Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Great Dolly Controversy of 2007

I frequent another site from time to time where various grips, electrics, videographers, and DPs (and a lot of students) discuss various things, mostly equipment related. A while back I stated a rather strong opinion of the Fisher 11. A DP was questioning why his guys liked the Peewee and complained when he made them use the Fisher 11. I rather smarmily (I think I had had a couple of beers . Don't do this and then go on that site) stated that the Fisher 11 wasn't a great dolly and that's probably why his guys disliked it. We traded some back and forth posts, and were quite friendly. A couple of months later, someone dug up this post by me and defended the 11. I (again unwisely after a few) wrote a scathing reply which I then toned way down because I tend to go way over the top and look like a pompous ass. His arguments for it held no more weight than that Fisher had been in business for 50 years, and still made dollies so the 11 must be good. Buy that logic, the Ford Pinto was a great car. Let me say now that I think Fisher is a great company. The Fisher 10 changed the way movies are made. I started out on a Fisher 9 and then a 10. It's just not my dolly of choice. Some guys can play it like a violin and nail it every time. I can't. The boom control is beyond my ability, or desire, to master and be comfortable with (although with time I'm sure I could). The Fisher 23 is the finest jib arm for feature film making in the world. If they sold them I would buy one tomorrow. I just don't share the same view of the 11. I think it's a crappy dolly. Rick Kangrga, a very good Dolly Grip once told me that being able to use both Fisher and Chapman would make me a better Dolly Grip and I believe him. I'm just lazy and set in my ways. Most feature films that carry a Fisher 10 for their large dolly carry a Peewee for their small one. I think there is a reason for this. I think the 11 may be fine for commercials, videos etc, but just doesn't work well for the rigors of features. I don't like the arm speed once you get a real camera and head on it, the marking device on every one I've ever used sticks, they tend to tip easier, and don't even try to ubangi sideways without a lot of counterweight, and doing a boom is out of the question. Those of you who like and use the 11, write in. Am I wrong? If so, tell me. What's your preference?


Michael Taylor said...

D --

As a juicer, I have no meaningful opinions on the relative merits of modern dollies. I can say rather emphatically that I don't much care for the Stint dolly at all, though, since it was one of those beasts that broke my big toe and ripped off the offending toenail at the end of a 14 hour day many years ago. I took this as a sign from on high that the way of the grip was not to be my path. This bloody and painful incident was the gaffer's fault, not the dolly's, mind you, but still...

No, I just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading Dollygrippery this year, learning a lot about the zen of the craft, and opening my eyes to the many technical issues that until now, I knew very little about. I've gained a renewed appreciation for the skills you and your brothers have quietly accrued over the years.

Yeah, I know -- typical clueless juicer...

Great blog. Keep on keepin' on in the bleak New Year to come.

D said...

Thanks for stopping by, Michael. Electric Brothers are always welcome (and with as few comments as I get, I'm happy someone is reading).

Anonymous said...

I firmly believe that the Fisher 11 is too small. I know it was designed to compete with the Pee Wee, but it was the one piece of gear that fell through the cracks at Fisher.

That said, I love the Ten. I don't use it as much and therefore not as comfortable with it (I still have much trouble doing compound moves - booming down and making a ninety deg turn. I find that my left / steering hand doesn't have the strength). Also, I really don't like the boom arm marking system - I use grease pencils for marks. I'm always fighting with the operator to stay to one side of the arm or the other just to be able to see the disc.

Don't get me wrong, I quite like the dolly and will use it anytime anyone wants me to use it, but please leave the Fisher Elven at the shop.

D said...

Thank you. I also don't really have a strong aversion to the Ten, I just don't like the boom control. The snap back action of it somehow removes me from knowing where I am on the arm, although some guys prefer it. I also don't like the marking system. The brake is great however. I wish Chapman could do one more like it. Even the Hustler brake, while similar, is just too quirky.

Anonymous said...


I've been a dolly grip for over 20 years in the Vancouver, BC area and of course I have my favorite machines. I'm in the "Fisher 10 and Peewee" camp. I've used Fisher 9s, Hybrids, and original Hustlers (way back when) and have fooled around with the Hustler IV a little and would like to get to know it better.

Because of my attachment to the "10", I was excited when the Fisher 11 first came out but I was let down when I put it through it's paces. The arm is too wobbly and I can't seem to set the boom cuing up they way I like it. Every once in a while I try it again and I find I still dislike it. Too bad, it was a good idea.

I'm also not crazy about the Peewee IV. I prefer a II or III.

As far as I can tell, there is no one perfect machine for all situations. Chapman seems to have been working hard over the years to evolve their Dolly line-up but I wish I could say the same about Fisher . Instead, except for their jibs, they seem to be falling behind.

Still, I can work magic with a "10"!

D said...

Glad to hear from a Fisher 10 guy. I personally use mainly the Hustler 4 and the Peewee 3, I'm not particular to the Peewee 4 either. I do want to try out the Hydrascope, but haven't had the chance yet. Fisher does seem to have stopped evolving their line at the 11, where Chapman is still experimenting. Thanks for the comments! Come back anytime.

Anonymous said...


Your comment about the Pinto got me to thinking.

The Pinto, and the Vega for that matter, were produced to fight the influx of small Japaneese cars comming into the US. (They also hoped to export them, but that is another story.)

The Detroit automakers, rather than starting from a clean sheet design, chose to downsize their standard car design. Which at the time was a front engine, rear drive, live rear axle car. The Japaneese, Honda in particular, went with a transverse front engine driving the front wheels, which maximised the small interior space of their car, kept weight down, and made production simpler.

The point is that simply downsizing a given product usually introduces design problems that might not exist in the larger product.

I believe Fisher has , by simply downsizing the 10, made themselves a Pinto and Chapman with the Pee-Wee has a Honda.

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap Ted you're right! I'm like an idiot savant!

Anonymous said...


You make a very good point by making an analogy between small cars and small dollies. I never thought of it that way but it makes sense.


Thanks for the write-up on the Hustler 4. One of the reasons I haven't used it is, as you say, it's a studio / pavement sled and most of my shows have had mixed terrain. I look forward to getting a straight studio show so I can really check it out.


Anonymous said...

We've had a fisher 11 (or 2 for some time) in the house where I work, I just completed the 3 day course at fisher a few months ago and That thing is truly a marvel of engineering. I think the steering system is superior to the peewee, and I like the controls a lot better. The new boom control with repeatable speed they are just releasing is really impressive, and huge improvement to the previous system. That being said I would take a 10 any day over an 11, the arm is indeed wobbly, and even when properly adjusted even the smoothest operator will find it difficult to be steady on a 12" riser or any kind of offset with all but the smallest of cameras. We just ordered a new 11 to replace ours as it is showing its age, and we did so simply due to the portability. (the price is the same, actually $10 cheaper for a 10!) We do a lot of stair climbing and small locations and the size and light weight of the 11 benefit us more than the more solid platform of the 10 would. If I had room on the truck and the budget I would surely carry both.


Anonymous said...

On shows where you do a lot of compound moves I would always prefer a chapman (preferable Hybrid, haven't used a hustler yet).

But when it comes to very tiny locations the fisher 11 has its advantages, espacially the inward turning wheels which make the dolly narrow in a blink of an eye.

We did a Feature with a Hybrid, Fisher 11 combination once and it (the fisher 11) bacame a nightmare an a particular shot where I had to do a fast compound in/down move in sync with the actor (hidden under a cape) so there was no body language cue and reacting was the only option.

It was my personal waterloo as a dolly grip...
I still regret that I didn't call in the Hybrid on that shot.

Greetz Dan

Anonymous said...

The best thing about the 11 is that you can get it up on track and sled wheels all by yourself. That aspect of it rules, especially with today's smaller crews. However, the boom is wibbly-wobbly with risers or an RO attached and the down cue SUCKS on the one I work with.

Anonymous said... no ones ever seen an 11 eleven fall off the tracks???

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