Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Straightening the Tires Etc.

One of the comments to the last post of tips (I think it was Southern Grip) mentioned using a 4' level to align your wheels before a dance floor move. This is a great technique that I've somehow forgotten to mention. Every dolly skews around to some extent. It depends on weight distribution, where you are pushing from, and how far your move is. Chapman dollies have friction tabs instead of positive wheel locks like Fishers. You generally keep the lines on the tabs in line with the lines on the wheels from center steer position and they work fine. To get a little more true alignment, however, it's a good idea to use a level (or any straight edge at least 4' long. Put the dolly in center steer locked position, loosen the tabs on one side of the dolly, press your level firmly against the outside flat face of the wheels, lock the tabs when they're aligned and repeat for the other side. You'll find that this does a great job of lining them up and tracking will improve (as much as it's gonna). Always ask for some extra shims for the tabs from Chapman or the rental house too. The tabs tend to loosen up over time and the slightest bump will throw them out of alignment. Removing the top plate of the tabs and shimming them will tighten them up.
I love the "tips" posts just for the fact that they generate so much response. Some agree, and some disagree, but at least everyone talks and we can all learn a few things. If you have any tips that you use, either email them to the address above, or leave them in the comments and I'll post some of them.

8 comments:

g said...

I just finished reading Billy Taylor's book "Based on the Movie" that you guys recommended in an earlier post. It made me laugh out loud as well. I could, as anyone in this business would, relate to so much of the craziness he wrote of. My favorite description of his... "Film sets are limbo lands of temporal confusion where the only thing that matters is the shot you're working on at that moment. It's kind of like Buddhism, only without the enlightenment." It was also kind of cool to be able to tell the inquiring checkout girl at the bookstore that the book was about a dolly grip. Of course that "ihavenoideawhatyouaretalkingabout" gaze came over her eyes when I started to explain what a dolly grip was... but thanks to Billy for the great read- it was an Ode to Filmmaking-grip style.

Anonymous said...

hi D,
could you please give a more deatailed description of wheel straightening on fisher dollies (10/11)? the chapman dollies with their friction tabs was very descriptive, but i was wonderin if there was anything special to do with the fishers.
thanks.

Wick said...

Fisher dollies should only be realigned by trained Fisher techs. While the level method will work as a quick fix, the correct way of aligning the wheels involves quite some time (1/2 day minimum) and specialized tools from Fisher. The good thing is, if the wheel alignment was correctly adjusted prior to the job, it'll probably be good for months.

D said...

Thanks Wick. Anonymous was referring to a way to align tires on the fly before a shot. You are, of course, correct. Fisher wheels don't require it like Chapman's do because they lock into position, where Chapman's have friction tabs that tend to loosen after time. Chapman wheels will become out of line, sometimes purposefully, to perform a particular shot. It's part of the design, requiring manual realignment where Fisher's don't.

Wick said...

D et alia,

The flexible wheel geometry of the Chapman Peewee and Hybrid dollies also plays a role. Same deal with Elemacks, Panthers, Magnums, etc. It's just not possible to align the wheels with the precision of the Fishers what with all the added variables. As you say, the tabs (and shims) are necessary to compensate with the Chapman dollies.

Anonymous, if you're in or near L.A., call Fisher and go out to the plant. The guys there will be happy to show you around and may even help you with tech questions.

D said...

Hi Wick, That's basically what I'm saying (although we may be saying the same thing) I'm not talking about a precision shop "alignment" where they tighten the chains etc. I just mean a normal adjustment to get the wheels back where they can track straight. Thanks for the Fisher input. Although I started on Fisher 10's some 20 years ago, I haven't really pushed one for any length of time for at least ten years, so I've forgotten a lot of little tricks for them and depend on my regular Fisher readers to chime in. Thanks for the input and don't be a stranger.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I work the camera's at my church and the front camera is the one that moves about the church to capture the close shots and there is a cord on it that's very long and hard for me as a female to move fast and adjust the cord at the same time. Is there a device I could make that retracts and release that cord if so where can i get the supplies or equipment S Gordon

D said...

Hi S Gordon. You don't say if you're handheld (I assume you are) or on some kind of dolly. If you're handheld, I don't think a mechanical device is the answer. Still too many opportunities for the cable to "clothesline" someone while you're not looking. You need some volunteer to wrangle cable for you. On a dolly, try making a "curb feeler" out of two grip clips and a strong, flexible length of metal tubing (like you see on microphones on podiums sometimes)about 18" long.. Clip one end to the side of the dolly, and wrap your cable around it and through the clip at the other end. This will keep the cable out away from your wheels.