In 1986 I was a new freelancer in Dallas, TX, and was hired to assist with on-set video playback for Robocop. I had never been on a movie set prior to this, my experience limited to industrials, tabloid television and the like. This was a new world for me. I’ve recently came across a stash of items I had saved from those days- callsheets, photos, scripts, etc., so I thought I’d post a few here. I ended up providing this “24 frame video service” to about 40 motion pictures shot in Texas throughout the mid-80’s to mid-90’s. At the bottom of the article is my video demo reel from my playback days.
“Video Playback” was a position similar to music playback on a set. Except, I was working with videotape or providing computer & camera feeds. These sources fed televisions, monitors or computer screens in the camera frame. The sound department often pulled a feed from the video, and I was tasked with hitting the playback on cue with what the actors were doing on set. I also sychronized the film camera to the video. The film camera had to be in-sync with the TV screens, or the 30 frame screens would flicker against the camera’s 24 frame shutter. Interfacing and controlling the camera dept’s raison d’etre called for technical competence and diplomacy.
Here’s the demo I would peddle to various productions when they came to Texas. “Need any video playback?” Productions were surprised when they learned the service was available in Texas!