Pro Tip: How To Properly Change A Lens


Our friends Shaun Dixon and Alicia Varela show you how the cinematography and AC pros change a lens on set. It’s a quick one but we promise, this is a vital lesson for professionals on set.

Questions? Ask below!


So why does the lens need to be pointed downwards?


I’ve assumed it’s because it’s easier to hold (you’re gripping around a wider, flat surface as opposed to the narrower end), it’s more efficient (the same hand grip can be used to mount the lens, as opposed to necessitating a flip-around before mounting), and if you were to accidentally make contact with the lens glass, it’s cleanable while mounted on the camera. There may be other reasons as well! Would love to hear from some of the camera department folk on here!


I’ve also heard that it helps to keep dust from getting in the camera, possibly?


I was trained to keep the lens horizontal, as you can get dust on the rear element by holding it lens-down, which can then be transferred to the sensor. This is also much more efficient when you’re dealing with much larger PL lenses. One hand on top and bottom, handover, verbal confirmation and mounting. When mounting with this style, keep one hand under the lens, and then grasp it by the front to twist it into the mount.

Obviously, different styles for different teams, and as you work more and more with a certain DP or camera assistant, you will quickly learn their technique. For example, we typically leave the lens cap on until the lens is mounted to prevent any fingerprint smudges during handover, allowing us to do a visual inspection of the lens as we remove the cap.

Good video though, and I appreciate the emphasis on verbal confirmation, as it’s something I wish more AC’s knew to do.


I’ve worked on crews that did front-down, and horizontal. Either way, I usually give the lens back a quick shot from my air rocket or canned air before it goes on, just to clear any residual dust.
Not mentioned in the video, but weirdly important: Once you’re done with any operation with a case, close it, and keep at least one of the fasteners closed. That way, when you need to move your gear quickly (when, not if,) you can grab any case without fear of it spilling open, and dumping 10’s or 100’s of thousands of $$ of lenses, gear, monitors, etc on the ground.


YES. OH MY GOD YES. AC’s should either keep the case open so everyone knows it’s unlocked, or CLOSE AND LOCK IT. NEVER just close the lid.


It was a short lesson this week and definitely not the flashiest thing to teach. Hopefully will prevent some lenses being dropped in the future and some major heartbreak (of which many RocketJump-ers have seen and experienced).

Love the variations all of you are mentioning too - we try to keep the pro-tips really short but definitely hope to demonstrate more of those techniques in future videos.


Oh I appreciate all the stuff you guys are teaching, as it’s absolutely invaluable. The variances in technique are numerous and relatively insignificant, so it’s no reflection on you guys. If anything, it’s interesting comparing how different teams operate in different parts of the world. Important lessons though, and certainly vital information for the new ACs and DPs here. Can’t wait to see what else you do!


I present for your consideration my schematic workflow diagram summarising the lens-changing workflow. Or at least, all I’ve learnt about it from the lens-changing video and all the follow-up comments I could see from various people on YouTube (where the video’s based), the RocketJump page for it and this veritable discussion forum. It’s in the BPMN (business process) notation (that I’ve never used before). I’ve only ever worked pretty-much on my own (videography) and on exactly one proper film crew (for a small indie production) so any more experienced feedback (on the diagram’s content or convention) would be helpful.

Here it is, in my blog-post, but feel free to discuss it right here in this thread. Tip: click the thumbnail and magnify it to the max, then it should be readable.

It’s a blog-link purely as a workaround, because I tried uploading my schematic - as a .png image - but apparently being a “new user” I’m not yet allowed to.


That’s awesome! Good stuff @DavidEsp!


Thanks Luke, that’s encouraging.


Nice lesson! Although I don’t think I’ll be switching lenses like that in the near future. I’m just curious, at what level of professionalism(I guess) are these tutorials aimed? From the old freddiew2 days it was all aimed at who ever wants to go out and shoot a video. Isn’t there like a gap between this material and I would guess most people who come on here to start somewhere with filmmaking? I’d like to hear some thoughts on this. :slight_smile:


This really is beginner level stuff, and applicable from your basic DSLR shooting all the way up to shooting on Arri with $80k Cooke Cine lenses. So don’t stress, this isn’t “for the pro’s” :smiley:


You’ll start swapping lenses sooner than you think. DSLR and mirrorless cameras are getting cheaper and cheaper, and you can get really nice looking lenses for $100 or less on eBay, and sometimes new.
Just to echo: Here you can learn things that you pick in time on large sets. It’s a surprisingly useful education.