Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Out of Town

I've got to go to Phoenix for the weekend for a wedding. I don't know if I'll be able to post until Monday. Talk among yourselves.

Laying Pipe

I had another column up that I wrote last night but it was so badly written I took it down. It involved the rumors in recent years of the Dolly Grip being absorbed into the Camera Dept. Those stories have been around awhile and deserve an honest look, but not the one I wrote. It was bad. So I'm going to let that one stew awhile and put up another.
In checking my hit counter, I've lately gotten a lot of "1st time visitors" from Google Search.
I enjoy clicking on the referring page link because it shows me what they were looking for when they found my page. I get everything from "castle nut wrench" to "stairway dolly" (two very common ones). The next most common seems to be "Wally Dolly" which is apparently some Australian sled type dolly and also the name of one of my posts which is actually about skateboard wheels. Most of the hits give a lot of insight to the searcher and most appear to be from beginning Dolly Grips searching for info before they start a job ("crab dolly steering", "Fisher 10 camera dolly"). I enjoy these the most because I genuinely like offering something that might help someone. My beautiful wife seems to think that I'm "giving away my secrets" and no amount of discussion can dissuade her from this belief or the fact that nothing I, nor anyone else, writes on this site will make you a better dolly grip tomorrow. It takes a lot of real world practice and there aren't really any secrets, just a few basics. Lately, there have been a few searches for "laying dolly track." So here's a little primer. (everybody does it a little different, but here's my way).
Lay it out, connect it, find the high point. Once you have the highest point located, level that rail from one end to the other, at the joints, until it's all level with the high point. Next, go side to side bringing the other rail up to match it at the joints.(I go side to side at each joint as I'm leveling the high rail, but it's a matter of choice.) Next, before filling in, get down on one end and sight down it, tweaking the imperfections (have another grip take up or let out joints that need it)Do this to both rails and fill it in.
This is just a rudimentary, easy way to do it for someone who's new to it. After a few years, you get a lot quicker and can recognize when you don't have to be level every time and can go with a slight slope or just do it by eye without a level and slam it in, saving a lot of time.
Wedge your boxes. Make sure they don't rock then wedge on top of them if you have to.
There are a lot more things to learn about it that only come with doing it over and over such as when you get 3 feet off the ground on one end, Aluma beams, how the dolly should be oriented, crane track, when to use skates, etc. that I won't go into.
Tips anyone? Leave them in the comments.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Video

Check out the new video on the video bar. It's a Steadicam on an Akela Crane. Pretty cool!

Your DP and You

I've been doing some commercial work lately with my feature DP and it's gotten me thinking about the relationship between the Dolly Grip and the DP. Most Dolly Grips have one or two DP's they work with on a regular basis. There's nothing like working with a guy you know well and have mutual respect for. I've been very fortunate to work with some phenomenal cameramen who are also great people who I genuinely enjoy being around. Of course there are sometimes people who you just can't get along with, no matter how hard you try. It may be a personality conflict or maybe you remind them of their brother-in-law, whom they despise. Or they may just be jackasses (you may be a jackass too, but this forum will assume that the Dolly Grip is always right. Dp's have their own sites). As with every business, sometimes not-so-nice people rise to positions of power. In this business, luckily in my experience, they've been few and far between in the DP department. I've only had one cameraman who I just could not please, no matter how I tried. It was probably a political thing more than a personal one, but he made it personal and it turned into a miserable experience. The worst thing was, he was a cameraman whose work I admired. In situations like this, you have two choices: decide to grit your teeth and hang on as long as possible, or decide you don't need the job that bad and life's too short for this crap and walk.
It mostly boils down to two things- trust and respect. My feature DP and I have a great working relationship because he trusts me. He shows me where he wants the camera, what he wants to do with it, and then goes away to light the set, leaving me to figure out the logistics. I never tell him "No, I can't do that." I may tell him, "There's no way to fit the camera in that space and do a move, but what about if we go two inches this way it's almost the same thing." Usually, I just tell him, "We'll figure something out." and he leaves. He doesn't yell, or throw a fit. Our energy is spent on figuring out the shot, rather than finger pointing and hysterics.
The unfortunate thing about this business is, if you work with a new DP on every project, you spend the first few days proving yourself all over again. It's like auditioning constantly. This is where you build your trust. My job is to make the DP and camera operator's job easier. I worry about the million little things they don't have time to worry about so they can concentrate on executing the shot. You have to show them you're looking out for them and deliver. Once they see that you're dedicated, not just some yahoo who got the job because it was his turn to bump up, you become a team. This is where Dolly Grips have gotten a bad rep for so long. It's a high pressure specialization that people end up doing just because they're grips. They don't just pick someone to operate just because they're in the camera local. Operators practice and study and work to become operators. Dolly Grips are the same (or should be). You've got to earn the trust of the DP that you're a pro, who pushes for a living.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Video

There's a new video in the video section. It's a pretty cool time lapse of a bunch of grips building a track for a Technocrane. See if you can figure out which one's the Key Grip.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Interesting Question About Snow

I got an email from a dolly grip who has a question about laying a long track (50') with multiple curves in the snow. (This is in Chicago, so it's on city streets I assume, not the snowy tundra). Luma beams aren't in the budget. Those of you who live and work in snowy locations (Toronto, NY) will know best how to answer this. Leave them in the comments.
Thanks, D

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hustler 4 Brakes

It's been no secret of my affinity for the Hustler 4. It's just a fantastic machine. But it's not perfect. Case in point: I've had the same problem pop up with the brakes twice now. As I've said here before, I've never been a fan of the 4's brakes anyway. Last week, I did a commercial and everything was going fine. I had been pitching the 4 to the DP all day (a Fisher guy) and had him convinced that the 4 was the way to go. Then I noticed that the wheels seemed to be dragging when I pushed forward. It's like they were winding up and getting tighter as the dolly moved forward until it would hardly move. I called the Key over and told him to get Chapman on the phone, because this was the second time this had happened to me on this dolly. A rep showed up, and explained to me that the brake shoes had siezed up and needed to be replaced on two wheels. He showed them to me and they looked pretty trashed. He explained that if this happened and I couldn't get service, to just find which wheel was giving the problem, remove the brake assembly from that wheel, and it would work fine until I could get it looked at. If I was on location, he said I could ship them the old one and they would also ship a new one. So the show went on fine. So if this happens to you, now you know what to do. This may be from water getting into the brake assembly. The bolts that he took out of the affected ones looked pretty rusty. Anyway, that's what I found out about the Hustler 4 brakes.

Friday, February 15, 2008

High Speed (and Low)

I did an interesting commercial last week Every shot was at 48 fps. A couple of weeks before that, I did reshoots on a movie that had a push in at 3 fps. Normally, I can judge, from what the shot is, what kind of speed I need to go. An actor has a revelation, generally leave on a look and depending on what the revelation is, you'll know what speed to go. High speed (overcranked shots) especially screw with your timing. You generally have to figure out what you would normally do and go twice as fast to get the same effect at 24 fps. Go too slow, and the move will barely register. Normally this is a one shot thing, meaning it's a special shot that you'll do once and then it's back to normal. When you do it all day, for two days, things get a little surreal, because you're screwing with your natural sense of timing. After two days of doubling speed on everything, I could no longer tell what I was supposed to do and had to just rely on the director (who was great) to tell me faster or slower after playing it back at normal speed. The 3 fps shot was another set of problems. High speed shots tend to be very forgiving in terms of surges or stalls or even bumps. Undercranked, especially extreme undercranked shots require you to creep, probably the most difficult dolly shot there is, and do it very consistently. Any surge or variation in speed will jump out when the shot is played back at normal speed. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I cheat a little on undercranked shots. I lay the track on a slight slope and then let the dolly's momentum carry it at a consistent pace while I just offer resistance (you can't always do this depending on how the shot is set up, on say a tight lens on a particular object, unoperated.) It all depends on what the shot is but generally you can get away with it. Anyway, usually, when the director says, "same thing at 36 fps," or 48, or whatever you will automatically increase your speed to match ( but not always. Always ask the director first. Sometimes he (or she) will want the move to be slow motion also). As a dolly grip, you get used to thinking in percentages of speed (as in take 15 percent off) and this helps. I hope this isn't too confusing. Please add any insights you may have to the comments.

Kevin sent me to his website which has some beautiful high speed work. Check it out at He does really high speed work (1000fps). I've never done a shot at that speed before (generally speeds like that are for effects work) and I suspect it would be motion control at that point but I'm willing to give it a shot. Check out the site. There are some really gorgeous water shots.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'm Still Here

Hi guys. I know I've been a little neglectful lately, but I'll have more this weekend. Upcoming topics... timing for overcranked (slow motion) shots, What I found out about the Hustler 4 brakes, anything else I can come up with.
Thanks for Reading,

Sunday, February 10, 2008


This article has been floating around the web for awhile. It was written by Frank Dellario. It pretty much sums it all up and I don't think anyone could do it better. Thanks to Azurgrip for passing it along. Enjoy.

Frank Dellario on the art of the dolly grip
Unless you're planning to emulate Ozu and barely move the camera on your first indie feature, you'd do well to introduce yourself to the world of camera dollies and the dolly grip before shooting. While any director knows he or she has to have a crack first assistant cameraman to ensure that the director of photography's images are in focus, fewer realize how important a trustworthy dolly grip is. What may seem like grunt work -pushing the dolly across the room or along a piece of track -is actually a skilled craft, requiring not only muscles but an intuitive knowledge of camera operation, a sensitivity to actors and their line readings, and a balletic sense of movement.
Zen and the art of dolly gripping
The ability to introduce camera movement into a scene is an important tool that no filmmaker should be denied. Successful dolly moves occur through careful interaction and timing on part of the director, actors, D.P. and the dolly grip. The dolly grip's role is simply to move the camera from point A to point B as smoothly as possible and at the proper speed. Depending on the complexity of the move, there may be more points, or positions, and varying speeds. A relationship of trust between the D.P. and the dolly grip is key to the smooth execution of these moves. Besides focus, the movement of the dolly is the only aspect of the camera that the D.P. does not have direct control over.
If you ever get a chance, watch the dolly grip performing a move. It's a very zen thing - or what some people call "being in the zone." Dolly grips totally tune out everything from distracting noises, the grimaces of an angry producer in overtime hours, or the flirtatious glances of smitten P.A.s while they concentrate on executing the move. Depending on the shot, that could be just the wheel, which they stare at to maintain a constant speed while watching for their marks. Or it could be talent, who they have to track with in order to maintain the framing of the shot.
A dolly move, no matter what the speed, must be eased from a dead stop into the desired speed of the move and then eased back to a complete stop. This slowing down and speeding up process is called "feathering" and is one of the toughest parts of dolly gripping. Another important aspect of maintaining a smooth move is the way in which the force generated by a dolly grip's legs pushing on old mother earth is transmitted to the dolly itself. If you think that's simple, just try it sometime with a really tough D.P. shooting with a 300mm lens.
The intermittent steps and shifting of the grip's weight from one leg to another must be transmitted into the smooth constant movement of the dolly. This understanding of camera movement is one of the reasons it's a good idea to let an experienced dolly grip drive any vehicle that you will be shooting out of (not
feathering to a stop in a vehicle really upsets the D.P. and it's important to keep them happy).
Dance floors
A dance-floor move refers to doing dolly moves... on the floor. It doesn't necessarily translate into a cheap setup because if the location's floor isn't level or smooth, a better dance floor must be built.
Doing this kind of move adds flexibility to camera movements -you're not locked into following the track rails. Action doesn't always follow a straight line and can be chaotic, especially when shooting unrehearsed action. For example, a shot requiring a winding move through a crowded party scene is difficult if the track doesn't wind. And even if you can lay down winding track, people may trip over the track or you may see the floor in the shot.
Now, what if the floor isn't level or smooth? You may have to put a floor down. Generally, in Hollywood, a dance floor means laying a double layer of 3/4" plywood with the seams offset, topped with masonite for a smooth ride. This usually means nailing into the floor and clearing the camera side of the set, not just of people but furniture. This can be very time consuming especially if you have a lot of coverage and reversals. It's often easier to move furniture than people (especially executive producers -they tend to stand right where the most work is being done because they like the view). If the floor isn't level, which is a common problem in old buildings with wooden floors, you'll have to build a level floor on top of the existing floor by building a platform called bucks -2'x4' frames skinned with sheets of plywood (provided of course you have a nice high ceiling). Not always a cost-effective method for the independent production, so choosing a location for its floor can be pretty important if you intend to do any dance-floor moves.
Now even if the floor is in good shape, if it's made of old planks you may have to lay down a dance floor anyway. As soon as you get a dolly with a D.P. and
A.C. on it and quiet the set, the creaking begins. Those wonderful sound problems! Laying a plywood dance floor not only gives you a smooth dollying surface, it also spreads the weight of the dolly out across the floor, thereby minimizing these sound problems; it's usually the small areas that cause the creaks. But again, in the independent world, this may not be a choice. One possible solution is to wet down the floor prior to shooting. Moisture causes the wood planks to expand, helping to alleviate creaking.
Track is most often used in dolly shots as it ensures the smoothest move; the dolly grip only has to pay attention to the move itself because the track guides the camera from point A to point B. For the most part, track can be laid anywhere. The rougher and more off-level the terrain, the longer it takes to level the track. Sometimes, you're rushed for a shot and you may ask the dolly grip just to throw down some track and forget about leveling. Not a good idea.
Even if there's only a slight upgrade, pushing a dolly, take after take, is hard and exhausting work resulting in unsteady dolly moves. With each step, the dolly isn't coasting, it's trying to move back downhill. As the dolly grip transfers his or her weight while pushing uphill, that brief movement of switching over is going to be seen (or felt) in the move. Remember, an important thing is a bump-free ride. You will rarely be off-level enough to see it, but bumps are always noticed on screen.
It's rare to find a piece of track perfectly straight; it may have been run over or fallen off a truck, been over-torqued, or be suffering from metal fatigue. Though each piece of track may be level end-to-end, the pieces when put together may not come together in a straight line. If two pieces of track are put together but each rail is slightly bent, you'll get a bump. This is why it's important and, ultimately, cost effective to get the best-quality track possible if you plan on shooting a lot of dolly moves. One item that helps, which is becoming more and more common in dolly grip packages, are skateboard wheels. Instead of switching out the dolly wheels for skateboard wheels, the dolly rests on a pair of C-rails that lay horizontally on the track. Each C-rail has a pair of eight skateboard wheels allowing for much smoother moves because instead of having the weight on eight wheels, the weight is now spread out over 32, thus minimizing the effect of any bumps. It's also efficient. The dolly is lifted onto the C-rails and that's it, no assembly required.
Occasionally, even with track, you'll run into that old floor creaking problem. A real problem because moving the track is usually not an option. The trick is to add a lot of wedges so the weight that was centered on that noisy spot is now spread out.
Why a Peewee today and a Fisher 10 tomorrow
How does a dolly grip pick the right dolly for the job? Dolly grips choose the biggest dolly they can get into a location. If you think of it as a car, the bigger and heavier, the smoother and more comfortable the ride. Another advantage of using a larger dolly is its larger boom arm, allowing for a greater boom range, larger weight capacity and ability to handle larger jib arms.
Most grips consider the Chapman Super Peewee to be the most versatile location dolly. It has a variety of leg configurations for increased maneuverability. This means you can get it into a lot of hard-to-get-into places. If you can have only one dolly, pick the Peewee. It is not as heavy as other dollies and has a smaller wheel base. The only drawback is that the Peewee is not ideal for big exterior tracking shots.
The next size up of popular dollies are the Fisher 10 and the Chapman Hybrid. The Hybrid is pretty much a larger, heavier version of the Super Peewee with a longer and higher boom range. The Fisher, on the other hand, is quite a different animal. Weighing in at 420 pounds, it is considered the Cadillac of dollies. Unique features exclusive to the Fisher are the square track it rides on, ice skates and roundie-round mode. In the roundie-round position the wheels
are positioned in a circle, allowing the dolly to spin on its own center and permitting the camera to be spun in a tight circle about four feet in diameter. Grips either love or loathe the square track, especially when using curves. Fisher curve track does have one thing going for it either way. The widest diameter circle that can be laid with standard curve track is 20 feet (outside diameter using eight sections of 45-degree track) while a seventy-foot diameter circle is possible with Fisher's thirty-degree curve track (12 sections complete a circle).
An often overlooked dolly that can be valuable on set is the Elemack Cricket dolly. The Elemack is great for dance-floor moves. Conventional dollies are steel rectangles with four wheels and a hydraulic boom arm where the camera is mounted on one end. The Elemack on the other hand, is a hydraulic column center mounted on four legs in the shape of an X. Having the camera center mounted means the operator can easily pan 360 around the dolly. Center mounting also gives a better ride on dance floors because the weight is evenly distributed over the wheels. The sacrifice? Minimum lens height, because the telescoping column can only go so low. A Z-bar can be used to lower the camera height, but it defeats the purpose of centering the weight and is hard to operate. If the need arises, the Elemack can be put on rails by switching out the wheels for bogie wheels designed for track operation.
The Doorway Dolly and The Western
Talk about your unsung heroes. On the majority of sets, this dolly is left to the back breaking task of hauling sand bags and feeder cable. Once in a while it makes the grade and gets to actually carry the camera for a shot. The doorway dolly and western (a larger version of the doorway) are generally used for camera moves on jobs when the man power and money just aren't there to handle a full-fledged dolly and its track.
The doorway dolly is good for interior shots on smooth floors. Make sure the wheels are fully inflated and if they squeak, a little baby powder on the floor and wheels should do the trick. If the floor is a problem, Matthews now makes skateboard wheels that pop right into the doorway dolly and can run on regular track or on PVC. Yes, PVC pipe.
Another popular dolly that you've used quite a bit if you've shot anything in film school is the pipe dolly. PVC pipe makes up the rails and a piece of plywood with skateboard wheels makes the platform. They actually work fine though leveling can be a problem. The lack of boom capabilities can be made up for with a small jib arm on sticks. A number of models are available for rental as the video world uses these highly portable rigs all the time. Media Logic of N.Y., Trovoto MFG and Cinikinetic are a few of the companies that make these products. Some people may feel that using such non-big-boy type dollies may be below them but the idea is to get the shot and when you're on a budget, sometimes you have to swallow a little pride. As long as their limitations are understood, these products can give you the shot you need.
For exteriors, these dollies can perform a number of uses. For those long tracking shots on streets, sidewalks or other rough terrain when you can't afford a steadicam, the western dolly, given that it's larger, wider and heavier than the doorway dolly (the big car effect again) will give you a smoother ride. One trick that helps on these shots, besides making sure the wheels are fully inflated, is to fill the cracks and crevices in the street or sidewalk with the finest sand know to man: fish tank side. If you can't find an aquarium shop, bags of sugar will work in a pinch. A western or doorway dolly can also be used in conjunction with a location dolly like the Peewee when working on terrain too rough for conventional dollies where boom capabilities are required. Basically, the Peewee is placed in its smallest wheel mode and ratchet strapped to the western or doorway dolly. Great for boom shots out on a sandy beach.
The dolly grip always has his or her eye on flexibility, picking the dolly and equipment that will allow the D.P. and director to get the shots they need. You may think you're saving money on equipment by renting cheaper equipment but you may be limiting flexibility. Not having the right dolly for the right job may take longer to rig. Also, on many independent jobs, you often have a D.P. and director working together for the first time and having no idea how to work together. Getting the right shot may mean moving and resetting the dolly track several times. Any equipment that limits the dolly grip's flexibility will hamper this process. Knowing what the frame is as soon as possible will speed up any shot as one of the biggest wastes of time is lighting and manipulating what the camera never sees.
Thanks go out to Paul Nickason for assistance on this article. A dolly grip with over ten years experience, Paul is well known for his unique solutions to many common problems grips have run into on set. He's dolly gripped on numerous features, including Where The Rivers Flow North, White Lies, Search and Destroy, Kama Sutra and Amateur.
Frank Dellario is a key grip working in New York and the publisher/editor of FilmCrew Magazine.

New Picture

Gil Forrester (Elf, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Mimzy) has shared this photo with us. Thanks, Gil. Great shot.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Skimpy Posts

Sorry about the shortage of posts lately, I'm in the middle of a five day commercial and I'm pretty wiped by the time I get home. Every shot is a dolly shot and I am constantly working. Phil Joanou (Rattle and Hum, 3 O'Clock High) is the director and he doesn't screw around. We move fast all day. High mode, to low mode, 30 feet of track, back to high mode, move the track over here, let's go. Which is actually good because I was getting a little rusty. I'll have more time after Monday. Which gives me an idea for a post about timing for overcranked shots. I'll be back. Azurgrip, if you've got anything, fill in the space (I would also like to get your take on overcranking).

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Change of Video

It was due for a change so I put up a shot of DeNiro jogging. Whoopedy-doo!

New Links

I'm adding a new link to It's a site put up by some enterprising grips in Pittsburgh. Amish Jim has a lot of stuff planned so it should be interesting.
There's also a new link to Cranium, which is a company started and owned by a Dolly Grip who went out and bought himself some cranes. Nico Bally has built his business into a great company. I've used their stuff for years as have most of the Dolly Grips I know. Cranium has Giraffe, Phoenix, Foxy, and Galaxy cranes as well as remote heads. I did a reshoot on a movie last weekend and Nico showed up before call, built the crane, left, and came back at the end of the day and took it apart. Now that's service. Check them out at

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Making Dolly Track

I found this article online from Ron Dexter at In it, he describes making dolly track in the 60's. The article goes on at the website to give instructions on how to build your own, but it's a little dry reading even for this site. The whole aricle can be found at the site as well as a LOT of other stuff.

Making Dolly Track.

In the 60's I built my first portable dollies using ball bearings at 90 degrees on pipe track. For sound I tried wheels flat on the top of pipe and idler wheels to keep the dolly on the track. I didn't come up with the skateboard wheel idea for sound. I think Pat O Mara Jr. might have. It has become a standard.
I like track wider than 2 foot Elemack track in the field and on dirt. It's more stable, easier to level and can be made in longer lengths that reduce the number of joints.When we were making and selling track we used mahogany for ties not considering that we were cutting down rain forest trees to get it. Mahogany is an ideal wood as it is light, doesn't warp and low grade varieties were cheap. Seasoned Douglas Fir will work fairly well. It would be nice to find a substitute for mahogany or any of the threatened woods.We and others track builders tried metal ties, but they don't work as well in the dirt and with wedges. (See Nesting Apple Boxes) Sections of pipe or tube and even PVC pipe will work without ties on flat surfaces, but don't try them on dirt or uneven surfaces. It is very difficult to level the track.
When laying track it does not have to be perfectly level side to side, but should be laid out in so it lies in a plane. On a slope one side can be a couple inches lower. One person can "eye ball" it into a plane from one corner as others wedge it up to level or in a plane. Use wedges or boxes under each tie and not a plank under many ties to raise one side. You want separate support under the end of each tie. If you are working with a crew that is used to leveling track with a level, don't fight them with your own different method. It will take longer.
Shingles work well on stage for smaller adjustments. Place wedges or shingles under the ties to avoid stepping on them.
Circular Track
Tom Ramsey, the key grip ,got me going on circular track. We ended up with radii from 4 feet to 60 feet. The longer radii are hard to set up with long lenses. They need a very solid base and to be perfectly level. Joining large radius track for long lenses is also tricky. Small bumps show up more on long lenses. I stepped my radii out so that each outside track was the same radius as the next inner track. So except for the outside two tracks, two pipes were bent to the same radius. In a fixed set up the middle tracks could be eliminated and the outside of one #1 track could work with the inside track of #3 Etc. Label each track and make a diagram of radii and dimensions. It will help in planning what track will fit in a location.The beauty of circular track is a subject in the middle of the radii stays in frame and in focus making it much easier for the operator. Moving super close ups are possible.To go from curve to straight the dolly trucks have to turn and change gauge (track width) easily.For one-time situations on a flat floor that you can screw into or where you can put a floor down that you can screw into, consider 1" PVC screwed on radii drawn from a center point. You can't do this on the dirt or uneven surfaces.You can also curve PVC pipe with a rope and get approximate circular sections. Try this before committing its possibility to the director. 1" PVC works.Making aluminum track.Get together with others who want track to pool resources and skills. Cut notches in 2" x 4" x 36" wood ties. Cut them accurately on a large table saw or radial arm saw. Make them all identical. Bill Bennett says the Hollywood gauge is 31-3/4 inches. I started at 32". Round the edges, drill two holes 5/16" center of where the pipe goes and countersink the holes on the bottom side. Paint the ties with a good exterior paint, varnish or sealer.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tough Locations

I know I said I wasn't going to post much this weekend, but I decided to anyway. Meg gave me an idea for a post.
A tough location can mean many things: Mud, rain, gravel, ditches, stairs, basically any place that makes your job harder. Personally, the one's I dislike the most involve mud. It gets in everything, especially the tires. I always try to keep the dolly on a western dolly in these situations to save the tires as much as possible, but if you're going to be there for weeks at a time, it can be hectic and sometimes it's better to just give in and push the thing through the mud and deal with the consequences later. Western dollies are great, but they can be hard to maneuver into the exact spot if you're in a hurry. I always roll the dolly off the tailgate onto it with the head facing backward, throw a strap on it, and then I'm free to tow it behind the 4-wheeler. On locations where the truck is far from the set, we have a trailer set up for the dolly with a speedrail cage built around it. Luma beams and track go on top, and the dollies and accessory cart roll underneath, along with boxes, wedges, etc. and the 4-wheeler tows it.
Luma beams are life savers in muddy or rough terrain situations. Thy're simply aluminum beams with a wooden insert in the center for screwing track down if you need to (although I rarely do).We have them in 20' and 10 '. In mud, they can keep the track itself out of it, and they can be used to easily cross ditches or come off of high mounds, curbs etc. They only have to be supported in the centers and the ends so it eliminates a lot of boxes, wedges, etc. They are connected with precut speedrail pipes so the end result is a nice base to lay your track on. (For cranes, they should be supported more than just in the center, though). Level them like you would track and then lay track on top. For dollies, some people use 4x4 wooden posts, and I have too, but they're not as good.
Getting the mud out of the dolly is a pain. Really, the only way to do it is with a hose. This seems to horrify some Chapman reps, but I don't know how else you would clean some of the dollies I've had. Try shooting in Louisiana, or Mississippi after 2 weeks of rain and figure out how to get the mud out in an hour without a hose. I've never had any adverse effects from doing it other than one time years ago when the bearings in a peewee wheel got water in them and froze up. Now, as soon as I've finished the hosing, I spray silicone in all the areas that might be affected (wheels, wheel tabs, outrigger pins, etc) to stave off rusting. The bottom line is, in some locations the dolly's just going to get wet. It won't hurt it if you keep an eye on it and take preventative measures, just keep the seats dry. I also go over the (steel) track with steel wool and silicone if it starts to show signs of rust.
That's all for now. More next week.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Slow Posting

I'm out of town visiting my daughter this weekend so posts will be a little scarce.I'll be back next week. Keep the comments coming.