Monday, July 07, 2008

"Crane Operators"

I've noticed an interesting phemomenonon the internet over the last few years. There seems to be a train of thought (mostly among the uneducated on feature film production) that crane operators are a separate entity entirely from Dolly Grips. To demonstrate what I'm talking about, you can go to, type in "dolly grip" and then go to the discussions page. Granted, there are some operators such as "Jimmy Jib" guys who are their own thing. I've seen them on commercials and music videos and it's actually a relief to see them show up sometimes because they do it all themselves and it's a nice break. A jib isn't a crane though. I also noticed on an industry discussion board (mostly frequented by younger types still trying to break in) that another person who said she was a grip wanted to know how to become a crane operator and talked as if it were entirely separate from Dolly Gripping and even the Grip Dept. The only thing I can gather from all this is that these are people in another market than feature or television production (commercials, videos, etc). A lot of this also may have to do with the rise of the Technocrane and the techs who come with it. Some of them are very bad operators, and some are incredibly good. On commercials, a lot of times I, and other Dolly Grips I know will just let the techs do the move if we know them and know they're good. Movies are different, though. On a movie, I already have a relationship with the DP and director that will span a number of weeks or months. I'm familiar with their style and I also want to protect my moves (which sounds kind of strange, but you feature guys know what I mean). I was a little peeved at the Wikipedia page I mentioned before because one of the posts was left by someone who obviously had no concept of a Dolly Grip or the multiple abilities he or she brings to a production, and had apparently never seen one in action. I take pride (as all of you do) in being able to operate many types of platforms and being able to land a crane on a dime consistently. How many of us have "scraped the paint" on a car racing past or experienced that home run feeling when a camera lands at the exact split second on the exact inch of real estate we aimed for.
Dolly Grips and Crane Operators are one in the same.


  1. Hi D,
    This is a very interesting post. I have consistently said for years, that Camera movement should be treated as a separate entity from Grip Lighting. I think the best Camera Operators are people who make the transition from Dolly / Crane operating. There is an inherent understanding of framing, and of what the moving camera does.
    I have been Key Grip and 'A' Camera operator on several films. I regularly operate camera as a pinch hitter on all the movies I work on. This arises primarily out of understanding camera movement and how it affects your frame. As far as Dolly / Crane goes, it is the same thing. It is camera movement, one is linear, the other is 3-D. They are essentially the same thing, and it is ridiculous to turn them into micro specialisations. All it takes is understanding the tools, the safety aspects, and gaining experience with the feel of the equipment.

  2. Hear, hear, Gripworks. I agree completely. I have just seen some strange ideas online recently and needed to address them. Thanks for the comment. By the way, you sent me some pictures awhile back and I can't seem to find them. Resend them if you can.

  3. By the way, Sanjaya, did you find a Dolly grip for NY?. If you didn't, let me know. I did a movie there recently and know a couple guys who might help you find someone. Good Luck.

  4. Anonymous7:33 AM

    I'm available! :)

    (sorry, shameless, I know...)


  5. Sorry, Sanjay. I added an "a" to the end of your name by accident. I hope I didn't accidentally turn you into a girl in your country. (;

  6. Ha ha ! No, its a different name.
    DW, email me at

  7. Anonymous9:08 AM

    You have email :)


  8. Anonymous7:04 AM

    Interesting observation you have written down here.

    I have seen many Crane operators but I never let any Touch a manned crane!
    Sometimes I let them help out on the base.
    I had a Crane Operator who wanted to do the oprating on a manned crane himself because it was "His" new GF-8 Gear but to no avail, I told him that nobody but me will operate a crane with "My D.P." on it!

    It's all about trust and knowing each other betwheen me and the operator, so why should I give that away to a dayjob.

    With remotes it depends on the crane operator, if it's somebody experienced that I/the Operator knows he can do it if he likes.

    On one job last Year We had a Dayjob (Crane Operator) who didn't know when to shut up, he interfered in the communication betwheen Director and D.P. as if it was a film Students project with everything on discussion.
    That guy drove me angry (besides the D.P.) and wasn't invited for any more work on that show.

    So to all the Crane Operators out there, if you are working with a experienced dolly grip, be aware that he might not talk very much but he probably has thought of every option that is on hand before you even said hello to the operator.
    So just stick to him and tell him when you have an idea. He might know more about how to handle the situation and the persons he workes with then you think, it's his hometurf after all.

    Greetz Dan

  9. Anonymous1:01 PM

    Staffing crane operators requires attention to detail, work ethic, training, and pre work history. Construction Staffing companies specialize in Crane Operator Staffing for the commercial and industrial construction industry and recently for solar power industries.

    Sadly, lots of lives have been lost in crane accidents lately. Certifications are becoming more stringent and rightly so, the focus on training is essential to the safety of the job and the life of the crane operator.

    Crane Operator Staffing is a service of Grus Construction Personnel. Grus employees NCCER and NCCCO certified crane operators with proven work history and a clean work ethic.

    The equipment in most of these accidents is the cause of the loss of life. Contractors must take necessary measure to inspect heavy equipment in much the same way as a pilot does a walk around of his aircraft before flight. A checklist should be used and standards for the inspection need to be developed. A walk around should be done before the day begins and before the equipment is stopped and started for any duration of time; lunch, pee break, all START and STOP actions should demand a walk around.

    Crane Operator Staffing can be accomplished safely by following the exacting standards of OSHA, NCCCO, and other like minded peoples, groups, and organization.