100% my fault and I said so.
I have 3 different ways of dealing with digital media on set depending on the job, the DIT and the camera assistants I have. Regardless of which one, I insist that everyone in camera department follow this golden rule. All UNEXPOSED media always stays in the LEFT hand or left pocket. All EXPOSED media always stays in the right hand or right pocket. When changing cards, you will never have two cards in your hands at ANY time. Only after the exposed card has been labelled, marked and put away, or secured, then the unexposed card will be handed over. All exposed cards must be secured with a tape over the pins, preferably with the roll number, but if it's run and gun, with any tape.
Only I handle media. If I don't know the AC or DIT too well. This is my SOP.
Only the DIT handles media. On the big, cushy jobs, where we have a high end DIT and the time and luxury to do this.
EVERYBODY handles media. When I have 3-9 cameras and only 3 people in my department. In these situations I almost always have a solid crew and have no qualms about implementing this.
The first job back from CV-19, I was pant-less and rather enjoying the breezy set. I was on a job with a DP I absolutely admire and love to work for. He is an absolute fountain of information, has patents on lens designs, EVF's, modular housing and several other things. He designs things in CAD, he plays around in Premier, he builds his own computers. He has all his own gear, his lens collection is a small repository of marvelous gems of lenses that no one else has heard of and he loves to explain anything that you ask him to. You get the idea.
I was working with a 2nd I have never worked with before and a DIT I have worked with occasionally. We had 3 cameras, only shooting one at a time but all built for different things. One handheld, One long lens, one wide and tight. The DP is very hands on and will often times pull a card to go check something on his own, so it can get a little confusing as to where the cards are. The last time we worked I had explained to him why this could be problematic and he totally understood and stepped away from all card handling.
Between the comfort of working with a crew and DP i knew well and loved, being on stage on an "easy" job and being away from work for 4.5 months, I did not teach the new 2nd or DIT my card handling protocols. Everything went very smoothly, every time we jumped from one camera I'd ask the DIT or 2nd to reload and the job went very well.
Until... I got a call the morning after wrap from the DIT at 0900h saying the AE couldn't find Roll A8. I immediately told the DIT to call the DP and ask him to check his cards and that I would follow up in 3 minutes as soon as I could park my car safely. As soon as I parked, I first called the camera house and requested that they remove the 2 cards we had rented from circulation when they were returned, turns out the cards had not been returned. Then I called the camera truck driver and asked him to NOT return the cards and reader. Then I called the DP.
ABC(that's me): Good morning sir. I am extremely embarrassed and apologise for this oversight. This is completely my fault. I am in charge of the cameras and I am sorry to have let you down and created this situation.
DP: (laughing) Oh, don't worry, I found the card, it was one of mine, I spoke with the DIT and I'll download the card, transcode it and upload it.
ABC: I can be at your place in 15 minutes to take the card down to the DIT, he can do all this a lot quicker and it shouldn't be in your court at all. This is my mistake, I'd like to help rectify it.
DP: It's actually fine, don't worry about it. There were cards and cameras everywhere. We should have some method .... *sidebar*
ABC: Yes sir, I promise this will never happen again and I will put in a place a method for this. I have one and just failed to execute it.
DP: Oh, ok great! I have to go now, the DIT is calling to walk me through some steps. Don't worry about it.
ABC: Thank you sir.
*sidebar explained* The normal tendency is to start to explain the method you have, how this could have been prevented, yadi yadi yada. Don't. Keep your mouth shut. Apologise and move on. Next time implement your own damn protocols. If you start to explain at this point, nothing good will come of it.
And that's pretty much the story. ALWAYS follow the protocols you have that you know work. Doesn't matter what the circumstance. I knew that we would not lose the footage, even when I got the first call because the cards wouldn't have been returned to circulation. But if this had happened 2 days later, and it had been on the rental card, it could have ended very differently.
I have certainly learnt my lesson and I hope my embarrassing story helps you avoid the same mistake!
As a treat here's a little video with one of the DP's fantastic lenses.
Happy weekend everyone!!!
Let me know your uh-oh moments in the comments and how you developed protocols!