Set protocol

This is a rough draft of a work-in-progress, please share your comments with me via the contact form on this site. — David Tamés.

When you shoot fiction sequences, you will more likely than not work with a crew. Here’s how to coordinate the efforts of your crew to get your shots completed efficiently.

The Assistant Director (AD) runs the set, wrangling talent and keeping the various departments coordinated. For each take, something along the lines of the steps below is followed, however, it will vary based on the complexity of the production and the personality of the Assistant Director and Director. For your production you’ll probably use a simpler version that’s optimized for a small set that follows. A more complex protocol for larger crews is also listed below.

Both protocols below assume that you are recording double system sound, recording primary sound on a separate sound recorder and also recording reference sound on camera for synching purposes with a utility like PluralEyes. To simplify record keeping and logging of your footage in post, configure your sound recorder to name files with the time-of-day of the recording start time and configure the camera to record free-run time-of-day timecode (if it has that capability). This will make it easy to match up sound and video takes in the event you need to manually sync anything and matching files to our continuity notes, camera log, and sound log.

Simplified set protocol

You will probably use a simple protocol like the following on a small production when you just have a director, AD, actors, cameraperson, and a sound recordist (recording double-system sound). Often the AD serves as the all around production assistant and may even double as continuity supervisor on a very small production. In a case like this, each take will run as follows:

When the director is satisfied that the actors are ready, and the rest of the crew is ready to go, they indicate this to the AD or the AD asks them

AD: “We’re getting ready for a take, last looks”

This is an opportunity for last minute minor adjustments, the AD ascertains if everything is ready to go

AD: “We’re ready for a take, quiet on the set”

Wait for the crew to settle down

AD: “Are actors ready?”

Wait for reply from the actors

AD: “Is sound ready?”

Sound Recordist: “Ready”

AD: “Is camera ready?”

Camera Operator: “Ready”

AD: “Roll Sound”

Sound Recordist: “Rolling”

AD: “Roll Camera”

Camera Operator: “Rolling”

AD: “Slate it”

Continuity Supervisor or Camera Assistant: “Scene x shot y take x” (or some variation based on the slating system you are using).

Note: This gets the slate information on both the sound recorder and the camera assuming the video camera is recording sound which is required for PluralEyes to work.

Director: “Whenever you’re ready” or “Action”

The scene unfolds in front of the camera


Director: “Cut”

The AD ascertains if it was a good take and asks the Director if they would like another take. If not, the AD will say, “We’re moving on” and if yes, the AD will say, “We’re going for another take.”

More complex set protocol

When you’re working on a set with a larger crew, especially when you have grips, and PAs on the set, the protocol will flow more like the following:

When the AD, in coordination with the director and department heads is satisfied that the actors and and everyone else are ready,

AD: “We’re getting ready for a take, last looks”

This is an opportunity for last minute minor adjustments, the AD ascertains that everything is ready to go,

AD: “we’re ready for a take, quiet on the set”

The crew settles down, if PAs are doing traffic control they will stop people from crossing the scene, etc.

AD: “Actors in position?”

The AD waits for a reply from the actors

AD: “Sound ready?”

Sound Recordist: “Ready”

AD: “Camera ready?”

Camera Operator: “Ready”

AD: “Roll Sound”

Sound Recordist: “Rolling”

AD: “Call it”

The 2nd AC or the Script Supervisor calls out the slate information
, “Scene x shot y take x” (or whatever slating numbering system is being used)

Note: This gets recorded on the sound take as an audio slate, this is especially important when not using a camera slate, which is really not necessary when time-of-day information is being recorded on camera and sound takes and something like PluralEyes is being used to sync audio and camera takes in post.

AD: “Roll camera”

Camera Operator: “Rolling”

AD: “Mark it”

AC: “Marker”

The 2nd AC claps the slate (if one is being used) If more than one camera and slates are being used, the AC will identify each camera (”A” Marker, “B” Marker, etc.)

AD: “Settling”

At this or another appropriate point special effects may need to be cued, we wait for everyone to clear and wait for the camera settle into final position
, the Camera Operator may say, “Camera Settled” and/or the special effects folks may say, “effects ready” or something appropriate depending on the nature of the effects, for example, the AD might say, “Cue Rain” to start the rain machine. This all depends on the nature of the shot.

AD: “We’re Set”

Control is now turned over to the director

Director: “Whenever you’re ready” or “Action”

The scene unfolds in front of the camera


Director: “Cut”

The AD ascertains if it was a good take and if the Director wants to go again, sometimes the Director might say, “Keep rolling, we’re going again right away.”

“Keepers” or “circled takes” are good takes and are logged as such in the sound, camera, and continuity logs.

Only the director calls “Cut” unless there’s something seriously wrong.

For more information on set protocol and the various roles on a set, see:

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