lighting and sound crew to make sure that they all allow for your creative vision to be realised
  • co-ordinate and direct the performances of your actors: this is your most important job
  • co-ordinate and have control over the entire shoot in terms of creativity and its technical aspects
  • work closely and effectively with the lead individuals in your crew such as DoP, camera, sound and lighting
  • delegate work to your First AD
  • communicate effectively with everyone
Post-Production
You will need to:
  • continue to manage the project and your vision into the final stage of editing
  • work with the editor
  • oversee all aspects of sound recording and editing inc. musical score, foley and mixing of sound
  • oversee graphics, titles and credits
  • manage any further changes needed to be made to the finished work

Given that you have to do all of this, strong, confident leadership and emerging creative vision as well as technical know-how, outstanding inter-personal skills and phenomenal planning and organisational skills are essential if you are to do the job correctly. It is probably the biggest job you have ever undertaken to date, awesome in its range and scope and physically and emotionally draining. However, through smart delegation and sharp co-ordination of your production team who are there to support you every step of the way, it can be an enormously rewarding. Almost everyone on a video course wants to direct but few are actually up to the job so do not be offended if your tutor tactfully lets you know that you are one of those who is not up to the job at present: it will save the production from disaster and may help keep your friends.
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Director of Photography (DoP)

As a creative and technical member of the team they need to critically view each shot and make adjustments by carefully assessing and controlling lighting and camera. They rely upon their own technical and creative skills as well as those of the lighting and camera operators to do this and spend much of their time in production seated in front of a high-quality colour monitor – watching each shot. They also oversee the content of shots in terms of people and objects because they are interested in how they look in relation to each other and within the context of the framing of the shot. So whilst the Director’s attention might be taken with directing the actors’ performances, the DoP concentrates solely on what is on screen (and what should not be on screen, such as the mic) and what will appear in the edit. DoPs work closely with the Director, First AD, the Camera and Lighting Operators.

Pre-Production
You will need to:
  • Read the script and screenplay
  • Work with the Director to discuss and agree the visual style of the drama short
  • Be involved in the research of locations, including technical location recces where digital stills and moving image material can be collected and incorporated
  • Working with the camera and lighting team, prepare a comprehensive list of camera and lighting kit including stock and accessories
  • Conduct test pieces using cameras and lights to test out ideas, particularly around difficult or novel shots, special camera settings, lenses or filters
  • Attend rehearsals and walkthroughs. Working with the Director and First AD decide exact camera positions and movements (blocking)
  • Working with the Lighting Gaffer, decide upon lighting and lighting positions for each scene
Production
You will need to:
  • Arrive on set with the camera crew and prepare for recording
  • Oversee the lighting prior to each scene
  • Liaise and instruct the camera crew and the lighting team prior to and throughout filming
  • Act upon advice and requests made by the Director and First AD
  • Advise the Director on all things aesthetic during the shoot
  • Work with the lighting and camera crew to prepare for the next days shootBack to topFirst Assistant Director (First AD)


Your job is to assist the Director by co-ordinating all production work and overseeing the cast and production team.

Pre Production
You will need to:
  • Turn script into thumbnails and then into detailed story boards
  • Work out a workable shooting order for each storyboarded scene
  • Calculate the timings/ duration for each scene allowing for set up time, logistics such as moving kit, transportation of kit and people
  • Complete an accurate and detailed shooting schedule which must include detailed information on who you wish to be present, where, when and for how long.
  • This information must be tied in with the scripts and storyboards and broken down into numbered scenes. Also responsible for preparing daily call sheets
  • Oversee the acquisition of appropriate props and costumes, makeup and equipment and stock
  • Ensure risk assessment is thorough and health and safety issues are addressed
  • Deal with other basic stuff such as predicted weather conditions and other fundamentals such as cast availability, script coverage and budget limitations
Production
You will need to:
  • Ensure all information is distributed to the appropriate cast and crew members e.g. schedules, scripts, storyboards and call sheets
  • Ensure cast and crew members are prepared and in the right place at the right time- ready to go!
  • Take control of discipline on set and sometimes off set.
  • Revise the call sheet on a daily basis
  • Make announcements and directions to cast and crew members
  • Be aware of hazards on set at all times
  • Deal with any crisis that may arise and protect the director from any such problems
  • Continue to function as the link between directors and crew. Fortunately you should have a team assisting you; a second assistant director and one or two more runners. Delegating work/tasks to them is essential. You will also need to monitor and supervise their workloads
Post production
You will be so exhausted from all the multi-tasking and pressure of pre production and production, your presence is not required at this final stage of the production process!
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Camera Operators
Camera Operators (Camera Ops) support the DoP and the Director by following instructions on shot composition and development. They are responsible for all of the kit they use both technically and creatively. This would include jibs, track and dolly, lenses and filters. They are supported by a camera assistant.

Pre-production
You will need to;
  • Attend the technical meetings and using the photos, video recordings, floor plans, scripts and story boards, work out where the camera and associated kit (such as the jib) will be located for each shot for each scene.
  • Liaise with the DoP and the Gaffer in order to create the right shots with appropriate lighting.
  • Draw up floor plans and equipment lists for each shot and scene
  • Resolve technical and creative issues at an early stage-simple stuff such as; can you fit the camera, jib, operator, three lights, two actors and a prod crew in a room that small-where would the camera go?
  • Attend walkthroughs in order to rehearse and practice setups and camera movements
  • Prepare the camera(s) and equipment for transportation

Production
You will need to:
  • ensure camera and associated kit arrive at the location safely and are properly stored and maintained throughout the shoot
  • ensure that the camera and kit are set up and ready prior to the start of each shoot. You will need to work with the schedule, scripts, day sheet and your own notes in order to do this properly
  • listen to both the DoP and Director in order to adjust shots according to their instruction, but at the same time, anticipate what they want you to do.
  • Make creative and technical recommendations to the Director in order to improve shots
  • Be totally responsible for all aspects and operation of the camera equipment
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Camera Assistant
If you are conducting a one-camera shoot, this might be a role that could be shared by two camera operators: when one films, the other assists and vice-versa. As a Camera Assistant, you would need to help with the set up and use of the camera and kit such as pulling focus, setting up the jib or moving the camera on a track or dolly. You would also be responsible for the logging of shots taken by the camera you are working on.
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Lighting
The Gaffer or Chief Lighting Technician works alongside the camera team, Director, First AD and the DoP to ensure that they are able to bring each scene to life in terms of artificial lighting. Good quality lighting will create the required mood for each scene as well as ensuring a sense of reality: for example, moonlight through a window or the subtle golden tones of a living room lit only by the setting autumn sun. All of these effects are manufactured by the lighting team (as with camera there may be only two of you who alternate between working as Gaffer and assistant. Most student location shoots may rely upon a limited number of lights (three) and will use reds, blondes and possibly a set of floods which are great for exterior lighting. Investing in controllable lights is also very useful; a dimmer rack and basic lighting channel controller will allow you to be able to adjust the intensity of each lamp and therefore permit you to have greater creative control over your lights. A wide selection of gels to create different colours and frost or other diffusing material to take the hard edge off your lighting should be an essential part of your lighting kit. Heat resistant gloves for handling hot lamps and a bag of wooden clothes pegs to secure gels and frost to the lights are also important items. You may be lucky enough to be able to use controllable cool lamps which use LED bulbs and therefore do not generate much heat.

Pre-production
You will need to:
  • Work closely with the DoP, Director and First AD to get an early feel for the various lighting states that are required.
  • Attend recce and art design meetings to discuss scenes, locations and creative requirements
  • Check out recce photos, video, floor plans, set plans and other documentation in order to decide how many lights you will need and where to place lights for each scene
  • Attend walkthroughs and working alongside the actors, Director, DoP and camera operator, decide which lights to use and how best to light each scene.
  • Consider what else may be needed such as lighting clamps which allow more flexibility in how and where you position a light because they do not require a stand
  • Consider health and safety issues and complete risk assessments
  • List all equipment needed, check all equipment (you may need to hire some in), ensure spares eg bulbs and test well. All lights require some type of scrim (this stops the bulb exploding in your face) which is either wire or glass, if yours doesn’t have one, don’t use it! We would recommend that a full safety check is carried out by a qualified technician prior to taking lights out for a drama shoot.
Production
You will need to:
  • Ensure all your lighting kit is transported safely to the shoot
  • Check over your lights upon arrival and acquire safe storage
  • Be on set or on location early in order to set up, you should find the camera crew and DoP there with you!
  • Work closely with the Director, First AD, DoP and camera team through all stages of recording
  • Work to the plans you drew up in pre-production and the schedules for shooting, but always remain flexible and ready to change plans at a moments notice
  • Work safely at all times for your sake and for the sake of others. Health and Safety is paramount for you because of the type of equipment you are using.
  • Think HEF: heat, electricity and fire.
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Sound
Production sound crews mainly record actors’ dialogue during shooting but they also capture ambient sound, or wildtrack. This is sometimes recorded separately onto an audio hard drive, but is more likely to be recorded directly on to a camera and used in the edit. It is likely that you may only wish to use one sound person for your drama short who will, using a directional mic, wind shield and fishpole, capture sound straight to the main camera via the external mic inputs. We would recommend that you also use a portable audio mixer between the mic and the camera in order to obtain more control and better monitoring of the sound being recorded. Try and ensure that you use the best possible quality mic, wind jammer, fishpole, cable, connectors and headset. Do not use earphones and always have spares of everything!

Pre-production
You will need to:
  • Attend walkthroughs and working alongside the actors, Director, DoP and Camera Operator, decide where you and the microphone should be located in order for you to record the best possible quality sound.
  • Decide upon which equipment you will need on location, list it and book it.
  • Test all of the kit prior to going on location
Production
You will need to:
  • Retest all of the kit as soon as you arrive on location and ensure safe storage for all of the equipment
  • Be ready and available at all times
  • Be solely responsible for the maintenance, safety, storage of the kit and the quality of the sound that you are recording-no one else is listening to it, only you and therefore you must bear the full and awesome responsibility of ensuring the sustained continuity of quality of all the recordings
  • Ensure that the mic is kept out of camera shot
  • Be patient, have strong arms, amazing ears and the ability to contort your body into very tight spaces for long periods of time
Post-production
You will need to:
  • Produce and record Foley sound for the edit
  • Work with the editor in providing them with clearly notated wildtrack recordings
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Runner
As the name suggests, the runner runs errands under the direction of the First AD, completing any task asked of them on the shoot including and especially making drinks for actors and the crew.

Production
You will need to;
  • Convey messages
  • Organise props
  • Look after cast and crew especially supplying copious amounts of tea, coffee and biscuits.
  • Moving equipment and people
  • Delivering technical equipment
  • Respond to specific requests from the Director or Assistant Directors
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Props and Costumes
For this section it is easier to group props and costumes together, although in the media industries they are considered as different departments.
We saw earlier that costume is everything worn by actors, while props fall into five main categories:
  1. dressing props such as sofas, curtains and mirrors
  2. hand- held props such as mobile phones, a newspaper or a mug of tea
  3. hero props, which are essentially hand held props, but include any object which is integral to the action in the scene and is usually shown in close up such as a gun in the hand of the hero
  4. stunt props such as a rubber brick or plastic knife
  5. mechanical props which would include anything that actually moves (K9 in Doctor Who or RDD2 in Star Wars) or from which light will emit
It is your job to decide what costume and props are required, to source them and to make sure that they are ready to go onto the set at the right time.

Pre-production
You will need to:
  • Attend meetings so that you can liaise with the Director and DoP and working closely with the scripts determine the overall design style of the drama in terms of properties and costumes
  • Examine and discuss recce documentation such as photos, video and floor plans and, where necessary, set and costume designs and start to make decisions on what props and costumes will be needed and where they will be used
  • Refer to archive and other research materials to acquire more detailed information on props and costumes
  • Draw up detailed lists of props and costumes needed for each scene
  • Source (buy, borrow, hire, adapt or make) every single prop or item of costume, label it and store it safely so that it can be easily located later. It is a good idea to group props and costumes according to scenes
  • Costumes will need to be altered according to actors’ body measurements. You will need to keep all of these measurements in a notebook for future reference. You should also take photographs of the actors and note of skin tones, hair and eye colour etc
  • Work within budget and retain details on individuals and companies who have helped you out so that you can offer a credit and a letter of thanks
  • Offer all the actors the opportunity to use the correct hand props and wear the right costumes during rehearsals so that they can get accustomed to them
  • Attend all rehearsals and walkthroughs in order to fully appreciate just how the props and costumes will be used by the actors and alter accordingly
  • Organise duplicate and standby props and costumes
  • Store everything very carefully and pack for transportation to the location
Production
You will need to:
  • Ensure that all your props and costumes have arrived safely-check them off against your inventory and put them into safe store
  • Dress sets and actors according to the schedule prior to each shoot
  • Make sure all hand and hero props are correctly placed for actors and they are wearing the correct costume. Taking digital images will help with the continuity between scenes and between takes
  • Remove props and costumes and again store safely-never leave anything out
  • Repair props and costumes when necessary (you will need to take your own specialist repairs kit for this)
  • Work closely with the DoP and First AD
Post-production
You will need to:
  • Return all hired and borrowed props and costumes with letters of thanks
  • Store or dispose of the remaining props and costumes
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Catering
A happy crew is a well fed crew. Most student shorts may only require a couple of days shooting on location, but even just a one day shoot will require planning around how the production crew and actors will be fed. Drink and food breaks will need to be fitted logically into the shooting schedule, they are also vital in that they offer breaks from what could be a very tight and gruelling schedule. Allowing for catering within your overall budget is important, as is having an individual suitably skilled to manage the catering. If you are away on location for a number of days you will need to have someone in charge of catering - ideally someone who is well organised, understands hygiene and can cook! Do not overlook or dismiss this element of your production as it could ruin your film.

Pre-production
You will need to:
  • Accurately ascertain crew size and number of days you will be need to cater for
  • Acquire details on locations and accommodation such as whether there are sufficient catering facilities available on site or will you need to hire in everything
  • How difficult is it to get to your destination and to the various filming locations, where are the nearest shops, markets and supermarkets?
  • Get information on people's dietary needs, how many vegetarians are there? Are there any foods that individuals are allergic to?
  • Draw up a menu of meals from breakfast through to lunch, tea, evening meal and supper. Remember that early starts and late finishes need to be catered for so you may be the first one up and the last one to bed. Your menu and times for meals will need to work closely around the shooting schedule and must be flexible
  • Do not forget that the menu you devise will be the crew’s diet, it must be exciting, nutritious, healthy, not repetitious or boring and within budget!
  • Share your suggested menu with your the production team for their approval
  • Work out how much you will need to source prior to travelling in terms of catering equipment, utensils and provisions and what you can source once you get there
  • Plan on how you will pack and transport the above (certain foods will need to be kept fresh)
  • Think and plan with hygiene at the forefront of your mind-you do not want to poison anyone! Your job is to keep them happy and healthy
  • Check everything prior to leaving
Production
You will need to:
  • Check everything when you arrive and store appropriately
  • Get the kettle on and biscuits out
  • Set up your working space, the kitchen, as quickly as you can and make it work for you. Only you control this space and it may be necessary to let the crew know that
  • Work closely with the day sheet, get to know what is going on so that you can amend and adjust your own schedule accordingly. Remember, you need to fit into the schedule, not the other way around
  • Source goods locally, daily if necessary, plan trips into your schedule and stay within budget
  • Never forget that the actors and crew are working long and hard toward their next break or meal and, as such, see you and the delights you offer as solace, sanctuary and recreation all rolled into one. It is your unspoken mission to always be happy to see them and provide for them-nothing should be too much trouble as far as you are concerned!
  • No matter what happens, keep your cool, remain flexible and professional at all times
  • Clearing down and clearing away, and this includes all that washing up, is also part of your job. The kitchen must always be thoroughly cleared and cleaned after each meal and as soon as you’ve done that you will be preparing for the next meal!
  • Return all borrowed or hired equipment with a letter of thanks.
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The Editor
In general terms, for a drama it is the Editor’s job (with help from the assistant editor if you have one), to give the film order and allow the narrative to creatively unfold. As with every other brief in this book, the Editor will normally produce three edits: the assembly, the rough cut and the final cut.

During pre-production, you will need to:
  • work closely with the Director and DoP in order to fully understand the Director’s vision and the screenplay
During production and post-production you will need to:
  • Assess all the material and, with the help of Log Sheets produced during filming, select suitable shots for the assembly edit
  • Produce rough cuts of individual scenes and the video as a whole
  • Ensure continuity in terms of style, acting, technical and creative aspects and narrative
  • Work closely with the Director to maintain the agreed vision and narrative
  • Organise a viewing of the assembly edit and rough cut and make changes according to feedback
  • Produce a final edit (fine or final cut)
  • Edit and balance sound
  • Create appropriate effects such as transitions
  • Colour grade sequences
  • Produce titles and credits
  • Organise a final viewing with director
  • Make final changes/refinements
  • Export to DVD and archive the entire finished project.
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