Monday, September 24, 2007

Prepping a Dolly

Checking out a dolly can be a little intimidating as a rookie. You always think that the guys in the loading dock know more than you and that they think you are an idiot. (on a side note, this column is written from a Chapman enthusiasts point of view. Fisher users will have to go elsewhere to get their own info). First, which dolly are you getting? A Hybrid?, Peewee? Hustler? It all depends on the locations and the demands you'll put on it. Check the arm. Be sure to put around 50lbs of weight on the arm before trying it out. Most rental houses have this close at hand. I know Chapman in LA keeps plates close for weight. Now, activate the arm. How much play is there until the arm starts to move? This is really a matter of personal preference. Does it activate smoothly like butter or is there too much resistance? How about speed? Is it fast enough to keep up with a stand up or sit down? I generally ask the techs to "goose"the valves for a little more speed than the factory standard 6 seconds. I actually have a tech (James out of Austin) that I pester endlessly with questions, and/or demands, who always sets them up perfectly for my taste. I generally like a single detente (a detente is the neutral "stop" position you can feel between up and down) with very little play until the arm activates. It should have a smooth feather in and out and not feel "chunky" as my friend Brooksie calls it. Once the arm is signed off, check the brakes. Make sure both work properly and stay down when you push them. Next, wheel tabs. Make sure they are tight and require two hands to pull them up. Otherwise, the wheels will come out of alignment every time you hit a bump. As far as the Hustler 4 (the Mercedes of dollies) goes, every one I've ever gotten has pristine arm movement. Brakes are a non-issue since they finally borrowed from Fisher and got a real brake. Next, check out your accessories and make sure they are all there. If you're getting track, look down each piece and check for crowns, dips, bows, doglegs and pieces that look like they were dragged behind a stakebed. Don't let the rental house guys rush you. You will be using this equipment for a while and be depending on it. Shortcuts you take now will haunt you later. Trust me on this. Oh yeah, always take the biggest camera offset they have. The big 4 footer with the holes in it. This is always handy and I use it on every show.

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