4 Common Problems on Set – and How to Fix Them

by David Wells, Moving Picture Rental

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

Here's something you're going to learn in film if you haven't already: NOTHING goes as planned. If things go 80% according to plan, you may just be working in a big-budget Hollywood studio! Or not; things don't go as planned for the "big dogs" either — consider Apocalypse Now. I work with many productions in South Florida with Moving Picture Rental — and if anywhere is unpredictable, it's Florida. Here are some things I've learned along the way.

Be Realistic About it

The truth is, there's always something that will make things difficult. Traffic. Art Basel. The Winter Music Conference. WMC. Raves. Airplanes — for the love of all that is holy, airplanes! The truth is one of the essential skills a filmmaker can have is the ability to improvise solutions on the fly.

Control what you can, so when things arise which you cannot control, you're enabled to improvise your way into success. Don't be afraid of things going a bit awry. Sometimes that which you didn't plan ends up being some of the best footage you could have shot. With such a perspective, the following are four common issues you're going to face on set and how to deal with them:

  • Uncooperative Weather (Hello, hurricanes and tropical storms!)
  • Condensation, Humidity — Keep Equipment Above Dew Point When Moving from Exterior to Interior Shots
  • Power Requirements: Resources, Batteries, Generators — Plan in Advance!
  • Mobility: Have a Travel and Parking Plan

Uncooperative Weather

Years of working in Florida has prepared me for almost all kinds of extreme weatherHot, cold, rain or hurricane, Florida may be a quasi-tropical paradise, but it's not independent of surprising weather changes. If you've got a daytime shot, and it starts pouring rain, you've got an issue. Well, what's the solution? Firstly, does the daytime shot have to be dry, or could you make a take in the "rain" work? Often, you cannot see the rain in the shot. So, keep shooting! Sometimes this may lend an air of melancholy to your finished product, and sometimes it gives it grace.

One trick of the trade is having plenty of plastic tarps, spring clamps, pop-up tents and umbrellas standing by ready to deploy in case of rain. Factor in harsh shadows created by the sun, or darkness created by clouds and you'll also need additional lights standing by. Although you'll likely not use this gear and it'll undoubtedly cost you money, you definitely don't want to get caught without the ability to save a shot. Many a shoot has seen thousands of rental dollars spent on lights that never were used.  But they are an insurance policy. Better to have lights, than not have them, is the adage we've heard for years from smart filmmakers.

Condensation - Keep Equipment Above Dew Point When Moving from Exterior to Interior

The "dew point" is the temperature at which humidity in the atmosphere condenses, becoming liquid. Florida is incredibly humid. If your equipment is cooler than the exterior temperature, bringing it from the indoors to the outdoors will create condensation across the lens at the dew point for that day. Depending on how hot it is outside, you've got several strategies here.

  • Keep equipment warmer than the dew point. Shoot outside first and then schedule a move inside during lunch so that the gear can acclimate. But keep in mind: sometimes even your best efforts will be befuddled by Murphy's Law.
  • Having a real camera rental in Miami company to rely on for backup equipment is key to solidify your ability to produce quality footage. There are many "so-called" rental companies working out of their spare bedroom. You can find these on peer-to-peer marketplaces like Sharegrid and KitSplit. Make sure you vet these companies appropriately. Typically, these are owner operators/cameraman that have gear, but in most cases, don’t have back up equipment standing by for you and may not even be around Miami on your shoot days to help even if they could. It’s the old line - you get what you pay for.

Power — Plan in Advance!

You've come up against this issue: you've got an hour of shooting planned, but inadequate power is available at your location home, business or county park. Or the breakers trip or cannot be found. Or making the mistake of plugging a prop hair dryer and a small light into a single circuit complicates your day — 15 amp breakers when 20 amp breakers are needed. These issues can threaten your shoot ending on time. Or you may have to sacrifice a shot due to darkness. Having a 6500 watt Honda generator and plenty of stingers/extension cords on hand are a must for most shoots with film and television lighting.

Mobility — Have a Travel and Parking Plan

Traffic in South Florida has increased exponentially over the past 4 years, resulting in more limited parking options. Using Google maps effectively with its predictive time function is a useful tool for mobility planning.  Parking lot operators in Miami are generally film-friendly.  So are the South Florida cities that allow productions to purchase parking meters for trucks, motorhomes and towable generator plants.

In any major city, make note to spend pre-production time strategizing crew and cast travel time, as well as in planning production vehicle and crew parking. Businesses in some neighborhoods are extremely sensitive to film crews as they take over large swaths of business parking. Lately, productions rent shuttle vehicles (15 passenger vans) to move crew back and forth to church or business parking lots where the crew vehicles are staged. Often, a knowledgeable location manager is necessary to limit traffic challenges. Their relationships with local business owners, city managers and lot operators can ensure a successful shoot. They literally can save your shoot money in advance.

Overcoming Issues

Plan B and Backup Plans

It's an excellent idea in South Florida to schedule a cover set, a set that provides cover in the event of rain, for the second half of your day as it most often rains in here in the afternoon. Also, renting camera and lighting from a genuine camera rental in Miami company is a winning idea. Real rental houses have spare backup equipment on the shelf in the event of camera failure. And, professional crew who understand the latest gear and know how to use it, pack it and transport it safely will save you a budget line on a rental house's 'missing and damaged' charges.

Like-Minded Professionals

It also helps to work with local experts who understand permitting, local issues, and anticipate the unforeseen that could potentially delay the production. Camera rentals in Miami through movingpicture.com can be a big help — they most likely will have answers to your most difficult questions or can always find a solution for you quickly!

Moving Picture Rental understands the need for 24/7 support, come rain or shine, from dedicated problem-solving professionals with a DIY attitude. We can guide you on camera rentals in Miami and show you ways to improvise and adapt to help make your production a success, regardless of budget, traffic and weather!

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About the Author

Moving Picture Rental
Moving Picture Rental
Moving Picture Rental is your South Florida One-Stop-Shop for all your film and video production rental needs, serving the greater Miami area since 1987. As your on-site production partner, we share our collective film-making experience – guiding your team to the right gear and crew for the job. We provide digital cinema camera rentals, lens rentals, film lighting packages, grip truck rentals, post-production rentals, walkie talkies and expendables at competitive prices.

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