A 2nd AC! Any idea what that is? Well I can tell you first hand, as I’ve done it professionally for many years in my filmmaking career. I know when I first started I had no idea this job even existed. You might even be in the same boat. Hopefully by the end of this article the next time you see “2nd AC” in the credits of the next movie you watch you can brag to your friends about what it is. If you’re looking for a 2nd AC be sure to check out our Crew List!
What Does 2nd AC Stand For?
Let’s get this out of the way first, what does 2nd AC stand for? It stands for 2nd Assistant Camera. Pretty simple right? If you’re unaware of the (basic) camera hierarchy it goes like this:
- Director of Photography
- Camera Operator
- 1st AC
- 2nd AC
- Camera Trainee/PA
And in Lamens terms, that’s basically what a 2nd AC does. They assist the people above them in the camera department. However, they are not personal assistants to the people above them! That would be a Camera Assistant.
What are a 2nd AC's Responsibilities?
They have a lot! Being a 2nd AC is a tough job, especially on bigger productions (and I’m not just bragging). It takes a lot of hard work to be a great 2nd AC but you are definetly rewarded for your efforts. You’re always right next to set, you’re well compensated, and generally are given a great deal of respect from other crew members. I’ve broken down what a 2nd AC does into 5 categories. There are some extra little things that come with the job but these are the basic big ones.
Every take needs to be slated, and that responsibility lands on the 2nd AC. The reason we slate every take is to sync the sound with the video. The slate itself also displays a lot of useful information for the editors. Instead of me going in-depth with this, you should check out this video instead!
And here’s a little cheat sheet. These guys have a lot of great courses and podcasts if you want to learn from them more!
Before the crew sets up a scene to be shot, it is first blocked with the actors. This essentially allows everyone on set to see how the scene will play out; where the actors will walk and talk, what actions will take place, and the rough length. As a 2nd AC it is up to you to “mark” each actor in the scene while this blocking is happening. An actor’s mark is where they are standing, if the actor is walking around and stopping all over the place, that actor will have multiple marks. The most frequent actor mark is a piece of coloured tape in the shape of a “T” with the cross at the stop facing the same way the actor is. These marks are crucial to nail as the rest of the crew will rely on them for the rest of the scene.
Paperwork! You either love it or you hate it. As a 2nd, I really hope you love it because you’ll be doing a lot of it. It definitely helps to be organized. You’ll be doing timesheet for the whole camera team, keeping track of rentals, petty cash, orders, LNDs, DTRs, and a whole lot more!
A camera team goes through a lot of equipment, and any of it can be called for at a moments notice. And when it is, you have to be fast to get it to where it needs to be. This is another time when organization comes heavily into play. You’ll have to organize all of your carts to maximize the efficiency of the department. Then when all your carts are full, you’ll have to keep the rest of the gear organized on the truck. Not to mention ordering new gear, replacing old gear, and bringing out special equipment for a single shot on a single day. Be sure not to misplace anything!
Assisting the 1st AC
All in all, you’re there to help the 1st AC. He’s your boss and more or less the head of the department in a lot of ways. If they’re happy then you’re happy. While you’re on set you’ll help them with changing lenses, building the camera, reloading the camera, setting focus marks, protecting the camera from the elements, etc.
My Personal Kit
If you’re interested to know what I carried in my chest pouch over my extensive 2nd AC career, here’s a complete list with links to what I used:
- Chest Pouch
- Kim Wipes
- Allen Keys
- Exacto Knife
- Big Flathead (My personal one is discontinued but this one seems like a good replacement)
- Lens Cleaner
Now, everyone works differently so maybe you don’t need all of this. Eventually you’ll customize your own kit to work for you, but this is a good starting point! Plus, you’ll impress your boss on your first day by coming prepared.
What Do You Think?
Ever worked as a 2nd AC before? Do you want to pursue this career path? Let us know!