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Tore Gresdal
shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 11:10:22 am

Hi Folks

I am currently putting together a 10 point checklist to check everytime you go out shooting and I would love some opinions on
what I have forgot or should leave out. The idea is an attempt to get rid of those mistakes that happen with less experienced
photographers or when the photographer is in a hurry.
The reason for posting it in this forum is because editors is the ones seeing all that raw material, and from my guess has a lot
of frustations for having to correct obvious mistakes that shouldn't have happened in the first place.

I am referring to the Sony PD-150 camcorder here, but I guess it applies to most prosumer camcorders.

The list:
1. Gain level
2. Continous timecode (use striped tapes)
3. Whitebalance
4. Shutterspeed
5. Clean lens
6. Autofocus off
7. AGC - Audio gain control
8. Audio levels
9. DVCAM or miniDV
10.Brightness on LCD/exposure


Arguments for why it's on the list:
1. Gain - can quickly jump to +18dB gain if left at auto which ruins a shot
2. Timecode - broken timecode is a huge pain for the editor and ruins the chance of batch capture
3. Whitebalance - correct whitebalance is essential for a good shot [obvious and perhaps offending, but still forgotten now and then]
4. Shutterspeed - high shutterspeeds can give strobing in the picture
5. Clean lens - water drops or dirt is hard to see through the VF or LCD
6. Autofocus off - focus pumping especially in lowlight conditions
7. AGC - Audio gain control (limiter) will almost mute the word coming after a sharp sound
8. Audio levels - digital clipping if left too high
9. DVCAM/miniDV - DVCAM is a proprietary Sony format and not supported by equipment from other brands.
10. Brightness on LCD - can fool the photographer to under-/overexpose the shot if it's set wrong.

I considered putting exposure on the list as well, but that's just way too obvious and the photographer would have to be extremely inexperienced to forget about that one... but I put in the brightness on the LCD screen on the list as I have seen more than one camera with the brightness set to MAX resulting in a ruined shot. Another thing I had in mind was the ND filters, but are in my opinion connected with exposure and almost the same thing as ND filters just push the dynamic range up or down. (And you usually get a blinking ND OFF/ON on the screen if you are pushing the dynamic range of the camera anyway)

I know some of these can be considered rather offensive for an experienced photographer, but I spend a lot of time trying to
fix footage that could have been saved by this list when I'm editing. And that is a bit annoying when you consider that it
could be done in 10 seconds with a couple of buttons BEFORE the recording starts.

What do you think? Are some of them way to obvious or do you have anything to add?

BTW: I should mention that I'm not a professional editor yet, I am a 3rd year filmstudent working with 3rd year photographers so please forgive me if these things are too obvious.

Regards
Tore Gresdal


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Charlie King
Re: shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 3:12:43 pm

[Tore Gresdal] "2. Continous timecode (use striped tapes) "
The only times I have ever in over 40 years had continuous time code on a shoot was when it was a film to tape transfer. If you attempt to do your shots as edits onto the master footage tape, you might sometimes miss a shot. I have no problem with breaks in timecode as long as the code is in order, and doesn't skip around. I haven;t worked with the DV Cams of today, but I only prestripe tapes for mastering and archive.

Charlie



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Tore Gresdal
Re: shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 3:33:41 pm

Not sure if I follow you here. Do you do analog editing? Sorry if I am rude in any way... I just don't understand what you are referring to.
A DV camera will reset the timecode and start off at 0 if it hits a blank spot on the tape when inserted into the camera. So if the cinematographer ever ejects the tape or is reviewing some of the previous shot material without positioning the recording head over something with timecode on it, it will reset the timecode to zero. Which is making batch capture more or less impossible.
I have lots of DV tapes with timecode that keeps resetting itself because the cinematographer was sloppy. Are more high-end systems more tolerant? What are you using? (I am using Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro myself)



Regards
Tore Gresdal


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Charlie King
Re: shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 4:49:37 pm

OK, that explains it. The higher end cameras, can be set to read the previous time code and use that as a guide to resume recording. There will be a break in the control track and slight break in time code as a result, but the time code will be in sequential order.
I come from live black & white, through razor blade editing on 2" tape, punch to edit, Ampex Editec, the advent of time code, 3/4", 1" Beta, Beta SP, Digibeta, all linear editing to my current setup of Avid, Vegas Video, and Premiere Pro. So I have pretty much seen it all. Opps I forgot to throw in film editing with a cold splicer and hot splicer, optical sound, mag sound, and double system.
Now I guess that pretty much covers it all. Sorry I didn't mean to be rude either, just feel it is best if we have all the facts, and since I am ignorant of DV Cam, that is a new item for me to learn.
Thank you

Charlie


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Tore Gresdal
Re: shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 5:36:35 pm

Hi Charlie

Thanks for clearing it up, I was pretty confused at one point, I have to blame my lack of experience with other systems than DV for this confusion :-)

That is one long list!!! I see that the computer industry is not the only industry that forces you to learn a system from scratch every 5 years :-) (DOS/Win 3.11/W95/Win NT/Win XP/Longhorn etc.) For the record; I was in the computer business before I turned into editing, which is far more open for creativity :-)

Anyway, back to the subject... a DV camcorder will in fact pickup the timecode and resume it. But that is provided that there is something allready on that tape. A virgin DVtape is *absolutely blank* when opened for the first time and striping it (putting continous timecode onto it) before using it for shooting will prevent any timecode problems at all.

Most of my fellow students are doing the following:
1. set the camera to VCR mode
2. play back what they have just shot
3. When the screen goes blue because they've reached the end of the recorded material they press stop
4. Set the camera to CAMERA mode
5. press record for the next scene

What I want them to do, is between point 3 and 4; which is to rewind the tape slightly until the hit some prerecorded material on the tape so the camera have some timecode to pick up on.

But as most of them forget about this, or doesn't rewind it far enough for the camera to pickup the timecode I figured it would be easier to just tell them to allways prestripe the tapes.

Maybe this happens just because we're students, but I have a feeling this happens now and then in the professional world as well...? Does anyone have any feedback on that?

Regards
Tore Gresdal


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Charlie King
Re: shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 5:46:18 pm

The cameras I referred to, stop on the last time code read. If there is a blank spot it will remain, but the recording will continue from the last time code it had on-tape. You can also preset the time code to start recording at whatever time you prefer, many times that is time of day or some other setting such as hour 1 for reel one hour 2 for reel two etc. There is also setting for record run which will start from last recorded time, and free run which picks up from where it would be if the recorder had been running all the time, (as long as the recorder power is left on.)

Charlie


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Mark Suszko
Re: shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 6:32:18 pm

From the point of view of an editor, I would add to your list:

Leave "handles" on your shots, you need pre-roll and post-roll of a minimum of six seconds, preferably 15 seconds. Not only does this give the editor room for more creative transitions, it also adds a safety margin around the best part of the take if your shooter is constantly backing up and reviewing the tape. I don't get why some guys do that to excess, smacks of a lack of confidence, but then again I shoot on hardier formats that may be more reliable.

Shoot a minute of room tone, wherever you are shooting, and mark it as room tone by shooting a scribbled note saying so while doing it.

Shooting some tape of your white card while white balancing may be helpful in post when really precise color correction is needed. It leaves a consistent white source to sample. You could be audio slating the tape while doing this, so if the tapes don't get labeled right away, they can still be identified immediately on first play. This could be combined with the room tone recording.

The basics require establishing shots and cutaway shots. Be sure to look for reaction shots that can fit anywhere: facial reactions, wringing hands, walking thru a locked-down shot, hands on keyboards, etc, etc. Please change your shots if you have to break during interviews, or while the questions are asked. Jump cuts are for amateurs.

When framing up shots, Please, please please look at a monitor with overscan to check for intrusions and continuity bugs. Also, look at the vertical objects and surfaces in the shot and compare to your framing: if your tripod is truly level, is your shot level, or is the shot a little keystoned? Fixing that at the camera is always preferable to adjusting in NLE.

Tape is the cheapest commodity in the video business. Roll on everything, always, something handy may turn up. I can't use what you didn't shoot. You can always reuse the tape later.


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Todd at UCSB
Re: shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 6:34:14 pm

Funny Thread. I could tell right away that Charlie hadn't experience your problem. But Charlie is still the 'King' . Yes blacking/stripping a tape is a must for student enviorments.
Obviously the ulitmate goal is to get everyone trained correctly. But if you're in an enviroment where new students come every quarter/semester, then that's not an option. Don't bang your head on the wall too much, it's likely to be a process that repeats itself. From my experience, students will continue to make these kind of mistakes, no matter how much you try to warn them. Kind of makes you wonder how they got into college? You can midigate some mistakes, but not eliminate them all together.

From your list, the key is to have all the manual settings on, nothing 'auto'
The couple things that I run into, that was not on your list, is tape speed SP NOT LP and tape stock. Although it hasn't been a problem lately, we have had tape problems in the pass with certain brands not playing right on our decks. For some reason, TDKs were a problem.
The thing about making a list/guidelines for students is that you have to write it for the least common denominator, so you have to write it for "Zeek, the kid to still puts pencils up his nose.' :)
Don't get me wrong, I think you need to do a list. As a matter of fact I need to rewrite one for similar situation. Just don't expect all of your problems to go away.

Good Luck

Todd at UCSB
Television Production


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Charlie King
Re: shooting checklist
on May 11, 2005 at 6:47:00 pm

B>[Mark Suszko] "I don't get why some guys do that to excess, smacks of a lack of confidence"

I have had some of the best takes lost because the shooter started recording over the end of a shot he had just checked to make sure it was there.

[Todd at UCSB] "The thing about making a list/guidelines for students is that you have to write it for the least common denominator,"

I use to do training videos for the Navy, those were done for the student who was a complete imbecile. The trainers stated most were. So I fully understand this part of it.

As an editor, I have preferred the tapes with hours as reel numbers, makes it so much easier to find a take you have logged if you know to go to that reel, when working with 8-10 reels of footage. That was my point in the topic.

Auto settings are the number one cause of a scene not being usable, in my opinion. It was so nice before they invented those.

Charlie


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STYLZ
Re: shooting checklist
on May 12, 2005 at 10:05:57 am

I'm guessing we are talking about shooting with the editor in mind, as oppossed to shooting it self.

To kind of touch on some things that have been said...editing is mathmatics as well as an art. I can't stress how important(in documenteries) it is to allow time for an interviewer to finish speaking before a subject speaks. Allow time after a subject speaks before the interviewer ask the next question. Three seconds I say atleast. This allows for cross fades in audio.

Other than that pet peeve.. for me, I'm a big fan of roomtone. Continuity in sound is vital.

The rest can be taken care of in post(by a good editor).


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Pixel Monkey
Re: shooting checklist
on May 13, 2005 at 8:03:21 pm

Wohoohooo!
Man, I can think of a ton of photogs that would take a checklist the wrong way... hehe... kudos, I'd like to see it in action!

No advice beats getting your photog and your editor in a room together ahead of time. It beats any checklist by enhancing the art of the edit - shooting and editing both happening with a unified vision... concept!

Just for the DV, DVCam and MiniDV record, all them formats suck timecode wise. A small number of us editors really don't care about the timecode that was shot in the field, because we demand that it all get upconverted to a more stable format with new timecode anyway. There's just too many cases of up to 6 frames of slippage upon batch digitizing. Too many edit schedules are destroyed by the "miniDV slip".

______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)



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gaspar
Re: shooting checklist
on May 14, 2005 at 3:49:34 am

Nice list.

I shoot with the PD150 all the time. So, yes, get everything on manual to avoid having the camera wreck your shot.

Something I would add is to make sure there is plenty of pre and post roll at the beginning and end of the tape. I don't know how many times I've had to crash record the very start or end because a cameraman has given me tapes where the lack of post or preroll prevents batch digitizing. I also strongly second the comment to leave pre and post roll before and after each shot. Man, would that make editing easier.

I don't stripe my tapes. I don't see why I should put extra wear and tear on the camera or deck transport to stripe them, and then use what is effectively now a used tape for a shoot. I do add at least 30 seconds of colourbars at the start, and I record extra garbage at the end after I'm done my last shot. If I review a shot, I use the "find edit" button (or whatever it's called, I forget at the moment). This will let the camera find the last frame you recorded, and stop there. Also, on a wedding shoot, I never turn off the camera, ever. I have a couple of big batteries that last the day. Shooting this way, I never have a timecode break.

I do events (weddings, corp events, etc). For weddings, and any other run and go shoots, I leave audio on Automatic Gain. The Sony does a great job I find. When I get tapes from guys that try to shoot a wedding and adjust the audio levels manually as they go, they invariably forget at some point, and the audio is, clipped, or incredibly low. Not once have I regretted Automatic Audio Gain at a wedding, but I've regretted manual every time. A common example is boosting the level at the ceremony to catch the speakers, then everything is blasted with music. Fortunately, we mic the groom for better audio.

Now, I don't recommend this for other types of shoots where you have the time to set audio levels correctly...

I'll get grief for this, but the one automatic thing I use a lot is autofocus, at least for parts of the day. I use manual on tripod at the ceremony, for parts of the reception where I know the focus will pump, etc, but I have auto on for much of the bride and groom's house, and anywhere I have to chase things around. Sometimes, though, I will switch to manual to redo a shot that the auto focus didn't handle well.

Interesting thread, thanks...

Vito


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gaspar
Re: shooting checklist
on May 14, 2005 at 4:48:32 am

Oh, I just remebered. Label your tapes properly!


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Tore Gresdal
Re: shooting checklist
on May 14, 2005 at 6:16:57 am

[Mark Suszko]
Shoot a minute of room tone, wherever you are shooting, and mark it as room tone by shooting a scribbled note saying so while doing it.

A good one. Thank you for that! Added it to the refined list.

[Todd at UCSB]
The couple things that I run into, that was not on your list, is tape speed SP NOT LP and tape stock. Although it hasn't been a problem lately, we have had tape problems in the pass with certain brands not playing right on our decks. For some reason, TDKs were a problem.

Yes and no, I had it in mind but LP doesn't exist on Sony Prosumer cameras and I don't think you'll find them on Canon, Panasonic or JVC either. (somebody tell me if I am wrong.. I haven't checked them all) But I could allways change the list to say TAPE SPEED instead to broaden the spectrum.

[Pixel Monkey]
Man, I can think of a ton of photogs that would take a checklist the wrong way...
Yes, but you allready know that they are professionals and trust them to never make any of the mistakes on the list anyway, and therefore wouldn't have to present them a list at all. But in my opinion it has a lot to do with the way you present your list as well... There are *many* ways of presenting it, and at least half of them are ways of putting it nicely without offending anyone.

[Pixel Monkey]
Just for the DV, DVCam and MiniDV record, all them formats suck timecode wise.
Ok, my lack of experience is unabling me to respond to that... I can think of one thing, but I don't know if I am offending you by saying the obvious... There are settings for adjusting the timecode offset and preroll of the tape in the device control on most DV editing programs. But why is frame accurate batch capture so important...? (The question is out of curiousity and not sarcasm) I allways grab a little extra for handles anyway.

[gaspar]
Label your tapes properly!
Ah! Can't believe I forgot that one! Thank you! I have bought a DYMO Labelwriter with miniDV sized labels myself and I relabel everything that comes in. (very useful because since fontsize 6 enables me to write a lot on the labels ;) ) Oh, and I also give all my tapes individual serial numbers and use that for tape names when I am logging and batch capturing.


I have refined the list and restructured it a bit:

  • Tape speed (DV, DVCAM, SP, LP)
  • Gain level
  • Continous timecode
  • Clean lens
  • AGC - Audio gain control
  • Brightness on LCD/exposure
  • Shutterspeed
  • Labels tapes properly
  • REC pre and postroll on tape (min 30 sec. at beg. and end)
  • leave handles on all shots (min 3 sec.)
  • REC 1 minute room tone

    • Whitebalance
    • Audio levels
    • Focus
    • Exposure


The last four of them is supposed to be cycled through all the time, and would be in the blood of any photog with some experience. This way you can just present the list and say; I know this is in your blood, especially the last part, but could you just scan through this and have it in mind...

Thank you everyone for your feedback! I think this thread made some of us (and others that read the thread without responding) do some thinking. It's allways good to look for ways of improving your workflow. At least for my part this list was motivated by the desire to work on the edit and not spending ours on fixing up what other could have done in ten seconds with a few buttons.

Regards
Tore Gresdal


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Tore Gresdal
Re: shooting checklist
on May 14, 2005 at 8:29:08 am

Here's a low-res version of the card I created today... click here to see As you can see the idea is just to have a reminder of the things to check... not to teach anyone how to use the camera.

Email me if you want a copy of the photoshop file. All the layers and text is intact so you can modify it as you please and it will scale to any resolution. Email: tore@gresdal.no

Regards
Tore Gresdal


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Charlie King
Re: shooting checklist
on May 16, 2005 at 4:01:49 pm

[Tore Gresdal] "But why is frame accurate batch capture so important...? "

Ever need to revise a program, commercial, etc? Ever want to use a previous sequence but with original footage? Try this without frame accurate time code and you just might end up with some bad cuts.

Charlie



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Tore Gresdal
Re: shooting checklist
on May 16, 2005 at 4:37:56 pm

Hmm... I made myself look kinda stupid didn't I... :)

Sorry, I must have misinterpreted Pixel monkey. I do a lot of batch capture in Premiere Pro and I even temporarely delete all the source footage from my harddrive to get enough space to work on another projects now and then as you can easily batch capture everything into the system again.
I have never had any trouble with the accuracy of the batch capture... And please don't assume that I wouldn't notice if it was 6 frames off just because I am a student. 6 frames is a lot and is very noticable if you're doing the standard hollywood continous seamless edit.

I assumed that the system would be off 6 frames all the time and therefore not move any of the cuts as they were edited after the initial capture. Meaning that you capture with a system running at 6 frames off, edit it with the timecode 6 frames off... and if you then delete the footage and recapture it again, it would still be 6 frames off and no harm done to your cut.

But it is a totally different scenario if the system is 2 frames off one time and 5 frames off the next... In the light of your response I take it that it is the case, and that I have just run lucky so far.

Regards
Tore Gresdal


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Charlie King
Re: shooting checklist
on May 16, 2005 at 4:48:44 pm

[Tore Gresdal] "But it is a totally different scenario if the system is 2 frames off one time and 5 frames off the next... In the light of your response I take it that it is the case, and that I have just run lucky so far. "

No I have not had the opportunity to find out, I have only been associated with top quality systems, that have reliable timecode, no delays to contend with. I was just responding to the comment that accurate time code was not important. I really don't mean any disrespect, only making observations. I would presume when speaking to or about students, any comment could be taken literally and cause problems later on when any of them should happen to enter the real world of professional video.

I have found this thread quite interesting, and many points are absolutely correct. Most of the people I have worked with learned their craft under fire, as I did. Never had a checklist to work with, and in many cases not enough time to go through a checklist before shooting. YOu had to rely on your equipment and the fact that you (hopefully) used it last and it is set the way you want it to be setup, or the person who used it last was also a profesional that took pride in his equipment also.

Charlie



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Tore Gresdal
Re: shooting checklist
on May 16, 2005 at 5:35:05 pm

[Charlie King] I really don't mean any disrespect, only making observations.

No worries. The comment was not aimed at anyone in particular. It's just that I am usually met by a lot of prejudice since I still have the student title and many don't even bother to hear what I have to say because of that. So I was just trying to be pre-emptive :-)

(I am also trying to tune into the tone of this forum... many internet forums are sceptic to newbies and assume them to be rather stupid until proven otherwise, so I thought I would try to work on that)

Glad to hear that you have enjoyed the thread. I have appreciated your engagement and feedback. There is nothing more productive than a constructivist argument, as they say in the managment class.

I have a strong passion for editing combined with a strong urge for learning and an almost annoyingly strong curiousity, so I both hope (and know I will) run into an argument with you guys again.

PS! I am from Norway in case anyone is wondering why my english is far from perfect.

Regards
Tore Gresdal


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Pixel Monkey
Re: shooting checklist
on May 16, 2005 at 6:53:29 pm

For more on that whole DV/miniDV thing, go here.
http://www.creativecow.net/forum/read_post.php?postid=110897480614939&forum...

______
/-o-o-
`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey
`(___)



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Charlie King
Re: shooting checklist
on May 16, 2005 at 7:39:37 pm

[Tore Gresdal] "I am from Norway in case anyone is wondering why my english is far from perfect"

I'm originally from Texas, so mine is worse than yours.

Charlie


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Tore Gresdal
Re: shooting checklist
on May 18, 2005 at 11:40:09 am

Now audio slippage on miniDV material is something I have heard of. I thought you were talking about frame accurate batch capture and that the capture device wouldn't hit the exact frame while capturing. You didn't mention anything about audio slippage... if I was more experienced maybe I would have known, but yet again you could have been more specific in your post:

Quote from previous post:
[Pixel Monkey]
Just for the DV, DVCam and MiniDV record, all them formats suck timecode wise. A small number of us editors really don't care about the timecode that was shot in the field, because we demand that it all get upconverted to a more stable format with new timecode anyway. There's just too many cases of up to 6 frames of slippage upon batch digitizing. Too many edit schedules are destroyed by the "miniDV slip".

I am only guessing here, but too me the combination of high speed capture and use of miniDV material could cause problems as minDV don't have audio lock and use a track pitch of only 10 micron.

Quote from DVinfo.net [Rhett Allen]
March 10th, 2002, 02:03 AM
Quickly, the difference is DV has a track pitch of 10 micron, DVCAM is 15 micron and DVCPro is 18 micron. DV has unlocked audio, DVCAM has locked audio and DVCPro has an analog audio reference track. What this means is that only DVCAM will sync the audio exactly to every frame in the video while DV (and mini DV) will allow the audio to slip out of sync, especially on long takes. The plus side is that the slip is not that bad (usually only a few frames per min).
DVCAM and DVCPro write SMPTE time code not DVTC (consumer). And although you can use DV tape to record DVCAM, the DVCAM tape is made with MUCH higher tolerances and quality materials and has the optional micro chip for added features and labeling.
The actual quality difference is still limited to 500 lines in any format but the DVCAM (and DVCPro) formats are built for professional use (and abuse).


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Mark Frazier
Re: shooting checklist
on Jun 23, 2005 at 8:32:13 pm

I wouldn't let photographer ego get in your way of any checklist. Even the most experienced pilots use a checklist each and every time they get in their plane, be it a Piper Cub or a 767. That way, they have less of a chance of ending up in a smoking hole in the ground.

And I agree that the photog and editor need to get together before the shoot, but the photog also needs to spend time in the edit bay as the project comes together to see what he missed, could have done better, or what can and can't be "fixed in post".


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