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Laser measurer device for 1st AC

farid nour

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Hi everyone

i just started working as 1st Ac in small and low budget projects ( still newbie ) :D

now i want to buy a laser distance measurer because measuring using the tape can be really time consuming and frustrating

i read the (( FINDING THE BEST LASER MEASURING DEVICE FOR YOU )) article in The Black and Blue website, great info and comparisons but still didn't specify what features i should have in a laser device

i have a few questions,

what is the minimum distance should i consider when buying a device as 1st Ac ? ( nothing less than 50 meter or 80 m or 100 m etc )

and if the device must have an optical scope/viewfinder or not ? (for outdoors under direct sunlight )

i read alot of reviews for many devices but most of them are reviewing for an engineer or contractor or close to these jobs

since i just purchased my AC kit, i hope not to pay extra for features i will never use (like buying $744 Hilti PD 42 if a $99 Bosch GLM 50 will do the trick ) and in the same time i want to be sure to buy a device i really need and will be great for any measurement as an AC ( i didn't work with all kind of long lenses and i just want to be ready for any situation )

note that i am from Egypt and we don't have a variety of options to choose from, the devices i can buy from here are ... Bosch GLM 80 ( 80 meter ) & Bosch GLM 50 ( 50 meter ) & leica disto d2 ( 60 meter ) & leica x310 ( 80 meter )

other than these models i will order from amazon

plz help

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A tape measure has worked for thousands of 1st ACs for decades. Hard to see how it's time consuming or frustrating. Laser tapes have their place, but they are not always that accurate, and to use them, there must be someone or something at the point you wish to measure. Much simpler to run the tape out. If you absolutely must have all the toys in your bag, buy the cheapest one that measures accurately to 50 feet, and never point it at an actor's face.

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Although I partially agree with Stuart on the measuring tape thing I have to say that a laser device is one of the best thing you can get for your AC Kit.

The Hilti is the best of the best because of two things:

- Its range.

- The optical viewfinder which will allow you to point at things under bright light.


If you are learning, the best thing you can do is using the tape always, always, always so you can remember the distances and the relations between the camera and the different actors, etc.


The laser is a fantastic complement for you to do a quick check on something / someone without moving or when you are on a difficult set.

If you want to check the distance between the camera and the actor with your laser, send your 2AC with the board beside the actor and point the laser towards the board, for quick and snappy references, if your 2nd AC sees that you are taking mesurements and he / she doesn't have the board at hand he will be placing the hand beside the actor / product.


For long lenses.. Put marks and check the focus through the viewfinder / monitor.


My recommendation: Hilti.


I know it is expensive but it is really worthy.



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If you're just starting out, don't spend your money on a laser yet. The only ones that are worth keeping are the $500 Hilti or Leica meters with an optical or digital scope. They are the only ones that you can use outside in full sun. There are also not many shots where you absolutely need a laser to get marks, it's just a convenience. You're much better off saving your money until you can afford the right one, and developing your focus pulling skills the old fashioned way.


Start with a 50' soft tape, 16' Stanley Fatmax hard tape, get eye marks, learn how to judge distance. You need all these skills to get your marks because the laser doesn't work for some shots. Cine tape doesn't work for some shots. Soft tape doesn't work for some shots. Same for every other technique. The only technique that works 95% of the time is your ability to judge distance, because it doesn't rely on technology, only your ability to see the subject and camera at the same time. There more techniques you have in your repertoire, the better you will be.

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Big thanks for the replies

i didn't mean to insult the tape measure in any way (words fail me) :) , my soft and hard tape work great most of the time for me

but it is always a good thing to have another way to get a measure for tricky shots

a young DP once snapped at me because i don't have a laser tape in my kit

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a young DP once snapped at me because i don't have a laser tape in my kit

LOL And an old DP will make fun of you for needing a $500 laser when they did it back in the day with a grease pencil and a piece of string! You can't win if you try to please everyone ;)

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I would also recommend the Hilti. I grabbed one on eBay for about half of retail and I use it on every shoot. In fact, other AC's on shoots borrow mine out of my front box on the reg. Worth the investment and just build it into your day rate/kit rate and it will pay for itself.

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I'm still technically a trainee myself, however I do still work as a focus puller on shorts and music videos. A laser disto is a piece of kit I don't own yet, however there have been minimal times when I've actually thought I needed one. Most of the time I find myself measuring for distances of around 4 to 15 feet, further than that and I'm happy to start judging. I use a stanley fat max most of the time, I find it quick to take out on my own to get quick reference measurements. For example a reference from the camera to a corner of the wall in the scene.


A shot I had to pull on a few weeks ago was 100mm pretty much wide open, a shot of the character walking from 5 to 80 feet, I got the 2nd AC to run out with a 50foot soft tape and make marks for me at different points. What happened was that I was late hitting each mark, because I was over confident and thought I would do it without a monitor (I actually didn't have a reference monitor on this shoot, I was supposed to be sharing the Red monitor with the DOP). That was just my skills lacking more than wrong measurements. I feel like a laser disto would have made it quicker for me to get my reference marks for this shot.

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The best focus pullers are always getting reference marks of their surroundings. An LDM is the easiest way I have found to do it. While everyone is rehearsing, I am being a ninja and getting 3-4 marks around my environment and then when the DP and director want to shoot the AD will ask if I need any marks and they are usually impressed when you say you have them already. The Hilti's viewfinder and speed is key for this.


If you are getting a shot where the actor is walking down a crowded alley way, grab a couple references and nail the shot every time without a monitor. You cannot run a tape out in the middle of a crowd to get marks the traditional way and you cannot rely on using a monitor.


Even after I have gotten my marks using my laser, they save in a backlog on the display so I just leave it in my front box or velcroed to the head and I can always look back on it. If I want to do a quick double check of a distance right before a shot, 5 seconds and I have it.


LDM is a crucial investment if you want to make a leap towards top tier focus pulling. Also, only invest in the best gear. If you get cheap gear you will get cheap work. Spend the money upfront, invest in gear which is ultimately investing in yourself. Will pay off quicker than you imagine.

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