Thursday, December 25, 2008

Asking For Info

I have a question from tigger on the forum about Chapman Vibration Isolators. Has anyone used the "Small" "medium" or "Large" one?

(the "Small" one is pictured above)

The Medium and Large appear to be for both dollies and underslung on cranes. If any of you guys have used it give us a report and let us know how it did.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

End Of The Year Post

Another year has passed and though I wasn't going to post yet, I'm running on a couple of amaretto and coffees. A storm is brewing outside, and I'm here in Northern California in my Father-in-Law's computer room (what I like to call the "Command Center") It's been a good year for Dollygrippery, but a not so good year for a lot of Dolly Grips in general, what with the Writer's Guild Strike and now the slowdown due to a threatened SAG strike.
Our hits per day have really gone up from a couple of years ago, when , in a boring hotel room in Connecticut, I decided to start a blogsite dedicated to our strange vocation. I'd been on location for weeks in what is arguably the least exciting crossroads in the least exciting part of New England ever settled and just needed something to occupy my mind. So, I sat down and started writing. I had done endless searches on the "Interweb" for anything at all related to our craft and had come up with a few really poorly worded, and a few just flat out wrong, definitions and was determined to start something new. A place where Dolly Grips could log in and pop open a beer and talk some shop. A place where we could help define and quantify the craft we worked so hard to perfect, yet rarely recieved any recognition for. For years I had heard from operators and DP's about how really awful a lot of Dolly Grips were. Guys who were listless, disappeared at every chance, and had no feel for what the camera was seeing. Guys who didn't take the craft seriously, or didn't realize that it was a craft. They just took the spot to get a bump in the rate. And I was tired of getting painted with the same brush every time I worked with someone new. I decided it was time for us to have some sort of community. I was not prepared for the response. I was soon enthusiastically joined by Azurgrip and since then I have met and made friends with Dolly and Camera Grips from all over the world. I've also made friends with other industry bloggers like Michael at Blood, Sweat, and Tedium and the mysterious Script Goddess. A lot of the joy in this has been the realization that we all experience the same things from Saudi Arabia to India. Dolly Grips are a different breed. We love the poetry of a perfect camera move. That thrill that you get when you're able to nail a 5 point dance floor move with two booms and no rehearsals and credit it to experience and hard work because you've put in the time and practice. The symmetry of a precisely recreated dolly move landing on the same word of the same speech of dialogue every time. It's the perfect melding of engineering and artistry. These are things we should get together and talk about. And we should use our time and experience to teach those coming along behind us.
This is starting to sound like a mission statement as delivered by Jerry Maguire, and I don't want to get too self important about it, after all, we're not curing cancer. What we do, though, is a vital part of our industry and it's time we acknowledged that. Camera operators have guilds and Societies, DP's have Associations. Now, we have our own little brotherhood. And I want to extend a welcome to newcomers, and thank those who are regular visitors. Good luck in the new year and thank you for being a part of our little community. Keep it growing.
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Reprint of an Older Post (Because I'm On Vacation)

This is a repost of one I wrote a year or so ago. It's about the one move that scares a lot of new Dolly Grips: The Sit Down or Stand Up. It used to scare the hell out of me, now I love 'em. Just don't take the operator off the eyepiece. Anyway, I'm not writing as much this week because I'm on vacation, so enjoy. I've also added a forum to the right of the posts so try it out.


Stand ups/ Sit downs
This is one shot that scares a lot of newer dolly grips. It's when you raise or lower the camera with an actor as he stands or sits. A lot of the difficulty of this shot depends upon the actor doing it. An actor who has been around and understands and is aware of the camera will know that he shouldn't just leap out of a chair(unless the scene calls for it) or collapse suddenly into a chair. He will also know to avoid double take movements or false starts. The old timers- Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Robert Deniro-(and I've done this shot with all of them) understand this and will ease into a movement making it easy on you. For your part, watch the actor. Do not watch your marks. After doing this shot literally hundreds of times I can tell you that if you watch the actor intently, you will generally hit the mark (or be within an inch of it). Here's the bottom line, generally when you do this shot, one of the main reasons for it is to go upwith the actor so the camera isn't tilting up into lights or equipment. You don't have to nail the mark perfectly and if you have a sense of where it's supposed to stop, you'll generally be very close to it. So WATCH THE ACTOR, not your boom marks. Get the control valve ready so that you only have to crack it to start your movement. Watch how the actor does the movement during rehearsals. Does he lean over and then sit? Does he slide slowly into the chair? or does he suddenly fall into the chair with no warning? Most newer actors will do false starts or sudden movements making it hard to match them. It's because no one has ever taught them how to do it. Be ready for anything (as I say all the time). If an actor does a false movement and you commit, blowing a take, LET IT GO. It's not your fault and the operator knows and was probably caught in the same trap. I once worked with a jackass dp on a show who refused to believe that any fault lay anywhere but with me and the operator. The actress was rocketing out of a chair from 5 feet away and he wouldn't slow her down or change the shot no matter that she was going way faster than the dolly arm could. I had it wide open and it just couldn't keep up, so after 12 takes of this and the dp screaming louder and louder with each blown take, we finally got one that was passable but crappy. All he had to do was widen back a little so that we weren't right on top of her or ask her to take 10% off her move but he found it more constructive to simply scream at the operator and me. (On a happier note, his little tantrum (among others on that show) has since cost him at least one job with the producer who observed this tirade and refused to hire him again tee hee). Anyway, I digress. The main thing I want to get across for this shot is: watch the actors, not your marks
Posted by D at 11:36 AM

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Upcoming Topics

Hi everyone! I've kind of taken a break from really technical things regarding our field recently because I was a little low on material. Si has sent me some great pics of his set up and we'll be covering them in an upcoming post. Since I'm entering TV land, I want to get into more posts about do's and don't's of dance floor, coverage, nailing it with little rehearsal etc. I'm also in the process, with the "B" camera dolly grip, of deciding how to set up our equipment. My "B" guy is usually an "A" guy (he's Michael Mann's Dolly Grip), so I'm getting a lot of input from him and it's nice to have another Dolly Grip to bounce ideas off of. Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to head up to San Francisco for Christmas with the In-Laws and then to the South for a late Christmas with my parents and daughter. Everyone have a safe and happy holiday!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Day Playing

I filled in for CB today on his series. The cast and crew made me very welcome and it was a good day. Thanks to CB for the call. I had forgotten how free form tv is nowadays. There's no long discussion of each shot with a finder etc. This is a gesture, a couple of vague marks and lay a floor from which you pretty much shoot it on the fly. It was fun and helped me get my tv chops back. Everything is overs and dirty singles and split foreground overs and ups and downs on the fly. It was good to get back behind a dolly. CB is a Fisher user and he has the best Fisher arm I've ever had. You can tell he takes time to have it set up right. I'm not ready to give up my Hustler or anything, but it was a sweet arm to use. The B camera Dolly Grip is a guy who has been an "A" guy for years and I have known his name forever but had never met him in person and he was a huge help today, coming in, as I was, not knowing any of the grips or where anything is and he was a pleasure to work with. I did know a few of the AD staff from the movie I did in Boston earlier this year and the operator is an old friend I've done six pictures with so it was like a reunion.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More Great Work

Before we were thrown off course by the tragic events in Mumbai (See the post "Mumbai"), I had solicited all you Dolly Grips for some clips of work you are particularly proud of. Onno sent me this link to a great clip from a commercial. If whoever did this one is reading, speak up! I remember this one! Really nice dolly, crane, and, I assume, insert car work. Check it out at - When I started this blog I never really thought about how much response I would get from our European brothers, not to mention those in Australia, New Zealand, and India.
This link may be a two-for-one. When I watched it, it was preceded by a trailer from The Day the Earth Stood Still on which our friend Gil, of GI Track, was the Dolly Grip. It has some nice moves in it. So the call still goes out. I haven't heard from my co-administrator Azurgrip or many others of you. Scour Youtube for movies you've done. This is a chance for you to shine a little in front of your peers. If I don't start getting submissions, I'll start putting my own crap up, and nobody wants that.

On the work front, we have a camera test on Friday and start shooting the second week in January. It goes nine months (barring a SAG strike), but I'll see if I can last that long on episodic. It's a vampire show (aren't they all nowadays) so you know what that means.
Good luck everyone and send in those clips. I'm also looking on Youtube myself for movies that those of you I know have done that have really good work in them so don't be surprised if you see familiar (to you) stuff here. Stay safe.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Great Post and My Week of Rigging

Go on over to Blood, Sweat, and Tedium ( and read Michael's great post on his first dolly job (which reminds me a lot of my first dolly job). It will bring a smile to your face and you may laugh out loud. The guy makes me want to be a better writer.
Much like Michael's fish out of water tale of dollies, I spent the week (and will spend the next two) rigging the stage for the series I start in January. This type of thing happens from time to time. The Key Grip, who knows damn well I'm not a rigger, will call me up and offer a couple of weeks of prep work if I have nothing else going on. As we are in the middle of the pre-holiday slow down, I gladly take it, knowing that, for me, rigging means I'll be bolting truss together, looking through crates of ageing steel hardware looking for some species of clamp I haven't seen, much less had occasion to use in over 15 years, and standing on the ground looking up, mouth agape and waiting to tie something on a rope so they can pull it up. Most set grips will tell you that riggers are a different breed. They're mostly tattooed, smoking, and listeners of bands with names like Rancid or Lucifer. When you watch these guys scramble around on the perms, 50 feet over a concrete floor, you gain a lot of respect for them. They are meticulous in their craft. "No, the shackle goes that way." "No, run the span set around that way." "No, the bolt goes down." These are the phrases that are directed at me most days. They are zeroed in on the most minute details of the placement of every piece of rigging they install. They have to be. It only takes one mistake to send thousands of pounds crashing down on someone's head. I always feel kind of awkward around them. Especially when I'm up in the catwalk having instructions barked at me, knowing the 20- something juicers nearby are thinking, "Oh look they're breaking in another rookie."
All of this is magnified by the fact that I hate prep. I also hate wrap. It just seems endless and mind numbing. I'm grateful for the work, but I don't have to like it. The never ending search for a drill bit, or a 9/16ths driver, or waiting for the shipment of foam core to come in so you can finish whatever project you started yesterday and should have finished by now just wears me down. Knowing that sometime this week I will be involved in the skinning of 60 4x4 empty frames doesn't inspire me much. But I am learning a lot of things I had forgotten about the basics of grip stage rigging. I hadn't hung a chain motor in years, so it's good to get requainted with the proper way to do it from someone who knows their stuff. So riggers, I salute you and I can't wait until you show up as a dayplayer.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Little Under the Weather

I'm hacking my way through a cold I caught at the stage I've been working in, so posting is a little slower than usual. I haven't been sick in years but I'm down for a few days. Also, Alabama lost to Florida for the college football SEC Championship so I'm mad about that.