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What is a Second Unit Director & What’s Their Job on the Set?

The Second Unit Director is responsible for shooting various supplemental footage that complements the original footage. This includes establishing any major shots related to stunts, insertions or cutaways that make the film come together seamlessly. This individual works separately from the first unit which is responsible for overseeing initial footage capture.

The second unit director often takes the lead on shots that are deemed too expensive, dangerous or demanding for the first unit director to accomplish. The capture the scenes in a timely manner without imposing significant costs to budget that may otherwise be incurred by the first unit production crew.

Second Unit Directors capture various supplementary footage

Second Unit Directors capture various supplementary footage that helps to maintain consistency and a look that ensures continuity for the film. They work closely with scenes that are produced by the first unit and provide footage that comes together during post-production. These individuals are often responsible for framing the shot in a way that allows for a seamless sequence when stunts or other activities come into play.

The second unit director generally works alongside the cinematographer to review dailies from the first unit and prepare a plan for capturing scenes that are required as an ancillary addition to the original capture. They provide their crew with a reference point that ensures all sequences remain in line with the existing scenes and that film continuity is adhered to throughout the production.

Second Unit Director

Second Unit Director Responsibilities

The responsibilities of the second unit director include working closely with the first unit and with stunt coordinators or other crew members to ensure timely production of support footage. They shoot cover shots and insert footage that will help the film continue to seamlessly roll from scene to scene.

Second unit directors must be good leaders

Second unit directors must be able to lead their crew so strong personal leadership skills are a must. This individual provides insight and listens closely to the guidance of the director to ensure that footage is captured in a way that adheres to the creative vision and overall objective of the film.

Although second unit production footage is not as vital as the first unit footage, this role is still very important to a major production. The second unit director must be able to manage logistical concerns that arise when communicating back and forth between teams to ensure timely project completion.

Second Unit Director Skills

The second unit director works with several members of the production crew and should be a people person that can lead a team and motivate them to do their best. They should have a strong understanding of production tasks and scheduling to ensure they remain on schedule and within budget.

Additional skills include:

  • Ability to work well under pressure.
  • Ability to work long hours in a fast-paced production environment.
  • Ability to lead a team and motivate them.
  • Ability to understand visual aesthetics of the film.
  • Ability to work independently.
  • Ability to understand continuity and the value of consistency.
  • Understanding of stunts and special effects.
  • Strong knowledge of production sequences.

CBC Arts uploaded a great video on what exactly a 2nd Unit Director is:

 

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