1st AD Protocol

Overview

This document is intended to serve as a guide to help new 1st ADs understand the role, as well as to supply set-specific jargon and the proper sequence of “callouts,” which are only a small part of the 1st AD’s job.

The role of the 1st AD is an important and multi-faceted one, involving organization, anticipation, communication, problem-solving, leadership, support, morale-building, time-budgeting, and resource allocation.

It is a role that is critical in planning and scheduling a film during prep, and one that is vital for smooth set operation during production. The 1st AD runs the set and works just as hard as either the DP or the Director. The 1st AD always remains by camera; if the show has a base camp away from set, the 1st AD should communicate with the 2nd AD by radio.

It is the responsibility of the 1st AD to know where everyone is, so crew must inform the AD dept if they briefly leave set (e.g., “I’m 10-1”). The 1st AD tracks the time but does not harass people about it. Good ADs need never raise their voice because they have not allowed things to reach that point. Above all else, it is the 1st AD’s job to watch, facilitate, and anticipate problems for the betterment of the film, not simply to “make the day.”

 ORANGE CALLS  are made over the radio and repeated by the 2nd AD. If the show does not have radios or a 2nd AD, the 1st AD should ensure that all crew members hear these callouts.

 YELLOW CALLS  are made only to on-set crew and not repeated by the 2nd AD.

Having already been instrumental in helping to schedule the order of shots and estimating the time for each, a typical day for the 1st AD on set goes as follows.

Note:

On shows with smaller crews – such as F1s and F2s – some of the crew positions listed in this protocol may not have a dedicated crew member performing the role. If there is not a dedicated 2nd AD, the 1st AD should either assume those responsibilities or delegate them to another person. If there is not a dedicated Script Supervisor or 2nd AC, the Producer is responsible for making sure that other crew members cover the relevant tasks described in this protocol.

MORNING MEETING

We are having the morning meeting.
Precisely at CALL TIME, the 1st AD gathers the crew by the trucks for the morning meeting. The 1st AD goes over the logistics of the day and addresses safety concerns.
Work safely, everyone
This concludes the morning meeting. The 1st AD then gathers the Director, DP, SS, 2nd AC, and goes to set.

WORKING OUT THE BLOCKING

Clear the set for blocking.
If the Director is ready, the 1st AD asks 2nd AD to escort the Actors to set, so the Directors and Actors can work out the blocking. During this time, the 1st AD manages crew staging, while periodically monitoring the Director.
Are we ready to mark the blocking?
If the Director is ready, the 1st AD invites the DP, Script Supervisor (SS), and 2nd AC to set. The 1st AD then oversees the determination of coverage.

WORKING OUT THE COVERAGE

The Director and DP watch the action that the Director has worked out with the Actors. Together they discuss any changes. The 1st AD watches and checks that:

  • The DP watches the coverage through a viewfinder or lens.
  • The SS watches eyelines and notes blocking/coverage plan.
  • The 2nd AC marks the actors’ stopped positions with colored tape.
Are we ready for the New Deal?
Only when the plan is agreed upon the 1st AD calls:

NEW DEAL

We have a New Deal.
1st AD confirms all department heads are present. The Director shows action.
Questions on the blocking?
Director fields queries, then shows/explains coverage.
Questions on the coverage?
Director fields questions on the plan. The 1st AD facilitates questions, making sure every department is anticipating issues. Does the plan work?

NO
Release New Deal, Troubleshoot.

YES
Proceed to…

BUILDING IT

OK, let's build it. Thank you, First Team.
2nd AD escorts Actors and Director (First Team) to base camp. 1st AD quietly gets a setup time estimate from the DP. (NOTE: No one else but the 1st AD and Director need ask about time or guess how long things will take.) From this point on the 1st AD is quietly monitoring progress and updating dept. time estimates.

As lighting gets closer to completion, ways of being helpful include:

  •  Let’s get the frame 
  •  Let’s get focus 
  •  Let’s get a boom line 
  •  Work quietly 

Continue to work until:

Are we ready for camera rehearsal?

NO
Troubleshoot

YES
Proceed to…

CAMERA REHEARSAL

Camera rehearsal is up. Stand by.
2nd AD asks Director if they wish to be present. Director either comes to set or 2nd AD informs 1st AD to proceed without Director. (NOTE: if Director does not come to set, 1st AD calls “action” and “cut” instead.)
Camera ready?
Check, or confirm by non-verbal eye contact.
Sound ready?
Check, or confirm by non-verbal eye contact.
We are going for camera rehearsal...
Action is called. Technical team runs shot.
...That's a cut on camera rehearsal
How was that for camera?
Check.
How was that for sound?
Check.

BAD FOR EITHER
Troubleshoot

GOOD FOR BOTH
Proceed to…

Camera ready for rehearsal?
Check.
Sound ready for rehearsal?
Check.

NO
Troubleshoot

YES
Proceed to…

REHEARSAL

First Team in, please.
2nd AD brings Actors and Director to set. Everything must be ready!
Everyone work quietly. First Team is on set.
Director works with actors. (NOTE: REHEARSAL MOVES DIRECTLY INTO SHOOTING. IF ANY TECHNICAL ISSUE ARISES THAT CANNOT BE SOLVED IMMEDIATELY, RELEASE FIRST TEAM UNTIL IT IS SOLVED.)
Rehearsal is up. Stand by.
1st AD waits and confirms visually when Director is ready.
Quiet, please. We are going for rehearsal...
Director calls “action” and “cut.” (This should be treated like it is a take by all set personnel. Make sure the set is locked up.)
...That's a cut on rehearsal. Stand by.
While the Director checks in with the Actors, the 1st AD checks in with camera and sound for feedback. The 1st AD relays this information to the Director, and the Director chooses to rehearse again or proceed. Are we ready to shoot?

NO
Call “WE ARE GOING AGAIN. STAND BY.”

YES
Proceed to…

LAST LOOKS

Picture is up. Last looks.
This alerts the crew that we are moments away from picture. All department heads make final tweaks. Last checks for hair/make-up and set decoration. Wait for PD to clear frame and give verbal confirmation “Looks are clear” before proceeding.
Camera ready?
Check.
Sound ready?
Check.
Director ready?
Check.

NOT READY
Call “HOLDING UNTIL READY”

READY
Proceed to…

PICTURE

We are going for picture. Lock it up.
GO time. Listen to ensure set is locked up. Be VERY sure EVERYONE is actually ready, especially the Director and Actors, before calling:
Roll sound...

For dual-system sound:

  • Sound Mixer calls SPEED
  • 2nd AC VOICE SLATES
  • 1st AC rolls camera and Camera Operator calls SPEED
  • 2nd AC calls MARKER and clacks the sticks
  • Camera Operator calls FRAME
  • Director calls ACTION, watches take, and calls CUT.

For single-system sound:

  • 1st AC rolls camera and Camera Operator calls SPEED
  • 2nd AC VOICE SLATES
  • 2nd AC calls MARKER and clacks the sticks
  • Camera Operator calls FRAME
  • Director calls ACTION, watches take, and calls CUT.

...That's a cut on picture. Stand by.
The 1st AD checks in with camera and sound to see if the take was good or if a technical issue may require another take. The 1st AD relays this information to the Director, and checks if the Director would like to go again.

NO
Repeat

YES
Proceed to…

MOVING ON

Thank you, First Team.
2nd AD escorts the Actors (and Director if desired) off set and the crew comes in to execute the next set-up.
We are moving on to... (describe next set-up).
Move on to the next planned set-up as indicated previously during the New Deal. 1st AD restates shot as previously described.

Return to BUILDING IT and proceed until all scene coverage is complete.

When the scene is complete, return to WORKING OUT THE BLOCKING for next scene.

Continue this process for the rest of the day.

During the day, if the production falls behind schedule or if any problems arise, the 1st AD should be proactive in confering privately with the Director and/or DP on how to solve the problems. This can be done quietly and discreetly on set or during breaks, such as lunch.

WRAP

The 1st AD oversees wrap. The 1st AD talks to the Director and the DP about the next day’s work and any adjustments to the plan and/or schedule. The 1st AD signs off on the Daily Production Report (DPR), which is sent back to production by the 2nd AD, and goes home.

IMPORTANT TIME-BASED ITEMS

START OF DAY:

First shot is off at (state time).
Recording the time of the first shot of the day and the first shot after lunch is an important item that is reported to the studio on the DPR.

MIDDAY:

That's lunch.
At exactly the 6-hour mark after first calltime Lunch must be called. If the team has already rolled on a set-up you can go into “Grace,” which means work must then be completed within 12 minutes. You cannot shoot past this or you are in meal penalty.

During lunch, the 1st AD talks to the Director and the DP about the rest of the day’s work and participates in making any adjustments to the plan and/or schedule to help make the day.

Ten minutes.
Ten minutes before the end of lunch the 1st AD announces this to everyone.
We're back.
This call marks the official end of lunch. All crew is required to return to work. The 1st AD should remind everyone what set-up is first up after lunch.

END OF DAY:

This is the Abby Singer.
The 1st AD alerts the crew that this is the second-to-last set up. (Be sure it actually is before announcing.) This is a morale boost as the day nears its end.
This is the martini.
The 1st AD alerts the crew that this is the last set up of the day. (BE SURE it actually is before announcing.) This is a bigger morale boost as the day nears its end.
That's a day (and/or picture) wrap for (Actor's name).
Crew applauds to thank the talent for the day’s work or for their work over multiple days on the whole picture.
That's a day (and/or picture) wrap for (Production name).
Crew celebrates a hard day’s work. “Picture Wrap” can be an emotional call after weeks of work on a feature.