Friday, March 28, 2008

Hello From Boston

Hi all,

Spent the day prepping. I ran into a common problem (well, unfortunately it's common today). A lot of shows no longer want to pay a dolly grip to check out his dolly at the shop. Many times now, you arrive at location and your dolly has been shipped to you after being picked at random from the dealer. This can lead to a few problems. You might not have all the accessories you need, and the arm might not be what you like or need.I'm using a Hustler 4 and a Peewee 3. The Peewee is fine. The arm on the Hustler, however, is not quite what I would like. Most Dolly Grips like their arms a certain way. A certain amount of resistance and the way the arm actuates are a big deal when you are looking at spending 12 hour days for 10 weeks with a particular machine. The arm I have has a great, smooth action all the way up and down. It's a little faster than normal on the up (which I actually like, even in the "Normal" setting) but it has a hair trigger. The feather in is very sensitive and goes from 0 to 60 in a very small turn. It's also a very loose arm, almost no resistance. I like about a half inch of turn before actuating with a slow feather in and a little bit of drag on the turn. I spent the day on the phone with Chapman and they were wonderfully helpful. I ended up cracking the thing open and loosening the nut on top of the gear a little which gave a little more play before the start and seemed to slow down the start a little. Since I'm in Boston, I'm a long way from the nearest other Hustler. The arm is workable (at this point it's just becoming a matter of taste) but it's still not the way I would like it. I'll give it a couple of days to see how it responds and then see what my options are if I'm still not happy with it. It just seems silly to me that the machine you plan on shooting your movie with isn't checked out by the guy using it. It always makes for more headaches later. Anyway, that was my day. Hope yours was good.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Leaving Town

Hi everyone! I hope you're all busy and doing well. I'm leaving town tomorrow morning to start a movie in Boston so I may be quiet for a couple of days. Or maybe not, depending on how crazy it is when I get there.
Speaking of slider use, strangely enough, today I did a push in on track as the operator slid left and then poked a snorkel lens through a hole in a piece of hard gel for a French perfume commercial.
Anyway, I'll check in later.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Calling Your Shot

I was recently on a website that is production oriented and someone had asked how to accomplish a particular shot. Along with the shot he gave a link to a similar shot as a guideline. Several recommendations were given by various professionals, as well as mine, and all would accomplish what he was trying to achieve. This got me in mind of the Dolly Grip's role in the practicalities of a shot. If we're really lucky, a DP will describe what he wants, where he wants it, and then leave. Then it's up to us to decide the fastest, safest and easiest way to give him what he wants. Most of us have done this every day for years and are experts at accessing, and attacking a particular problem. A shot is thrown at you, you listen carefully and as the DP is talking, you are already running various scenarios through your mind,listing pros and cons, and deciding which plan is best. One of the answers given on the website offered more versatility, yet would have been a little awkward to operate. Another one was a little bit of overkill. This is the line we tread. How much is too much? I gave a scenario that would give the DP exactly what he asked for, but left little room for adjustment if the shot changed. Another person gave an answer that offered versatility, but would be inexact and hard to operate dolly-wise. Somewhere between the two is the correct answer. Generally, we tend to overthink things and make them more complicated than they have to be. Actually, it wasn't that complicated of a shot, something any of us would have come up with an answer to right on set in about 5 minutes. The beauty of experience is knowing that that simplest answer WILL work, and throwing it out almost off the cuff, because in your mental file, somewhere you've done the shot or something similar sometime in the past. After thinking about it, I still like my answer the best. I was shown a shot and asked how to duplicate it, and I gave the easiest answer, not one that would accomplish multiple variables of shots, but the one I was asked about. I don't think the other guys believe me, but that's ok. It beats the hell out of the idea the guy had about using the crane to do it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Using Sliders

Sliders (or overkeepers) have their place, although, like Azurgrip, I tend to prefer to hold overs myself ("overkeeper?, I AM the overkeeper.") My sentiments exactly. Sometimes they do come in handy especially for confined spaces. I often will help the operator use one and apply tension by sliding my thumb along the bottom of the slider and the top of the rail. I can help him hit exact marks in this way. As a financial necessity and because every job has one now, I've acquired a few in different lengths (with a partner) that I can bring with me. I have a 6', 4', 3' and a 2'. (We basically bought a company that had them). They also come in handy for shots when a lateral move is needed during a move and you are on track. I have overcome a little of my reluctance to use them and see them as just another tool for camera movement which has it's place. They can save you if used in the right way. They can also be a nuisance if you're working with a director or DP who doesn't really understand what a dolly grip does. They can be unweildy, and tend to sag at one end or the other as the camera moves, making it necessary to support the ends. The main thing I'm trying to get across is, don't forget you have it as an option when you have a tricky move. It can save you if you know how and when to use it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hi Guys

I'm still around so keep the comments or questions coming. I'm doing a lot of commercial work so I'm checking in every day even though I'm not writing much. Thanks all for your comments and participation. Again, if anyone has any ideas for good articles, send them along. I'm just too tired at the end of the day to think of and then write a long article so I need your help. I'm doing a perfume commercial right now with a lot of round track, circling around Naomi Watts. Anyway, thanks to all my Dolly Grip brothers and sisters for making the blog a success (we just rolled over 10,000 hits in about 5 months!).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

B Camera and You

I've thought mainly of B camera over the years as a training ground for A camera. You can learn all the logistics of the dolly with less pressure and you get a move every now and then. Personally, I really don't like doing B camera. Mainly because it's boring. Often the B camera dolly grip is also treated as a third and has to work the set when his camera isn't working. Every job is different though. Some treat both cameras more or less equally (even though one is still B camera) and you just have two dolly grips. I take B jobs (especially if I like the operator) if no A camera jobs are available. We recieved a question as to how to act as a B camera dolly grip. Treat it like you would if you were on A. Take care of your operator, protect the lens, keep your eyes peeled. You may not do as many moves (or you might depending on the show) but there's still plenty to do. Mostly, though, if you're moving up and plan to do A camera some day, treat it as a learning opportunity. Watch the operator, learn lenses, learn the dolly (usually a Peewee). Become the A camera dolly grip's right hand man.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Busy, Busy

Sorry the posts have been few and far between lately. Between getting my taxes done and commercial work and a freebie for a friend of mine I've been pretty worn out. I acted as camera operator on a festival short for a gaffer buddy of mine and it was three nights of work, but it was fun to be on the other side for a little while (and to leave at wrap). I'll be back with some more posts later this week. Please put up any ideas/questions you may have for posts in the comments section.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It's Back

I've been getting a lot of hits from people looking for the Track Jack, so the video's back up.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Dolly Grips and the Camera Dept.

"Dolly Grip Job Description"

Those of you finding this by searching for "Dolly grip job description" should see my post

I'm not really in the mood to write anything but I know I need to so here goes:
The story has been floating around the business for years that Dolly Grips may be/should be/will be absorbed into the camera dept. I've heard it from operators, ACs, Key Grips, and even a gaffer or two. First of all, let's get the obvious out of the way. It makes sense from a camera standpoint. We tend to work more closely with those guys than we often do with our own. We rig the cameras, carry the cameras, level the cameras, even carry a case or two if we really like them. Operators slap us on the shoulder and say things like,"You really made that shot," or "You are a camera operator too." (Too bad we don't get paid like one). They even have their loaders bring us coffee. Most of us even know where the camera is going before we place it. I turned it into a game a few years ago to see how close I could line up the camera to it's final frame before the DP looked through it. As the years went by, my average got better and better.
Having said all that, I think it's a bunch of hot air. We're too firmly entrenched in the Grip dept for it to ever work. With all the rigging we have to do, we'd have to come up through the Grip dept anyway. I guess that's the only way it ever could work. You slave in the trenches until you get enough credits/experience to make the jump and then plunk down your money for a camera guild card. Techno techs already do something like this anyway.
I don't know the specifics of why or how the Dolly Grip started in the Grip Dept but I have a theory. In the old days (30's and 40's) cameras and dollies were monstrous. Moving the camera involved not just brute strength, but a good bit of ingenuity, both traditionally the areas that Grips excelled in. They started there and, as equipment got lighter and more versatile, they stayed there. Now, there's a new crane to learn how to put together or operate or a new dolly to master every year it seems. More is expected of Dolly Grips than ever before from the camera dept. I think MTV started it.. Back in the day, camera moves seemed to be more effective and made a bigger impact because they were used more sparingly. It was a bigger deal to move the thing. You got a push in here or a lateral track there complemented by a big crane shot every now and then. Now, we're constantly swooshing and pushing in and turning the camera upside down and flying it over trees and any other place they can think of to stick it. And we deliver. Unfortunately, our pay (or status) hasn't gone up as much as the demand. So we're stuck in the neutral zone between two departments. Our heart belongs to one, while our brain belongs to another. Anyway, these are just idle musings on my part while I kill time to the next epic. When I'll start the swooshing and pushing and upside down over the trees crane swishing (I hope).
So what do you guys/girls think? Would it be a good idea?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New Pics

Azurgrip sent two great pics. They are up on the right.