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


Anonymous said...

that's a great post. totally informative and right on. stand ups and sit downs are one of the most challenging parts of dolly gripping. they are also one of the most rewarding because when you nail it, not only is that always a great feeling, but a camera operator will give you the ultimate look of respect and appreciation for not making him tilt up into the perms and not making him regret not putting that gear head into a higher gear. our job is always tough, but it's the little battles like that that earn you the respect and let you slide once in awhile when you fall asleep by take 14 and forget to push in at the right time....

this website is awesome and so over due for those of us that are chained to the dolly 70 hours a week. i look forward to reading and contributing when i can.

Anonymous said...

i like to be fully juiced (i,m talkin about the dolly not my drinking habits)for craning.especially on get gives you a consistent feel everytime.

D said...

Cadillac-Thanks so much for your input. Glad to know we're providing a service. Please stop by again.
Chris- Great point. I didn't think of this but the arm sure does slow down sometimes as it runs low, especially if it has more weight than usual. Thanks.