Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wedges or Pads?

Recently (well, a year ago) worked with a Key Grip who is a good friend of mine who tried to sell me on a different system for levelling track. We've all used wedges. They're our friends, we understand them, they're ultimately expendable. There is another system that uses wooden pads, roughly 4'' square, of varying thicknesses, all color coded. They pack very neatly in a crate by color. They go from about 1/8" up to , I guess 2" in thickness. While laying the track, you would, depending on what thickness you need, yell, "Give me a green!" or "give me a red!"
You get the idea.
I tried. I really did. My Key Grip friend swears by it. I'm sure he's right (he usually is about these things) but I just couldn't get used to it. Finally, after about two days of, "Give me a green, no, a re... where's a yellow?" I revolted and offered my resignation if he didn't get me a barrel of good old fashioned wedges (Well, that's not exactly how I worded it, but I'm much calmer now).

When the wedges arrived, I cut my track laying time by approximately half.

I've no doubt that this system works great for those used to it. Obviously a track leveled on flat pads, rather than sloped wedges will tend to stay in one place longer, I just didn't have the patience. Maybe I'm too set in my ways. I barely have enough capacity left in my brain as it is without having to remember how thick a "red" is. I know Jim Kwiatkowski's guys use it (Munich, Minority Report, every Spielberg movie since Schindler's List). So I know it works.
Anyway, anyone use this system?


Azurgrip said...

I've heard of the system before - I read somewhere (Backstage's website?) about a grip who used strips of luan for the same result. I've considered it, but might be too hard to turn your crew's heads around it. Still like to see even a photo of the system at work. Does it work better with certain types of dolly track?

At the start of each show, I still have to implement the "A case of beer PER wedge kicked - payable before the end of the work day" way of thinking into the camera dept (oddly, mostly 1sts and trainees)to get them to lift their feet when the walk around the rail.

D said...

Wow, a whole case? Maybe I should go to that. I generally just announce that if you happen to kick a wedge, don't slink off like a criminal, just tell me. It may be time to enact some punishment.

Azurgrip said...

We work with cases... (heheh) - to divert the topic, I've heard you mention the "bucket of wedges". I work a little differently. Since all the cribbing from the rental house comes in milkcrates (13x13x13) we change it up a bit - My cribbing comes off the truck in a plastic laundry tub (10" pneumatic tires). In that we carry 3 x boxes of plywood "pads" (12x12x3/4"), 1 box of wedges (48?), 1 rack of small basso blocks, 1 rack of med bassos, 1 rack of lrg bassos, 2 x 4ft levels, one rack of cup blocks and a duffel bag of wedges (2-3 boxes worth). That's our travel to set and will accommodate most situations, but carry three times that much in the trailer.

D said...

I don't think it really matters what type of track (Kwiatkowski uses precision track- that old heavy black stuff)
Your system sounds ideal. I have a plastic 50 gallon garbage can secured to a hand truck with a level case on the side and a milk crate screwed to the top for hardware, safety webbing, shims, stakes, chalk, mold release spray,etc. We have a separate hand truck with extra boxes strapped to it. Our biggest problem is room on the truck. We have a 48' box loaded to the doors and with two dollies (both under shelves) there just isn't anymore room. (diffusion 4x4 cart, 4x4 flags, two tacos, dolly cart with accessories converted from an old rigging cart,extra flag box, plywood cart).

chris said...

.i know it sounds corny but the wedges and pads you get from the rental house are probably 10 years old they are dry as a bone.i like to hose down the milk crates to get some moisture back in the wood .i find they stay put better and the sound man will thank you. a lot of times that chunk chunk sound you get is because of the dry wood metal friction.
that is all

Azurgrip said...

We're doing pretty good with 13 + carts and depending on the size of the package we still have 5 - 8 ft left down the aisle of our 48ft (that's including the office at the front that loses 10ft off the top)

tigger said...

i've seen the grips in france using this system of wooden pads, but the pads only went down to 1/2 inch, for anything thinner they used beer coasters! the system seemed to take much longer to lay track than the old fashioned way, i hate to think how long they spent in bars to acquire all those coasters!

D said...

I've seen beer coasters used just as shims but not regularly. Thanks for the tip Chris! I'll wet wedges down on the day if I get too much noise out of 'em but I've never done it all at once. Always good to hear from you , Tigger!

datsright said...

here's da flatstock.....and yes we do carry wedges, bassos, lockblocks, cribbing and ply pads...

D said...

Thanks for the pics, Datsright.

clapperloader said...

Over here in Austria Dolly Grips mostly use wooden pads, sometimes in combination with wedges. However they are not colour coded. And yes, they also use beer coasters a lot. There is this joke about Dolly Grips and bars....

D said...

Thanks for checking in, clapperloader. I'm sure the beer coasters lead to a lot of jokes.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic...I'm an aspiring Dolly Grip here in Canada, with a few B-camera and limited A-camera shows under my belt. I was on a show recently and the key liked to use cedar shims, the argument was that they were slimmer making them more square resulting in no slipping.
It was my first time using that method, with the only draw-back resulting in what I thought having to use many in longer track set-ups.
The coloured blocks with the beer coasters were used by one of the other Dolly Grip, which I found rather confusing when I was offering support.
Anyone else use the cedar shims ?


PS Great topics and comments by all...I'm a fan of this site.


Anonymous said...

Hello Guys,

I'm from Germany and working mostly on TV and Feature Films.

I put the flat stuff under Crane Tracks and wedges under Dolly Tracks.

I was told during my learning Years that wedges might slip under very heavy load. While I have never seen any slipping wedges under heavy load I still do it that way.
When I put Tracks on Tiles, the flat stuff is good if you have no Carpet to prevent the wedges from slipping.

The only Track that I would always put flatpads under is The Panther Precision Track. I don't like to put wedges under it because I like the track's alignement to be finetuned after levelling and you can't do that with the wedges square to the rail.

By the way, Arri Rental in Germany has Beerpads with their name on it!

When I spot very thin and solid beerpads in a Pub, I try to get a Pack or two from the barman. They get them for free anyway.

Greetz Dan

D said...

Hi Dan,
Thanks for the comments and insights. I've heard the "wedges will move under heavy loads" thing and I've never seen it happen under anything from techno cranes to Pheonixes, but I see the logic. Thanks for reading and stay in touch.

Dan said...

The other thing with Wedges under Crane Tracks is the unseen kick Factor. When You have somebody accidantally kicking wedges out of their place and not telling you it's much easier with the pads, because you will see if they still support the track very easily.
Wedges can look as if they are in the right place but might have wandered a little and lost contact to the rail.

Greetz Dan

mark c said...

Worked with Jimmy K. and his flat-stock. Skeptical at first but it works very well. within days your calling out "gimme a white and orange.