I've noticed some really nice work on tv lately. My tops for dolly work so far are...
Every shot is a dolly shot and they are all really fluid and even. A lot of the work on this show is unmotivated aesthetic movement. Knowing how a TV schedule works, I give this guy respect just for the sheer volume of set up and consistency he must deal with every day, and the ability to really pull a nice move out of every shot.
CSI:MIAMI: Really inventive work. All steady and nicely executed. A lot of pull out and boom up from under glass table type work. The kind of slick novelty shot type work that takes a pro to pull off on a TV schedule. Unless they're averaging 12 takes to a shot, this guy knows what he's doing.
LEVERAGE: The pilot was feature level work. Usually the subsequent episodes are more tightly scheduled and thus less inventive. I'm waiting to see how it pans out.
Now, with the constant reruns on A&E and TNT etc, I don't know which season some of these were (except for the new Leverage) so I may be looking at older shows.
None of these shows is the one I'm doing, and I don't personally know any of the guys doing them. (That was my little disclaimer) but it is dolly work that I have noticed as being really nicely done.
TV shows are a different breed than features. There's a lot more improvisation involved and a different director every week means you don't really get into a groove tha same as you do on a feature. You are also expected to nail it after one rehearsal and a take or two. This is part of the reason I like TV so much. It makes you a better dolly grip. You have one chance at set up and it better work. So, nice work guys. Keep it up.
On the other hand.. I've also seen some bad to awful work. "Steppy" shots. Shots that surge or stall. Compound moves that top off or bottom out in the last part of the move. Keeping in mind the tendency of editors to somehow use the one shot you don't want them to, I've looked for consistently bad work. No, I'm not going to mention the shows. We don't do that here. But they are out there. Come on boys, tighten up.
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I too take my hat off to anyone that can create quality dolly work withing the day in and day out, 75 hour a week television schedule. It can be a painful experience and anyone whose done it knows that it takes a strong mind and a very strong body to make it through that nine month grind. So to make every shot count is truly a skill. Cameramen are impatient...the A.D.s are always behind...the actors are rarely on their marks...and well...the directors...they just pretty much stink. The deck is stacked against you, but it's a great feeling of accomplishment when you set up and nail a six point dance floor shot, knowing that the only rehearsal you were gonna get was the blocking rehearsal that you watched forty-five minutes ago(that is if there was enough space in the room for you to see it which is undoubtedly being clogged with the entire staff of writers...). I assume most of us work on whatever is the right project for our lives at that point, but there is something to be said for doing a season of a network t.v. show. It's an experience you have to undergo to truly understand. I did a Showtime series about four years ago and it was so painful in so many aspects that the boom man made t-shirts at the end of the show that read: He who suffers fear and terror shall know the gruesome realities of working in television.
Great job on the dollies on the shows....Keep it up...
Well said GHB! Well said...
I agree with your pick of NCIS. I haven't watched CSI:Miami so I'll take your word for the work there. But the camera on NCIS never stops and the moves are all good. I've gotten into watching the show and I offer my compliments to the dolly grip there.
I was on a show for 4 seasons that did a lot of slow steady "drifting" through it's scenes and I know how hard this type of work can be plus the fact that when you have a lot of long scenes it can be incredibly boring. Just maintaining the desire to keep doing the best work you can do is a battle in itself many times.
I also agree that the episodic world is one that really develops skill. On a typical TV show you'll do more moves--often very difficult ones--in a season than you'd do in years of feature work, and it's that constant practice that allows you to do moves without even thinking about how to do them. They just happen.
Thank you for recognizing a job well done.
Thanks for reading Acraw. After being away from tv for a few years, I'm really starting to like the pace. It's a lot more challenging to do a lot of complex moves on the fly with one rehearsal than the feature pace where you set up and rehearse three times and then get 12 takes.
My only experience with TV was a Hallmark / Disney type TV movie that I did some years ago. My main attraction to it was it had Malcolm McDowell in it, and I have been a fan since I first saw "A Clockwork Orange". It was also being directed by Russell Mulcahy, who made "The Highlander" another favourite of mine as a teenager.
Needless to say, it was B Movie hell. It was a 2 part movie for a total run time of 5 hours.
We were shooting in the Thar desert cheated as Egypt, with daytime temperatures of 50 degrees centigrade. We had to finish the whole thing in under 4 months, with 7 pages being shot in a day sometimes. We had a lot of real locations with complex 5 to 7 point dancefloor moves that I had no time to put dancefloor down for. They were happy to slap the vibration isolator on the peewee and go for it. One rehearsal and then take. It stressed the hell out of me. I had never worked like that before. After a week I fell into the groove and kind of started enjoying the seat of the pants nature of the work. But it was brutal.
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