Thursday, August 23, 2007

random thoughts on dollygripping

Being on vacation has left me extremely bored. The Styx song "Too Much Time on My Hands" applies directly to me right now. I basically sleep until 9 or 10, lay there til 10:30, feed dog(s), surf net, take nap, surf net take nap, feed dogs, read, go to bed. Anyway, I've been thinking of some aspects of my job that I've decided to write about before I take my nap.
Most poeple who care enough to ever think about it think that the moves are the main thing. This actually isn't really true (in my opinion). If you have the timing and the sense of where the camera should be, and have put in the practice, the moves will come as almost second nature. There will come a time when, confronted with a 5 point - 3 boom dance floor move, you won't automatically start hyperventilating and wishing you had stayed on the rigging crew. One of the main parts of the job is the work that happens between the setups. Being able to instantly know what will work and what won't, what equipment or rigging is needed, and what surface will be best is the part of dollying that is never discussed. I also enjoy being able to work out with the operator what's best for him/her as far as dolly orientation etc. in operating the shot. Learn what works and what doesn't. It's the time spent in dolly set up that will earn you respect as well as in the actual execution of the shot!
A few operators will insist on using a particular dolly without consulting the dolly grip. I don't understand this. Personally, I use a Chapman Hustler 4 and a peewee3 or 4. For hard locations (forests, swamps etc. ) I will use a Hybrid because it's a little lighter and has more ground clearance. Every Hustler arm I've ever used is pristine. Some old school camera operators will insist on a Fisher 10 because that's all they know and are resistant to new things. I tell them if they'll give the Hustler 4 a chance it will become their favorite dolly and I've already converted one operator. The Fisher is great for some pushers. I don't get it. I can never tell where I am in the boom because of the spring action in the valve handle. I also find the sideboard system in the Hustler ( while it weighs a ton) to be superior to the Fisher. Again, just my opinion. Don't even get me started on the square track thing (Yes I know they have round track wheels blah blah blah). Anyway, I wouldn't try to tell an operator which head to do the show on, why would he tell me what dolly to push? I know what I will do my best work on. It all comes back to respect. In the early years of filmmaking, when cameras weighed 150lbs and dollies weighed 600lbs, they basically needed someone big and strong enough to push the thing. Those old timers were pretty amazing too (see; "Rope", "A Touch of Evil" etc.) They also had a day to do 2 shots and most of the work was a push in, pull out, or walk and talk. Equipment is lighter and more mobile today and more is expected of it. Especially in tv where you get one rehearsal and 2 takes. More is expected of dolly grips today in the way of finesse, and quick set ups. Technocranes, hotheads, and various mobile cranes have changed the expectations for dolly grips and as a result, we are slowly getting a grudging respect.
Anywhoo, I'm getting sleepy (you probably are too). All of this is just my opinion (albeit a pretty informed one). Do with it what you will.


mrbuckyk said...

Great Blog, D! A lot of it is still Greek to me but I am working my way through it. I look forward to reading (and understanding haha) more of it.

Anonymous said...

just discovered yr blog, brilliant - i'll be reading whenever i can to catch up.

Well said about the choice of dolly, by the way, you've given me the extra confidence to assert my choices onto operators and (yuch!) PMs.

cheers, keep up the good stuff

CM (ex US, now UK grippo)