Thursday, October 11, 2007

Don't Overthink It

If you've ever experienced the exquisite terror of forgetting which way to turn the valve handle to go up or down during a take you know exactly what I'm talking about. I've even chosen poorly (hey, I had a 50/50 chance) and gone up when I should have gone down, earning that special "what the hell is going on back there?" look from my operator. It came from having too much time before my part of the shot started and thinking too much. In this is a lesson I have to teach myself at least once a show- don't think too much. Dolly moves are about zen. They're more feeling than nuts and bolts. A lot of the posts on this blog are about the technical stuff....ball bearings and bailing wire. This stuff is mainly what you have to know to set up a shot. Once the technical stuff is out of the way, you have to let your artistic side take over a little bit. Some people say it's one of those "either you have it or you don't" things and that may be true to a certain extent. You have to just know where the camera should be to see what it needs to, and then put it there; hopefully in a smooth and graceful manner without running off the track. A lot of it can probably be developed over time and some may just "get it" immediately. But if you try to think about it too much, your moves will be very mechanical. I did this once early in my career and had a director tell me my move had all the grace of a "truck pulling out of a parking lot." So relax. Use the force. If you know it then you know it so trust your talent. If you make a mistake, let it go. Just like a professional quarterback who throws a bad pass and gets intercepted, you will make some doozies, and then have to forget them to nail the next take. Over the years I've: run off the track, hit the boom handle with my knee and shoved the mag into a door frame, gone up when I should have gone down, gone left when I should have gone right, hit extras with the dolly, hit directors with the dolly,hit the DP with the dolly, and too many other mistakes to count, and they still call me to work. Let it go. Don't think too much until it's time to think.


  1. Anonymous8:33 PM

    I find that I'll over think crane moves (i'm on the Techno ALOT these days). But at the same I find it easy to just watch the camera and put it where it needs to be rather than watch marks on the floor and / or monitors.

  2. Exactly what I mean, brother. I find that if I try to watch a monitor too much rather than just go with what I know, I screw it up.

  3. By the way Dave, are you a do it all Techno op (pickle and arm) or do you do one or the other? That reminds me, sometime i have to tell the story of smacking the camera in the ground on a 50' Techno and having it bounce 8 feet back up on "We Are Marshall". Good Times.

  4. Anonymous3:52 AM

    I'd love to be an all in one, but our Techno ops here have a REALLY hard time giving it up. I've had a little time to play and would be comfortable to do so, but haven't been given the chance.

    I spent the last couple days at the end of a 30' inside a gimballed helicopter on greenscreen. There's just a "do it" situation.

  5. Anonymous4:58 PM

    Hi D,

    great post about one of the biggest problems I had to fight in the beginning of my pushing dolly part of life.
    I thought so much it made me hadaches and stomach problems, besides many screwed shots.

    Nowadays it's more a problem with the piece o' cake shots where the concentration drifts away....

    and suddenly my second yelled stop! just before I pulled the dolly of the track. And the operator turns around (with a big smile on his face) and says "I thought we let them walk out of frame after the stop?". Ooops...

    Greetz Dan