Cranes are one of the fun parts of the job. Pulling off an awesome, complicated crane shot is one of the joys of life. There are many kinds of camera cranes available today, from the old Chapman stage cranes (Zeuss, Nike) to the 50' Techno. Each works better for some applications than the other. Not so long ago, when you had a big sweeping crane shot to pull off, you got a Titan or a Supernova. Now, with the proliferation of remote heads, few people ride the crane anymore, so lighter, more versatile portable cranes have become the norm. A lot of it is up to the personal preferences of the grips as to which one is best. Personally, I like the Phoenix. It goes together quick and easy and can be built to anywhere from around 12' to around 40' (I don't have the specs in front of me but they can be found at http://www.movietech.com/) You also don't need tools to snap it together and it is a solid arm. One of my favorite arms is the Fisher 23 jib. Again, it goes together quick and easy which is the name of the game in portable cranes. It is a jib, for smaller applications and interiors mainly, but it is a sweet arm (specs @ http://www.jlfisher.com/) The trend now seems to be using Hotgears on cranes which is mainly a moneysaving measure. This drives me nuts. Although they work great in some applications, they are limited. They don't always work well when underhung and something always seems to go wrong (a lot of assistants will tell you that they aren't supposed to be underhung at all and Panavision discourages it) The fact is, it can be done, I've done it a hundred times, always under protest, but a true remote head always works better, epecially a gyro head for longer arms. The Hotgears do work fine mounted upright, but sometimes you get high frequency chatter (vibration during the move) with them. If it's a wide sweeping shot on a 35 mil they're great. On an intricate shot on a 75, I always push for the Libra Head, although I (almost) always get overruled. The Giraffe was the flavor of the month in portable cranes for a while and it was very popular until the Phoenix overtook it and now, although you do still see them, people don't use them as much. The arm, built in South Africa, is a good one, but does have it's flaws. While very light, it is a little more time consuming to build because a ratchet is needed to screw in the captured allen bolts. The lightness of the sections also make it a little less solid. In riding mode, the turret platform is a nightmare (they may have improved this by now, I don't know) and tends to dip towards whichever side of it the operator is on. If you're considering it, don't let me scare you away. It is a good arm, and a lot of people still use it all the time, it's just, in my opinion, there are better options. Let me finish this post up by saying that all of this is based on my experience. Some guys may disagree with some of this so let me hear from you.
I'll write more on this subject in a later post, but now my flight's boarding so catch you later.