Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Crane Ops

I (we) haven't talked much here about Crane Operating. It's a big subject full of all kinds of safety considerations and I just haven't been able to bring myself to start it. I was browsing through Wikipedia (80% accuracy rate!) and checked out the Dolly Grip page mainly out of boredom. It was actually pretty cool and generally accurate. I then went to the "discussions" page and found a lot of talk about crane operators being separate from the Dolly Grip. One guy said that when he "dayplays" cranes, he "puts" the Dolly Grip on the base while he operates the arm. He must work with some nice Dolly Grips. Union rules place crane operation under the Grip Dept. The A Dolly Grip is also the Crane Operator. The tech who shows up with the crane, if he is in the union, may then help out but he doesn't just jump on the arm and start lining up shots. The Key Grip likes to have someone he knows and trusts on the arm. Cranes are dangerous toys. You want someone you work with every day on one. For years, when you wanted a huge sweeping crane shot, a Titan or SuperNova showed up. Big, truck mounted rideable cranes that came from Chapman with a driver who set it up, got it workable, and then took a nap in the cab while the Dolly and Key Grips worked out the shot. I had the advantage early on of having two Key Grips who had been Chapman Titan Crane drivers for 20 years, and they taught me a lot. Nowadays, cranes are portable arms that the Key often owns himself and use a remote head instead of being ridden. Technocranes show up with a tech who will help you as much or as little as you wish. These guys are generally great operators who will run the "pickle" or the arm if you want, or both at the same time (which takes a lot of practice) Rick Kangraga, who was a great Dolly Grip ("Master and Commander") is now a Techno tech who does both. But they usually leave it up to the Dolly Grip unless he is a little green. But back to "normal" cranes, I generally operate mine from the front, as close to camera as possible and have a "bucket man" to operate the high work. I do the catches and send offs and any movement close to the ground, but this is really a matter of preference. When on track, there is no "lay of the land." Crane track should always be level. When filled in, don't just do the crossties like dolly track. Fill in between them also. The Key I work with has double reinforced apple boxes for crane work. Always do more than you think you need. Never leave anything to chance when using a crane because if one starts going somewhere it shouldn't, it's a dangerous as well as expensive (and highly visible) proposition. I'll post more on this later, but reading the Wikipedia entry made me realize how little people really know about crane ettiquite.
P.S.- I filed this post from the perspective of a union member, though non-union shoots (which I did for many years) have the same general guidelines.

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