Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Serenity

Just re-watched this great sci-ft feature. Great work on Sean Devine's part! Having spent a fair amount of time in confined space ship sets I know just how tough it is to fight for your space. Two thumbs up!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Link

I found an excellent site at http://cineman.co.uk/ by cinematographer Oliver Stapleton that has some great info for those trying to break in to the film biz. Check it out.

Reposting...

I'm a little short on ideas lately (somebody give me one) so I'm reposting a column from last year.

Consistency

This is the one that may take time to develop. It's repeating a move exactly on every take. This mainly comes into play when timing a move to dialogue. The director may want you to leave on a certain word and land on a certain word of an actors speech. First, get a set of sides. You should get one every morning anyway as a matter of course. If you have any doubts about when an actor speaks or moves, remember ,the script supervisor is your friend. Ask them. After that, it's all about watching and listening. You will generally need do the move at least once to time it out to the dialogue. Then you know by what part of the speech you land if you need to go slightly slower or faster. Sometimes, you can just feel at what point you should land and this will often turn out to be right. Sometimes the director will have a different part of the dialogue in mind and he/she will give you a different word to land on. Once you've seen it and gotten an idea of your proper speed, you should be able to nail it every time. I generally know where I should be at the halfway point of a speech and then I can guage how I'm doing and may have to add a half percent of speed or take some off, but only if I can do it imperceptably. If I can't, I know to add or subtract it in the next take. If you see that you are going to land slightly early, you can sometimes fudge it in the feathering. Generally no one will know but you. If there's no dialogue, you just have to go by instinct. A good dolly grip can repeat a speed almost exactly every time, once he chooses a speed. I often zone in on a wheel and stare at it as it turns. I can match the speed of the move by remembering how fast the wheel was turning before. It's all in a feeling and is developed over time. I once repeated a 40 foot effects plate shot, matching to the live action I did just before it and at the end was a half second off. This isn't to blow my own horn, any good full time dolly grip could have done it (and some may not have missed it by a half second), but it's to show you what I mean by consistency. You will eventually get to the point where you know what the director wants before he tells you. If you weren't a fan of movies, you probably wouldn't be in this job, so take what you know from a lifetime of movie watching and use it, something probably no other occupation can do. You eventually will develop a feel for dialogue and camera moves that is second nature and will know what to do before you are told. THAT"S a dolly grip.
Posted by D at 8:28 PM 0 comments

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Video

I found this video of behind the scenes of The Incredible Hulk on which our own Azurgrip was Dolly Grip. It looks like fun. Apparently The Hulk doesn't like cars.

Whew!

I just got in from two days of reshoots on a movie we finished two years ago. It was rainy. It was cold. We did dolly shots of telephone poles, doors, buildings, and trees while various production assistants in 1930's dress staggered around in the frame.
I did do an interesting effects shot. We did a 3 fps shot pushing in on a train. The shot needed to be as steady as possible with as little variation of speed as we could get. We all know that creeps are the hardest shots. They just go on forever and it's really taxing to hold a constant speed that slow. I laid the dolly track on a slight slope so I really needed no effort to push it in and was able to give it only the amount of pressure to keep it moving steadily. we did 20 second push ins, 30's , and16's. It worked great.
The Dp was unsure whether it could be done. I didn't tell him about the slope or that I really wasn't doing much. Sometimes, it's all about how you look.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New Link

I've just added a new link to Cinemoves. These guys are Technocrane experts. I've done more movies and commercials with their stuff than I can count. Their techs are the greatest and a lot of them are former Dolly Grips. Check 'em out.

New Video

The "making of" video of the ABN/AMRO commercial is up courtesy of Onno at Solid Grip Systems. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Every Time I Think I'm Out....

A couple of years ago, I decided to go to Europe. I had just finished two pretty exhausting movies in a row, and I had never been, so I decided to just pick a city out of the blue and take off.
I'd had my fill of track and screaming First AD's, blinding HMI's and constant activity. I looked at a map and decided on Berlin.
I'd always been a WW2 buff and wanted to see the places I'd read about, and also see how people lived on the other side of the Atlantic. So I packed a backpack, bought a ticket and a week later was winging across the ocean. I really had no idea where I would go when I landed and that was part of the adventure. When I got there, I looked at a map and picked what seemed to be a nice suburban part of Berlin where a hostel I had read about was located.
I found it after several aborted bus rides, and broken English directions. It was a nice building in a nice neighborhood with a bar across the street. It was getting dark, so I checked in, threw my pack in my room and decided to go across the street for a beer.
I stepped out into the chilly night and as I crossed the street, I noticed some activity around the corner. There were a few people milling about as if assembled for some event, so I changed direction and wandered towards them to see what was going on.
That's when I saw the 18k with 1/2 CTO on it.
"No way," I thought.
Then I saw 50' of dolly track with a Peewee perched on it, ready for action.
Yes, in all the neighborhoods in all the cities, on all the days, I had chosen a hostel literally 100ft from a movie set.
I backed slowly away, ran to the bar, and quickly downed two beers.
The bartender, a nice lady who spoke English, asked me what was going on around the corner.
"I have no idea," I said. "Give me another one."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Video

This video of a commercial was sent by our friend Onno of Solid grip Systems. It's a pretty cool example of in-camera dolly effects. In a couple of days, I'll post the behind-the-scenes video he sent of how they did it. It's a pretty cool around-the-world-rig.
It reminds me of one we made for the opening sequence of a movie called Envy.

Thanks Onno.

Wedges or Pads?

Recently (well, a year ago) worked with a Key Grip who is a good friend of mine who tried to sell me on a different system for levelling track. We've all used wedges. They're our friends, we understand them, they're ultimately expendable. There is another system that uses wooden pads, roughly 4'' square, of varying thicknesses, all color coded. They pack very neatly in a crate by color. They go from about 1/8" up to , I guess 2" in thickness. While laying the track, you would, depending on what thickness you need, yell, "Give me a green!" or "give me a red!"
You get the idea.
I tried. I really did. My Key Grip friend swears by it. I'm sure he's right (he usually is about these things) but I just couldn't get used to it. Finally, after about two days of, "Give me a green, no, a re... where's a yellow?" I revolted and offered my resignation if he didn't get me a barrel of good old fashioned wedges (Well, that's not exactly how I worded it, but I'm much calmer now).

When the wedges arrived, I cut my track laying time by approximately half.

I've no doubt that this system works great for those used to it. Obviously a track leveled on flat pads, rather than sloped wedges will tend to stay in one place longer, I just didn't have the patience. Maybe I'm too set in my ways. I barely have enough capacity left in my brain as it is without having to remember how thick a "red" is. I know Jim Kwiatkowski's guys use it (Munich, Minority Report, every Spielberg movie since Schindler's List). So I know it works.
Anyway, anyone use this system?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Really Cool New Link

The new link, Local 80- Chris Hager Photographs, takes you to Chris Hager, Local 80 member and photographer's site. On it is a side of the Grip Dept you won't often see. Chris worked for years at the Warner Bros Grip Dock. When guys would come in to load out, he would set them up against a backdrop, complete with a backlight and a stool, and take a photograph. If I remember, he would tell you to "make a funny face or do something crazy" and then take several different versions. After a while, the wall at the grip dock was covered in these really cool black and white head shots of the grips from Local 80 who'd been through there. You would then recieve a copy in the mail when he got around to it. Mine is framed in my mother's house. All these photographs are now up on the web at this link. Take a look, you'll see several familiar faces in a new way.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pictures

We're trying to set up an area for pictures, so I'm doing some experimenting. Unfortunately, with just a blog site, you are limited in what you can do (we may have to move this to an actual website at some point, just so we can do really cool stuff). Anyway, if you have any cool pictures of yourself behind the sled, or next to the camera, pointing, send them in. I'm going to see how much I can do. I've put one up already. It's me and Denzel (my Key Grip is the one whose face is hidden by the finder. Sweet.) So email 'em to us.

New Links




There are a couple of new links up. One is called Hurry Up and Wait. It's by a camera assistant and it's cool. The other is Branded in the 80's. Although it's not an industry related site per se, I enjoy it and thought those of you who wore parachute pants and mullets (you know who you are) in 1985 might too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Atonement


I went and saw Atonement the other day. It's one of those movies that makes you (me anyway) proud to do this. The photography by Seamus Macgarvey and the dolly work by Gary Hutchings were phenomenal. Gary's work makes me feel like I have claws for hands. You can usually tell a dolly pusher who knows his stuff by his starts and stops, or when there's heavy foreground in a shot. If you're not on your game, foreground will bite you every time. Stops are especially telling. It's where you really show whether you have the dolly, or the dolly has you. Sometimes, if you don't do that little 1/2-second reversal of momentum at the final inch of a slow move you'll have a little sudden settling rollback. That's the best I can explain it and most of you know what I'm talking about anyway. Those who don't, leave a comment and one of us will have a go at it. Anyway, Hutchings is a master and his moves are dead-on, done with feeling and delicately executed. I saw a behind the scenes clip of the famous steadicam shot and if I'm not mistaken, he (the steadicam op) was being pulled for at least part of it. So the Dolly Grip should get at least a little of the glory that everyone's heaping on the operator. If we gave out awards for Dolly Grip of The Year (and maybe we should) he would certainly get my nomination. So go see it. But try not to pay attention to all the technical stuff. I've already done it for you.
PS- With that said, I do want you to look for the handheld shot of Kiera Knightley as she primps in front of her mirror. Then tell me what you think of it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A British Grip Talks about the British System.


One of our readers, Ian Mussel, is a British Key/Dolly Grip. After several years in England, he now works in the Middle East.
I asked him to tell us how he got started and some ways the British system differs from the U.S.




I started out in the British industry completely by accident, I was looking for building or
mechanical work both of which I had experience in. I was introduced to a great guy called Andy Young who "needed a hand with a crane"
I was very grateful for the days work, not knowing what I was letting myself in for. The job turned out to be a Giraffe on the hairpin of a race track for the world touring car championship! I remember thinking wow this has got to be the best way in the world to earn a living! Incidentally I still feel the same way now!
So from there I went onto a tv drama with the same guy as trainee and got some great experience which led me to become a crane and remote head tech at Panavision. So my foot was in the door of the big budget features world where I met, in my opinion, one of the greatest grips in the uk, Vic Hammond. After a while he offered me the position of 'b' camera grip on a movie he was doing, I was terrified, a real baptism of fire! I got through it though all be it with a lot of help from Vic. I went on to grip a much smaller movie on my own and the rest I guess is history!



Here are some questions:
D- A British Key Grip I used to work for, named Chunky, told me once about prospective dolly grips being put in a room and practicing circles with dollies all day. Did you do this?
I've heard a lot about chunky from the guys i trained with but never heard of rooms full of potential grips dollying round in circles! (might not be a bad idea though!)

D- Do ac's operate the boom?
it is traditional for 2nd ac's to operate the boom in the u.k, i personally don't like this method and normally dolly and boom myself, i do however always do my best to train 2nd ac's to boom as many other grips insist they do it.

D- What dollies do you use there? Which do you like?
i always try and use the hustler 4 regardless of how challenging the location (see american cinematographer 12/07) if its a real problem then i use the peewee 3+, i find the hustler to be amazingly stable and very quick and easy to make comfortable for the operator.

D- What exactly do British camera grips do? Do you protect the lens from flares?
british camera grips are responsible almost solely for camera support equipment, if there is a flare then the lighting department fix it or occasionally the camera crew depending on who you’re working with. we tend to have far less grips on set than the electrical department the general rule is one grip per camera.

D- I know you work in the Middle East now. How much work is there? What kind?
the work in the middle east is surprisingly plentiful i think more so than anywhere else in the world mostly because there are only 4 or 5 of us keys here! we don’t get any work from tv and very few feature films, but last year i did over 70 commercials! the majority being high end car commercials.


I'd like to thank Ian for his interesting answers. I hope you like them.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Player

I actually am one of those people who just don't get Robert Altman's movies. I've tried. I even worked with him years ago and he was great, but I just don't enjoy his films.
All that aside, here is the famous 8 minute crane shot from the opening of The Player. It's pretty amazing. Especially with all this talk of the 5 minute Steadicam shot from Atonement, I think it's appropriate. Just when you think it's over, they take off again. Key Grip Tony Marra told me they resurfaced the parking lot for the Titan and it's beautiful (the shot not the parking lot although it is very nice). So here it is in the video bar, performed by Dolly Grip Wayne Stroud and the unnamed grips who assisted.....

PS- I picked the video with French titles, it just adds something.

Friday, January 11, 2008

X Files

As a result of my recent unemployment, I find more time to watch television. Today, I watched several early episodes of the X Files. I had forgotten how good they were. The camera movement is gorgeous. I remember when the show first aired how impressed I was with the almost flawless camera moves. Many of us have done episodic work and know how grueling it can be. You rarely get more than two rehearsals before you roll. The X Files dolly and crane work was some of the most consistently dead-on camera movement I have ever seen in TV. I looked through Youtube to find some examples, but no luck yet. When I find some, I'll post them. If any of you did those shows, my hat's off.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Video

I was looking on You tube for just miscellaneous dolly shots (again, I need a hobby) and came across this clip of the tear-jerking final scene from My Dog Skip. Skip is played by "Moose" from Frasier. Before I knew it I was tearing up, so I punched myself in the side of the head. Thankfully, my wife isn't home. Watch it if you dare. (alone is best). The first push-in was done on a Titan Crane. I don't remember why but I'm sure there was a good reason. I think the initial pull-out from the bed when Skip enters is a tad too fast. If I remember, it was to get Moose into frame a little earlier. If I had it to do over, I would have taken a little off. But, there it is. Other tools used: Chapman Hybrid and Peewee 3.

The video has since been changed but is available at this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjX7QJwzp-U
Rest in Peace, Moose.

Tips for New Dolly Grips (As Requested)

Most important thing- attitude. Act like you've been there before. Be cool. The operator and the DP need to trust you so when they ask you if you can do something, as long as you know it's physically possible, nod, look thoughtful, and say "sure" like you were asked if the sky's blue. If you know it can be done, you'll figure out a way to do it.

Don't ask the operator how the shot was after each take. If it sucked, believe me, they'll tell you. All you're doing is annoying the operator and showing your insecurity.

Have fun. Make the people around you laugh when you get the chance. If you don't have a sense of humor, wear a funny hat. (ok, if you don't have a sense of humor you don't realize that's a joke). Making movies should be fun.

Be the operator's extra eyes on set. You're a camera operator too. Look for reflections, look for cables, look for shadows. It ain't all about the moves. They'll appreciate you for this because, trust me, a lot of guys don't do this.

Mark the front wheels. The chassis kicks around on dance floor and back wheel marks can't be trusted.

Know your eyelines. Know the rule, know where they are throughout a scene. You'll be amazed how much this helps you be a better dolly grip. Plus, there's nothing better than informing the DP/operator that the eyeline he's just set up is wrong.... and being correct. It freaks them out.

Learn what you can and can't get away with. This comes mostly with experience, but you'll learn when you can get away with little shortcuts such as not having to level the track completely, when the floor will work fine, and other things that will save you time.

Make friends with the electricians. They can be your best friend, or worst enemy. For some reeason, juicers love the dolly. I can't tell you how many times I've been away from the dolly doing something else and a juicer stepped in and covered me for a second by booming up and inch or sliding left or right. You also need the electricity they provide or it'll be a long show.

Protect the lens. Look for flares. Flag 'em.

Marks aren't everything. It ain't about getting from one to two, it's about what the camera sees. If you think it's all about the marks then you don't have a chance. (This doesn't mean it isn't important to hit your marks, but there are times when it's more important to have the camera in the right place than hit a mark. You only learn these times, ironically, by not watching your marks.)

Endeavor not to suck.

That's all for now. There are some very good veteran Dolly Grips who read this site (and one who posts on it from time to time). I welcome them to add their own tips in the comment section and I'll add them to this post.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Dolly Lifting Party!!!

While on the topic of schlepping, I'm just coming off a nasty back injury that's had me laid up for several months (remember - when carrying sticks with a rubber head, do not twist to get out of the way of someone in a rush...) and now am faced with trying to get back into shape.

Although I have done the "gym" thing in the past and believe in having to help work up the unused muscles, in recent years have fallen slack a have become one of the "my work is workout enough" people. As I get along in years and hear more and more complaints from various parts of my body, I'm thinking that I should at least start my days with stretching. Any suggestions? What's part of your daily regime?

Building the Perfect Dolly

With so many different types of dollies to choose from for theatrical/episodic work, it's inevitable that Dolly Grips will align themselves with their favorites. The perfect one, I think, would have features of all of them. How many times have I wished for a Fisher 10 brake on a Hybrid or Peewee. My shoes all have holes worn in the tops from flipping off the brakes. I also like the sound a Fisher 10 brake makes when you disengage it. It means it's time to get down to business: Quiet please! Settle....aaannd roll camera...........Kerchink! I love that sound but I've always had a flair for the dramatic. A few years ago, I took to twirling the lifting handles on my Hybrid, after picking it up and setting it down on track, and slamming them in the receivers like a cowboy twirling two six shooters. I'm such a loser sometimes, I'm really trying to suppress the urge to do that. Azurgrip recently asked about the Hybrid with roundy that has been making the rumor circuit for a while now. I had a Chapman rep dash those hopes for the immediate future though. "They think people who use the Hustler 4 will abandon it and go back to the Hybrid." Which makes sense I guess depending on how you look at it. Personally, I think I would probably make the same choices I do now when selecting a dolly for a particular job.
Hybrid= tough locations, Westerns, Civil War movies etc.
Hustler 4= Mostly stage work, streets, As Good as it Gets type stuff.
Only now I would have the option of roundy everywhere I went.
As much as I love the Hustler, it's a monster. It's heavy. But it's still the dolly I want for stage etc. because it's just more versatile under certain conditions.
A friend of mine, a longtime Chapman user, just told me that he decided to go with the Fisher 10 for a huge movie he's about to start in Shreveport because it's lighter, and his show is some kind of historical epic in a sandpit, Garden of Eden type setting. It makes sense.
I wish Fisher would come out with some new modifications on the 10 however. I know if you request it, you can get the old lever type boom controls. If they would modify one to get rid of that spring mechanism in the control, that you could request, more of us would use 10's for certain situations. Lose the bogie wheels also. Nobody uses square track anymore unless they're doing a music video and even then they don't like it. The freaking things are always dropping down and it drives me crazy. I do like the Fisher's new(ish) system for going to low mode. There's nothing like switching over on a Hybrid while everyone watches the endless parade of wrenches being passed around. The Hustler's system is also good, but you have to hit it just right, and support this huge chunk of aluminum while you screw it in.
Fisher 11's, we've been there already.
Peewee 4's I like, but a 3 is just as good. I also don't like the extended boom handle on the 4's. I usually ask for a handle from a 3 because you can't pull the handle out without turning the steering column- it's so long it hits. I had my fill of this on a movie last year when I needed to pull the boom handle while I was on track (I don't remember why) and had a problem getting it out and the arm sprang up and made Tom Cruise almost jump out of his skin (not to mention the operator).
The Peewee 4 low mode is a design nightmare. Most operators hate it because it's just not beefy enough. I usually request an old style "L" plate low mode because it's so much stronger, even though it get's the camera further away from the dolly on the 4.
Friction tabs on the wheels are also a pain. If they had a positive locking system like the 10, life would be easier for Chapman users. I've even had to carve shims out of blackwrap to tighten them up when they are just too loose. The Hustler 4 is particularly viscious in this regard. Re aligning the wheels involves opening the back hatches, getting the little tool out, opening the front hatches, prying up the tabs with the tool while squinting into a dark hole, aligning the wheels and pushing the tabs (two to a wheel) back down (not easy with the little tool in a tight space). Hint: forget the tool and hammer them down with a lifting handle (I didn't say that).
Anyway, we all have our favorites, and mine is still Chapman. I remember one time, Hector, who left Chapman a couple of years ago (we miss him), flew in to backwoods Mississippi and took my Hybrid apart on the tailgate at lunch, fixed a boom problem, and was back on a plane before wrap. That's service.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Grip Tips:

This is a continuation of the post from 11/17/07:

If you run to the truck for it, you'll find out it was under the carts the whole time.

Paper tape does not stick well in humidity.

Neither does gaffer's tape.

When blocking out a shot, the DP will always make one end of the track stop in a puddle.

Juicers are like cops, you don't really appreciate them until you need one.

(This is an old one) The difference between a flare and a highlight? $10,000 a day.

Mambo-combo wheels are for sissies. (That should stir 'em up).

Doorways are the most likely place for extras/directors/PA's/or actors to gather.

"Crew has the set!" rarely results in any meaningful help.

"Mini-move" is a term coined by Satan to make UPM's feel better.

The coffee out of the catering truck will remove rust from c-stands.

You cannot get "sweet tea" in California. (Ok, it's important to me).

Every now and then, the guy who delivers the crane will think he automatically gets to operate it.

The seat holes on a dolly are (inexplicably) not "junior" sized.

Load carts smart wheels last.

Hacky-Sack at lunch is not a constructive utilization of your time. Go clean the dolly track.

You can't fully close in the wheels on a Peewee with the pneumatics on.

A sandbag touching the ground while on a stand is useless.

Combo stands outside.

If you need to lay track, and the set is still full of extras and actors and the AD's still aren't clearing them though you've asked twice, have a seat, preferably in full view of the ADs. Light up a smoke or break out a bag of chips. This will usually have the desired effect.

That's all for now. I'll save some for later.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Holy Crap

Look at these poor guys on the new video. This was actually a movie shot by a friend to this site named Stephen Murphy. On behalf of Dolly Grips everywhere, Stephen, Holy Crap! The video has been removed from the video bar but is available here:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=crane+shot+stephen+murphy&search=Search

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reprint of an Older Post (just for fun)

From Oct 8, 2007:

I recently was asked how to become a Dolly Grip. Since the only experience I have to draw from is mine, I will use that as a model. One answer, "B" Camera. Once you have been a set grip for a while, you will probably be asked to push B camera sooner or later. The important part of this statement is, "once you have been a set grip for a while." It's very important to put your time in in this area. Learn lighting, learn rigging, learn when to keep your mouth shut. We all put our time in, and there are no shortcuts. Gripping is like no other job in the world so it takes a while to learn all these things. These things are like the core curriculum you learn in college before you get to start concentrating on your major. You can't learn this stuff in six months either. Knowing how and where to set a flag will serve you as a dolly grip, as will knowing the fundamentals of set rigging. It will also give you the confidence to take charge when it's needed. The best dolly grips I know are also the best set grips I know and any one of them could key a movie tomorrow if they needed to. When you get a chance to push B camera, use that opportunity. B camera tends to involve a lot of "park and shoot" along with the rare boom or adjustment. Use this to learn what the dolly can and can't do. Watch your operator and learn lenses. Ask the A Dolly Grip questions. Help him/her lay track. Learn heights and when you need a low mode or a Lambda head. I was very lucky in that when I made the transition from B camera to A camera, I was on a series that I had been on for several seasons and I was allowed to make mistakes (and I was awful). The cast and crew by this time were like family and were all on my side. This ain't always the case, so practice. When you have free time (lunch, down time) practice doing compound moves. See if you can hit a mark with the chassis and boom at the same time smoothly. Do it over and over until it's effortless. You'll know when you're ready. Sooner or later, the A Dolly Grip will need a day off or will lay out all night and call in with the gin flu. You're up. If you've put the time in, you will have more confidence and you will nail it. People will notice that you stepped up and delivered and sooner or later you'll get a call. I know I sound all serious and make it sound like rocket surgery but there really is a lot to learn if you want to be effective. Apart from all the areas I've covered in other posts (heads, cranes, lenses, movement, surfaces, technique, dollies, eyelines, wheels, blah, blah blah), grips have to know engineering concepts, lighting, hundreds of pieces of equipment, problem solving, how to drive a condor, knots, and on and on. The more of these you know, the better you'll be.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Dolly Dolly

I spoke earlier about the stairclimbing dolly we adapted to carry dollies upstairs. My Best Boy, who I know reads this blog may have some pictures or insights into it. RRS, leave them in the comments.

Man Restores Colortran

A DP named David Racoczy sent me this post about how he renovated an old Colortran Dolly. It reminds me of an old Mcalister I used to own that I also tried to restore. He had better luck. Thanks for the post, David.


Five years ago I left Los Angeles and settled in a small town on the east coast. When I arrived I began networking with the local production guys and ran into a videographer who said he had a Dolly in his shed. He asked me if I wanted to buy it. Sure- I said as that was one piece of equipment I never imagined owning but could put to good use. So I went to look at this thing. I was an old Colortran Dolly. Rusted and neglected there it sat. Upon further examination I found it uses CO2 tanks to operate the Boom. He said $250 and it is yours, the Dolly and three Tanks. I grabbed one of the spare tanks and had it filled with fresh CO2 and went back to his place to see if the Boom still worked. We connected the tank, hit the Boom Up Lever and sure as heck the Boom rose smooth as silk. I turned to him and offered $300 if he would deliver it to my garage. Three hours later it was mine!
I spent the next week sanding, sprayed the chassis Pee Wee Gray and gave it a full detail. It was now in great shape but was lacking a Leveling Head and needed a new Seat as the old HUGE leather one was hideous. Chapman of Hollywood was kind enough to sell me a Pee Wee Leveling Head as well as a new Pee Wee Seat. Now it was KILLER! Fully detailed and operational... but, It has Front, Rear and Crab Steering and the Steering mechanism would not stay in any gear and needed to be firmly held in place when steering which made it not so fun for a Dolly Grip... but what the heck... it is a cool Dolly and it is all I have so we used it until about a month ago on our last shoot when the Dolly was unloaded from the truck there was a conspicuous oil puddle under the Dolly. They brought it to the Set and sure enough the Boom would not operate. Frickn great I thought. Now I own an expensive Prop! Sure the Dolly itself was cheap but that Leveling Head was not and I had tons of hours invested in sanding, painting and detailing... now what?.
My Dolly Grip who also does Special Effects offered to have a go at its repair so I let him take it. I got the Dolly back yesterday FULLY OPERATIONAL.. yes the Steering Mechanism was adjusted, all Co2 & Hydraulic lines replaced, new CO2 Tank connector and unbelievebly the Boom and all Pistons etc.. received new O Rings!
Now for the first time this Dolly is in its Original Working Order! Ya baby! I can not tell you how happy I am to have this Dolly back and in the condition it is in. It works fantastic! It is perfect as a Set Dolly and I use my American Door Way Dolly with Skateboard Wheels and Cadillac Track for any regular Dolly/ Track type moves... but the Colortran is perfect for the Set/ Studio!
I am writing this as there has got to be other folks who have one of these Dollies sitting collecting dust because the Boom or Steering is out of order..but alas! There is hope. If you or someone you know owns one and wants it serviced please do not hesitate to contact me off list and I will get you in contact with my Dolly Grip/ Mechanic.
I know that posting for business is not allowed and if you see this post as against any rules please let me know. I just know there has got to be a bunch of these sitting idle and neglected and thought if its owner(s) had someone they could turn to to have their Dolly revived they would really appreciate it.
There is a pic of the Dolly at my website/ Demo Reel/ Behind the Scenes video.
David (Blessed to own my own Dolly) RakoczyDir/ DPUSA

TrackJack

Due to popular demand, I've put the TrackJack video back up. If two video windows appear on your screen, it's the top one.

Dolly History

To the right, Ive added a temporary link to an interesting history of several of the old dollies from the sixties. It should come upon the correct page but if it doesn't, look at page 106.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Dolly Party

Let's talk about something dear to all of us- carrying that 400 odd lbs of twisted steel up stairs.
You're finished with the exteriors. It's a move inside to the third floor with no elevator. There are only acouple of shots so you hopefully (wincing all the time ) go up to your buddy, your pal the DP and ask, "Do we need the dolly up there?" "Yeah, we might want to do a move." is not the answer you were hoping for. Or even worse, "Oh yes, and the jib arm." So now you have to take the big one.
You get on the horn, cinch up your pants and announce, "There's a party and you're all invited!" Then come the groans.
No matter how you try to do it, it hurts. It's dangerous, and you're sure it's shortening your life and possibly making you sterile.
I personally, on extra narrow staircases am a big fan, when carrying the Peewee, of getting on the lower end alone and taking the weight in my chest. It's easier, you're not fighting another guy past the bannister, and it saves your arms (though it is counterintuitive). I had another grip complain one time that I was making it easier on myself (?) and harder on the guys on the other end. How? They still pick up the same amount of weight to the same height, only now we don't have two grips fighting each other on the lower end. Just one easily carrying the weight in his chest while another backs him up.
My Key Grip recently went out and bought a stair climbing dolly; the type they use to load vending machines up stairs. It's basically a heavily reinforced hand truck with a rechargeable battery and a rotating blade which climbs up stairs. We welded a scrap piece of track on it, with a lengthened ramp piece, and the Dolly-Dolly was born. Roll it on, strap it down, and away you go. Though it is a little slower, it's an effortless way for two guys (one controlling the climb and the other steadying) to climb impossible staircases with the dolly (either size). Unfortunately, truck space is limited so it's a special order item. We used it on a pilot in Savannah (the city of staircases) and it saved us many times.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Four Brothers

Just watched "Four Brothers" on cable. Nice work , Mr. Erlichman, nice work.