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15 Film Production Credits Explained

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Ever wonder what all those strange credits are when they roll by at the end of a film? I used to, until I moved to LA, where I started meeting Best Boys and Dolly Grips with their kids when I took my son to the playground—yes, Hollywood, where you meet Gaffers and Armourers at your average Saturday night house party.

So I started asking questions, and here's what I've learned:

1. Boom Operator

No, this job has nothing to do with explosives or pyrotechnics. The boom referred to is a long pole with a mic attached to it--the mic that picks up all the dialogue the actors are saying. The boom allows the mic operator to move with the action and stay out of the camera's field of vision.

2. Armourer

Now this job does deal with explosives, of a sort. The armourer's specialty is firearms, which, when used as a prop, requires a special handler. War movies and cops movies sometimes need several armourers to keep track of all the firearms, which, even though filled with blanks, can still be quite dangerous. (Remember Jon-Erik Hexum? Anyone? Anyone?)

3. Gaffer

Though the gaffer manages the entire electrical department, all the guys who run cables and hang lights, his main responsibility is mounting and positioning lights and lighting rigs.

4. Grip

Grips are sort of like worker bees. They do lots of different things, like moving set pieces, scenery, and pushing cameras on dollies for follow-shots. But the grip's main job is lighting. They set up filters in front of the lights and position sun blocks to keep natural light from ruining a scene.

5. Key Grip

This guy runs the Grips dept and assists the Gaffer. He usually knows his team well and will contract out the same people for each film or production he's hired to work on.

6. Best Boy

This guy has nothing at all to do with a wedding, unless we're talking something like Wedding Crashers. There are two types of best boys: electrical and grip. Best boy electric is the gaffer's assistant. A best boy grip assists the key grip.

7. Dolly Grip

A dolly grip operates the movie camera dolly. If you've ever wondered how cameras seem to follow actors so surreptitiously and so fluidly in some scenes, it's because the camera is mounted on a dolly, not handheld, and pushed along a track, like a little one-car train.

8. Foley Artist

A foley artist is responsible for creating the sound effects that are added in post-production. Why Foley? Well, Jack Foley was one of the first and most famous sound effects guys in the biz.

9. Greensman

This sounds like someone who makes sure the golf course looks good before a shoot at a country club, no? It's actually the person responsible for placing plants, flowers, shrubs, etc. in a scene.

10. Key Scenic

This guy oversees the painting dept. A key scenic designer uses painting techniques to make buildings look old, or new, or whatever is called for.

11. Lead Man

If you're thinking this is the star of the film, you're wrong. That's the leading man. A lead man is in charge of the entire set crew.

12. Buyer

As the name implies, this person finds set pieces, or dressing for the set, and buys (or rents) them.

13. Set Dresser

My next-door neighbor is a set dresser who worked on a lot of well-known sitcoms. He says that when the dressers aren't busy placing the items the buyer purchased, they're usually hanging paintings in a room, installing TVs in a bedroom set, that sort of thing. People often confuse the set dresser with the set designer. They're actually two very different jobs. I didn't give Set Designer any real estate here because I figured most people can imagine what this job is all about.

14. Director of Photography

The director of photography, otherwise known in this town as the DP, oversees all the artistic aspects of the shot, meaning lighting, camera placement, etc. It's the DP's job to work with the Director and get his/her vision captured on camera. (Good directors are usually good DPs, but most directors have to rely on others to technically capture their vision.) The DP is also often called a Cinematographer, especially in film (DP is more common in TV)

15. The Second Assistant Camera (2nd AC)

I have left many titles off the list, because, quite frankly, we'd be here all day. But the 2nd AC is worth mentioning because he/she handles the clapperboard, or slate. Yes, he's the guy clapping the board before each take, which allows the editors to sync up all the various camera angles/cameras later in the editing room. Also, as has been pointed out, the 2nd AC loads the film in the camera mags, unless there's a dedicated loader in the production.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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