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Communicating with your gaffer and grips


Rodolfo Romo III
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I generally suggest what instruments and modifiers to place and where, then start tweaking over radio or directly. A lighting diagram is preferable to hand off to the gaffer and key grip since it cuts down on miscommunication, finger pointing, arm waving, and gives them a visual reference. I also like to produce story boards so everyone understands the setups but these are generally print outs of photos made during a scout on location with stand-ins. 

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It all depends on the technical skills of the crew.  And the working style of the cinematographer as well. 

I would like it if I could tell my gaffer to "light from over there" and place f2.8 over "here" 🙂

But, I've been working a lot over seas where my gaffers are not used to working this way and really don't want to be responsible for all that.  So, I need to choose the lighting fixture (each and every one) and say exactly where it will go, but I do take suggestions.  I no longer think about lighting ratios, but rather work by eye for consistency. I find that each camera angle needs it's own lighting ratio for all of them to look as if they are the same.  And, I'm doing all this even though my gaffer and I don't speak the same language.  But, KinoFlow is KinoFlow in just about every language 🙂

As for rigging, this is still the expertise of the gaffers and grips and I generally let them figure out how to make it work, but I do need to be clear about what will be in the movie to keep the rigging out of the frame.

But, most of all, I would love it if the Gaffer stays very close to me on set so that I can just whisper to him about adjustments and he can radio those to his crew.  I also sometimes have the Gaffer to view the monitor and ask for his opinion and suggestions.

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