Sunday, September 14, 2008

(Advanced) More Tips For New Dolly Grips

Always add at least 4 feet to what you think you need.
If in doubt, on carpet, double lay it,
If your dolly's not working right, call the company. Make them figure it out.
Under 50 mm, you're probably fine. Over 50 mm, use skates.* See the update below.
When in doubt, call for it ( I know the guys are tired. I'm tired too) Don't be afraid to call for what you need. Even at the end of a 16 hour day.
Above all else, make your operator comfortable. It will get you jobs in the future. And it's your job.
Don't be afraid to say "No" if something's dangerous. It's not worth your career or someone's life.
The eyepiece is always on the left. (Most of you know what I mean).
Know your heads (O'Connor etc).
Always mark the front wheel.
Keep the tanks full. Running out of juice before a big move is a novice move. It has happened to all of us, but keep an eye on your pressure.
An O'Connor head is 14" from base to lens. Factor it in.
A monitor will not make you a good Dolly Grip.

*Update- I wrote this when I was primarily using steel track. It's nearly impossible to get decent steel track anymore and when I wrote this it was true (and still is for steel). Generally, any of the aluminum I-beam tracks, GI Track, FilmAir, etc are good enough that you may only rarely have to use skates anymore.


Anonymous said...

always love the "tip" posts. thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear, Another tip: always give the operator a couple of inches lower or higher than that he requested for. (it will save you an extra rebuild of the dolly-setup.

Unknown said...

I concur with g, these posts always have pointers that I retain for future usage

Anonymous said...

always mark the same wheels. doesn´t matter front or back. (i prefer the rear ones cause im closer to them and precision is all that matters)) - or whats the big advantage of the front wheels?

The Grip Works said...

I use the rear right wheel as well . And for the first mark I mark the front and rear right wheel so that I can correct the chassis rotation when I reset to the first mark. Incidendtally, if you get a chance please take a look at a movie called "The Darjeeling Limited" that I was key grip on. I was also operating dolly on the film. There is a move inside the airport which covers about 900 ft of move over 7 minutes (approx) in one shot with some of the trickiest compound moves I have done with lots of choreography - chairs being pulled out and replaced after the dolly passed. I also almost smacked the dolly straight into Owen Wilsons face, when he flubbed a line and stopped dead in his tracks and turned, with me hurtling right behind with 400 pounds of dolly on slick tiles!! I was very pleased that the entire move made it into the film.

Anonymous said...

one advantage to marking the front wheel at least on dance floor is that the camera is usually closer to the front end, so keeping the front precise with the marks means the camera is more precise with them as well despite any chassis rotation (which there always is).

Chris said...

Hey All! I think most dolly grips that I know use a front wheel. However I like to mix it up a little, I always use a registration mark on dance floor. then I use tape box marks to land the tires in.

I also use a little trick I learned from an animal trainer. like the animals, I mark a rear tire and step on the mark.

Adapting is a IMO a huge part of being a Dolly Grip and the less I do in repetition The better I get at adapting.

Side note: I can't wait to see Darjeeling!

Anonymous said...

i am with the marking the backwheel club

i was learned in the school that the front wheels are for the focus puller.

i am am also with gripworks marking the front and back on one side at the start of a dance floor move

if you do this your dolly should react the same every time and not
dogtrack as we call it in these parts

more tips when lining up your wheels don't trust the lines loosen your tabs get your steering in the neutral position and press your 4ft level against the wheels on one side to get them straight lock down the tabs now do the other side get someone to help if you have to always working the neutral position while you do your level thing

you will be amazed how your dolly doesn't dogtrack anymore

don't be afraid to throw some counterweight if your overweight operator is putting to much pressure on one wheel and turning your dolly into a whirling dervish

a balanced dolly is a happy dolly

only worry about your marks when you get into close up tight lens time just feel the groove get the shot if it means overshooting your mark by a foot do your monitor (it is expected that you have one as an a dolly grip)
nice greasy starts,learn the dialogue for your long push ins

that is all must sleep

D said...

Chris, you hit it on the head. Two reasons to mark the front. On dance floor, the back end skews around and marking the front wheel, which is closer to camera is more consistent. Precision to camera is what matters. You just learn what the relationship looks like to your mark from the back of the dolly. The other reason is that you don't have to tilt your whole head down to see your mark, taking your eyes off the action. You can just flick your eyes down and check it.
Gripworks- great story. I will check out that scene. Thanks for the info.
Thanks, Eric.
CB-good info. On Fishers, this is more necessary because the wheels are under the chassis, making line marks harder to see.
Thanks for the info.
Great comments everyone.

D said...

Didn't see yours til later Southern Grip. Welcome.
Focus pullers can do whatever they need to do. The front wheels are mine, and it helps them to see my marks too. Using the level is a great practice, although it doesn't quite reach on the Hustler 4, you can slide it enough to get it, or use a 1x3. It works great for Peewees and Hybrids. I had forgotten to mention this important technique. It might deserve its own post. Thanks.
Monitors are not necessarily expected as a Dolly Grip. They are a great tool for overs,etc, but you can miss a lot if you keep your head buried in them.
One thing I have said over and over is don't get glued to your marks to the point where if something changes, you don't adjust to match it. Although I wouldn't have said it exactly that way, I agree with what you're saying.
Great comments Southern Grip. Thanks for dropping by. I won't always agree with you but I respect your comments and expect many more.

D said...

PS Southern Grip, I'm an old Southern grip myself. We've probably crossed paths a time or two.

Unknown said...

I concur, d. I would love a post explaining more about straightening wheels with a 4 foot.

The Grip Works said...

I get your point about the front wheels being closer to the camera, but its been too many years of looking out for the back wheels. Also I find that I am able to see the marks peripherally without taking my eye off the action although I realise that is a lot easier if you use the front wheels. I guess old habits die hard !
I also prefer not to use a moniitor unless it is critical for overs . It is fairly easy to roughly judge the frame with experience. Its good to have the monitor for when you need it though !!

Anonymous said...

front or back, interesting story. i prefer rear side as well.
it surprises me that you (in ithe states) talk so much about dancefloor. its really quite unpopular in europe. seems that dolly grips in europe lay tracks much more often. me too. i assume 90 per cent of all moves.
hm, why`s that the way it is?

The Grip Works said...

Hi Anonymous,
Track is great where you can use it, but limits you to a linear move. Dance floor allows you to move in any direction you want. You can track in , out, left, right diagonal, whatever is required. Dancefloor allows you to be more flexible. Interior I prefer to use dancefloor if I can. It also allows you to use the dolly as an overkeeper on static shots. Incidentally I am from India, and I use dancefloor a lot here.

D said...

You are not alone in both respects, as you can see byu the comments. Everyone has their own system that works for them. I just want to help out the guys coming up.
That is interesting about track vs dance floor in Europe. In the US it is very common. I worked with a British DP earlier this year (Oliver Stapleton) who used a lot of dance floor and actually used it over steadicam when he could which I loved. Television series also tend to use it a lot which is why tv is such a great training ground for dolly grips because of the complexity of the moves coupled with the speed and intensity of the schedule. Thanks for the comments. It's always good to hear from a brother from across the pond.

Anonymous said...

In all my years I have never laid down a dancefloor... I did some moves on the available floor with its inheritance (?)
It seems that the opinion is here in Europe that laying a dance floor takes up to much time..?

I nearly never mark my wheels, I always look at the dance-rhythm of the move, look at the way the operator is moving his pan, now my amount of steps, have the feeling of the shot. Some small and accurate moves I remember and "take pictures" of the position of the dolly in reference of the sleepers. The positions in my area changes this often that it takes half of an hour to change marks :-)
In europe it is all about the money, saving money, saving time.

Good luck

(currently in Munich for Cinec)

Anonymous said...

i suspect you don't use dance floor in europe that much maybe because most crews follow the british system where the juicers do the flagging and what we would be considered gripping over here the dolly grip doesn't get the support (thanx guys) that he gets with the north american system

onno i have to disagree i would say that doing dance floor over track saves time and money.

spend some time with an old school director who lays it all out and churns out a 3 page scene in a couple of hours with the master all your coverage and a couple of pops for cutting points and you will truely know what doin the dance is all about.


Anonymous said...

I've been reading and enjoying this site for a while and I think the time may have come to say a little something.
I can't speak for the rest of Europe but certainly we, that is to say British grips get plenty of support and use dancefloor wherever there's space to get some in. Over here in the film market grips (a dolly grip is simply called a grip here as you probably know) are traditionally part of what is called the standby construction department and with the exception of dealing with the flags and rags this department does all the same stuff your grips do. We usually have a carpenter who will lay floors and build rail for us, a stagehand, a painter and a rigger. Sometimes there's a plasterer too and sometimes there will be a few of each grade in one standby unit. They are great guys and will carry a dolly, build us whatever we need and generally be really helpful to everyone on the job. Stagehands are ticketed to deal with Geniebooms (Condors), scissor lifts and that kind of thing, riggers are there to build anything with tube and steeldeck and between the guys they can knock together just about anything. Dancefloor is by no means just for inside here either, we carry pre-assembled frames made from 2x4s in all the common sizes of board we use so that a support can be thrown together quickly to span dancefloor over rough ground. If there's an impression that we are on our own over here, it's quite wrong. As for mainland Europe, in my experience every country has a subtley different system. In France for example the dolly grip bangs the sticks together, I have no idea how that would work.

Fantastic site guys, it's good to know we all have much the same problems to deal with wherever we're from!

A lowly British grip.

D said...

Anonymous, welcome. Thanks for speaking up.

Anonymous said...

I have those big boards of wood sitting near the tailgate of my truck but I rarely use them. It was different when I started, some 14 years ago but nowadays the dancefloor stays in the Truck most of the time. The Camerapeople know it takes a while to lay down a dancefloor with a typical German 2 man Grip Crew (1 Dolly Grip and 1 Assistant [on non international Productions that is]) so they either go for the available floor or Tracks. In Germany Grips and Juicers where working more hand in hand when I started in the business but it seems to get more and more divided into Two seperate Teams which only help each other when one of the departments is sereously underpowered and the other has nothing to do at all.

I have seen the British system work on a TV-Movie once and it was very impressive, your Standbys are really fast in laying down Tracks or dancefloor. The Dolly Grip shared the Truck with the Camera Department (only the dolly and accessories) the rest (rigging hardware, tracks and wood) where on the standby's truck.

In Germany it really depends on the "Oberbeleuchter" (Gaffer) if he wants his men to help the Dolly Grip or not. It seems the Younger the gaffer, the less help you get. Most of the Time it's easy to get the job done with Two people (if you are efficient). For Dolly carrying Duties I grab whatever unlucky Trainee is in my sight. ;-)

When I have big setups like very long Tracks on rough Terrain or Crane shots (bigger than a GF-9 or remotes) I usually order extra personnel for it.

The funny thing is that some Juicer Crews still rely on the Dolly Grip to bring stuff like scaffold tubing. How would they level the Big stands if we wouldn't bring the wood and they really like my beer pads for wall saving duties on their pole cats.

But in the end I don't care as long as the Camera People are happy in the end of the Day and call me up for the next show!

Greetz Dan

p.s. anonymous: what do you mean whith "banging sticks together"?

D said...

Hi Dan, I take it to mean that the dollygrip bangs the slate.

Anonymous said...


in my rookie year with the Techs, I was doing the slate. Back in the days the TV Crews where very small.

1 gaffer
2 sparks
1 dolly grip
and a Trainee (me in this case)

The camera department was the D.P. and the 1.A.C. (the only A.C.)

So the Trainee (me) was given the slate. I think i learned more about lenses, viewing angles and unwanted shadows in those days then ever afterwards. Although It is really hard at first, you learn a lot doing the slate because you are very close to the action.

Nowadays sometimes my assistent gets the slate job when the clapper/loader is to busy reloading.

Greetz Dan

Alia parker said...

To induce quality Stainless steel carts you should go to Ela Enterprise. They are giving quality racks, carts, dolly at a moo rate. Recently i bought carts from them for my kitchen. Now i can easily work in my kitchen.