Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Running Off The Rails

We've all done it. It's not something to be proud of, but you wear it like a scar or a bad tattoo. It usually starts with a pretty long move, something 30 feet or longer. Thrown in are a few contributing factors; a fast subject like a dog or car, wet grass, an overconfidence in your capabilities. All these factors mix together and kick in to cause what accident investigators call an event cascade. One thing leads to another and suddenly you're hurtling toward the last four feet of track way too fast as you desperately try to find traction on the slippery ground. Your last thought may be, "Oh #$$#!", or "I should have made that 8' a 10'." I'm speaking of course of running off the track.
There are really two ways it happens. Either you just forget where the end is as you're focusing on the action and the back or front just drops off with an unsettling clunk, or, and this is my favorite, you shoot off the end like a rocket sled. I'm usually good for a drop off on pretty rare occasions. I've only done the more spectacular finish once or twice. The one that comes to mind, and I can still see it as if it were yesterday, was on a movie several years ago in Mississippi. We were shooting in a cemetary at night. It had rained all week and the grass was soaked. As I recall, I had a rather swift pullback with Enzo, the Jack Russell Terrier who worked with his brother Moose on Frazier. I had plenty of track and never really gave it a second thought. Man that dog was fast. The start and middle part of the move were great. Then I realized I couldn't stop and 700 lbs of dolly and operator and Panaflex were airborne like they had been shot out of a cannon. I think I got three cusswords out before they even hit the ground. It was an awkward hour or two after that. Luckily, we had set up across the street from a local crack den. It seems that a couple of 18ks in condors,light balloons, and 200 crew members with cameras are an effective deterrent to the drug trade. So the understandably irritated dealers decided to take a couple of shots at us and immediately gave me and everyone else something new to think about. That's the most memorable one for me. Since then, I've really only clunked off the end a couple times. And no, I don't want a cardellini on the end of the track unless it's more than a foot or so off the ground. I did replace a guy one time who ran off the track twice in one day. I think both of his were of the more spectacular version of dismount though. Now that guy might want a cardellini.


Anonymous said...

Great post D,
though I never ran completely of the Track (with all wheels) I just managed to run of a longer walk and talk track when I forgot that after the last stop I was supposed to stay put. My second tried to avoid my "restart" but that young kid had not the power to stop me jumpstarting that dolly again and so I dropped the rear wheels of the track.
The D.P. just turned around and rolled his eyes with a big grin.
In the end whe had to put another piece of track on, because my restart wasn't such a bad idea after all to get the last line of the actors...

On the shooting of "Far away so close" The dolly grips managed to run of a Longer L shaped Track without the D.P. even realizing the roll-of while he was looking through the camera.
They had enough persons for safety on the end of the track and they managed to hold the dolly (PeeWee) level with half the wheels in the air.

I would always recommend to leave the cardellinis away except on high dropoffs.
When you push a dolly with the camera facing in the travelling direction on a clamp, the operator will smash his eye against the eyepiece, which is a really bad thing to happen.
If you push the dolly of the track, the first thing that happens is the operator will come of the eyepiece, so the worst thing that can happen is usually a broken part on the dolly (though I didn't manage to break anything yet).

Greetz Dan

D said...

Hi Dan- DP's usually take it pretty well. It's just one of those things that happens from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Holy Cow. In my short time dolly gripping, I haven't ran into this yet. But knowing that it happens to everyone, and will eventually happen to me is kind of consoling, I guess. I'll stop clamping the end of the tracks as well, as I don't want to the reason the cam op has a black eye.

Anonymous said...

Just as a reminder:

Running a crane of the track will result in desaster and probably get somebody hurt!

So you should always put double clamps on a crane track (both rails and both sides). A fully loaded Galaxy, GF-16 or Techno will not stop at a single Cardellini.
Because of the momentum a crane has, make sure he will never get to the clamps though.
Therefore never forget to lay an extra bit of Track that is just for safety.
Tell the guys who push the base (if they are unexperienced), to stop the Base in time at all cost, no matter what.
Make them aware of the momentum that kicks in when you have to slow the movement of the arm.
This is even more important with a manned crane!

Safety first at all times!!!

Greetz Dan

Wick said...

I used to use a sandbag on the theory that it would slide when hit (if properly laid out and plumped up). I did blow out a knee hoping I was fat enough to stop a crane I was carelessly swinging during an industrial presentation (on a marble floor, in street shoes no less) when it got away from me.

The most frustrating, and I remember it as if it was yesterday, was tracking on front of two guys walking quickly through an airport. The whole move was running backwards, and using a Doorway Dolly with a center turret. The lead had about two minutes of dialogue, and when he ended, they stopped walking and the other actor had one line, which he flubbed four times in a row. I should add this was in an airport in Germany with basically no lockup, just PAs clearing real people while we ran.

Anonymous said...

Years ago I had a walk and talk traveling shot with over 40 meters of track on artificial grass (hockey-stadium). The first couple of takes the actors had a stop, do some talk, and continue their walk as we traveled along. Then THIS take, the did not have their stop, so at the end of my track there was still some dialog left... I was this much concentrated that I did not see the approaching end. My Panther on Egripment track had just a 2 cm floorclearence, so when I run of the track the operator just felt a slight bump and I continued the tracking on the grass for a couple of meters (swearing and sweating). At "cut" the operator just said to me that the last trackjoint was a very bad one... Whole crew just laughed and pleasure after all.

More often it happens when a 'no-so-relaxed-operator" steps on or off the dolly, pushing the dolly at or over the end. With the double wheels of the panther it just hurts the trackend...

More Stories!


Anonymous said...

So, I was called in the second week of a pretty big feature to replace the A dolly grip. I was a bit out of my element because i was recomended for the job and knew nobody on the crew. So, the first day, we are in a small elevator set and i have a pee wee on 8 feet of track with the hot gears underslung, almost on the deck. An "A" list actor was sitting in the corner of the elevator for the scene...
So i just have a small creep along the track, maybe a 2 foot move....all is set and we are getting ready to shoot.....I turn around and look through the solids that are surrounding the small set, to see if any of my brothers could get my laser, and at that moment, the boom operator decides to lean against the dolly and continue his conversation...he hear this big thunk behind me and knew exactly what it was............he pushed the dolly right off the track and rolled it within 5 inches of the actor.....not a good first day.......
Totally my fault for walking away, even if it was 3 feet....without putting on the brake!! ALways put on the break when you walk away!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

it's always better to push then to pull.

get a buddy to help at the end of the track to slow you down

get cones from locations to warn your track is running out

if you are pushing a peewee get a push bar where you can fit a seat post over the handles it gives you a lot more control on long fast moves

when using a crane on a raised track do not use full or half apples to level .carry 6x6 posts cut into 1 foot pieces and 1/4 apples to level.whatever the case use solid material.I have seen full apples fold like a house of cards under a techno

safety first right on

Anonymous said...

Southerngrip said: : "It's always bettter to push than to pull."

I wouldn't quite agree on that one.

For really Fast acceleration, pushing is the way to go, but on everything else I go where I see the most (of the action) without turning my head and without standing in the eyeline, if that's pushing, pulling or sidesteppin' isn't important just develop a feeling where you are on the track.
Cones are something I try to keep away from the track, because you will see them more than anything else in the reflections.

Greetz Dan

Azurgrip said...

I can say that I've only run off once (now that I've brought it up it will happen again), and have watched a Hybrid do the equivalent of Fonzie's jump over the shark. Generally, I don't use stop brakes (Cardellinis, sandbags, etc) with dollies, but will with cranes.

However, with GI Track, I do use Cardellinis to stop the track caps from seperating, but I do worry about using them around the same folk who can't pick up their feet and knock all your wedges out.

I have a rule of thumb. A case of beer PER wedge kicked, payable BEFORE end of day.

D said...

Man that's a lot of beer!
Danny, great story. This kind of thing is way more common since the advent of skate wheels. It's happened to me too, also the boom guy. I also once had one of the actresses on a series I was doing absentmindedly turn the boom handle shooting the camera 4' up. It scared her to death and she never did it again.

D said...

I only decide if I'm pushing or pulling depending on which way the camera is looking and what's most advantageous for the operator in getting the shot. It is better to push if you can on fast ones, which is what Southerngrip was saying, I think. Good idea about the 6x6's. Our crew had double reinforced appleboxes made for crane work. A lot of the boxes from rental houses are just crap and can't take the weight. Our boxes are heavier, but take the guesswork out of supporting the track. A lot of times younger grips especially will throw a cardellini on the end or ask if I want one. Only on crane track or track that is high on one end or on the edge of a drop is what I tell them. I don't want some DP thinking I don't know where the end of the track is so leave em off.

Dcitroni said...

Hope Darrel is around met him at a wedding last weekend. Great to meet you bro

I had my first "accident" just a month ago. I was on planks so no damage. Just my pride.
I was watching the monitor to settle the move over a person. Little did I know after 2 takes the opperator had the person move.
They called CUT and as the "T" was ending I went off the planks!.
The key grip got on the radio and called the crew in to torment me.


Chris said...

Pride should never get in the way of safety!