Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dance Floor Update

My show involves a lot of dance floor work (for those of you not in the industry, dance floor is just a surface that you put down when you are doing a move in more than one direction) This week was dance floor helL. Strangely, a lot of our sets have rooms that are weird measurements. A lot of the spaces measure out to be 7'6", or 3'9" wide, which most of you know is an incredible pain. We also have a lot of 800lb dressers and 400lb oddly shaped sofas. I have spent the week piecing together floors and frankly I'm exhausted. The easiest solution in a floor situation is always just to lay a "pad" which means basically lay a square (or rectangle) that covers all the marks you need to hit. My lumber package generally includes five 4x8's, two 4x4's, two 2x8's, and two 2x4's. I hate pie pieces and think they're useless. I also had some doorway pieces made at 28" and a 1' by 8' piece. There's always one set, though, that just beats you up and during the blocking as the DP holds the finder at one spot you're thinking, "No. not there, just go one more foot left." I even had to do one shot that the operator started on a slider as I pushed in and then he finished it on the slider (window seats suck).The thing is, I actually relish the idea of the challenge. It's really making a better Dolly Grip out of me and it's good in a way to sharpen your skills on the old tv grindstone again. I realize that I've really gotten soft on feature work where you have a lot more time to set up and plan a difficult shot as opposed to the DP asking you,"Can you get the camera here?" after one half-ass run through. My stock answer is, "Yeah, we'll figure something out." So far, I haven't had to have any special cuts made (other than shaving an inch off the bottom of a door). I've been riding a lot of edges on one wheel this week. Please forgive any spelling mistakes as I am now 3 vodka -and -ginger- ales into my weekend. Don't judge me. I earned it.

6 comments:

Michael Taylor said...

I really wish the Industry could have some sort of "career week", wherein we'd all do someone else's job just long enough to appreciate their problems -- and first up, I'd have set designers spend a week working with grip and electric to learn first-hand how difficult they make our lives with so many of their seemingly random artistic choices. They're always hanging giant chandeliers in the middle of a set -- blocking half the key and back lights -- for a television comedy that lives on the medium and close-up shot. I can't count the times some "creative" set designer has pushed a the set walls close to four foot line, making it almost impossible for us to light the backings. When such a bloated set actually serves the interests of the script/show, fine -- but for the most part, the "creative" elements of these sets go unseen by the camera.

The worst offenders here simply don't seem to give a shit about any other department, or the overall needs of the show -- they design these excessively elaborate sets for the sole purpose of making an impressive "book" (a photographic resume) which they use to get more work in the future.

Drives me fracking crazy...

GHB said...

Again, I love this post. I also relish the challenge of the dance floor move and I also love to figure out the geometry of it. The one thing I always do is lay as much as possible. Better to have more than you need, but you gotta always make sure the extra you're laying is not in the shot. I love what you said about riding the rail...happens to me all the time!!! The only other pieces I carry are a 4x6 and a couple of 2x2s. Then I take one of the 2x2s and cut it in half diagonally and that is the only pie piece I have. That little bit has saved me a few times when a director changes his mind....and we all know that never happens.

I'm sure most on-set dressers hate me, but the first day of a new show I introduce myself and make nice and tell them that I will do everything possible to make their job easy, but I also have to do everything possible to make my job easy and a lot of furniture is gonna have to go. Our job is way more under fire than theirs and if another piece of the book case has to go so I can get my ass where it needs to me to hit the 8th point of a 12 point move...then the book case is gonna go...I also always offer to help move anything that has to go.

Azurgrip said...

A couple suggestions to a show when starting it...

1) Don't use rugs (especially anything over 4x4). We have GREAT painters that can reproduce almost anything.
2) Don't use real flooring. By the end of the second week of shooting you'll have huge 1/2 gaps between the boards. You want it? Paint it!
3) Install wheels on all large furniture, hutches, bookcases, etc. It helps everybody.
4) Don't be afraid to wild walls. Every AD cringes at the idea of having to fly a wall, but if it's done right - with the proper planning - it's easily and quickly done.
5) Talk to the Designer in prep about space. Generally shows will try to cram as many sets as possible into a given stage. Nevermind the 4' fire escape route rule, some thought has be to given to the staging of the show's grip and lighting packages as well as the comings and goings on sets.

Azurgrip said...

I worked with one DP that loved dance floor, but insisted that when it was laid out, that the actors never had to "step up or step down / off". So you ended up building up to four times the amount dance required. No worries of running off, or running on the inside wheels.

gitrack said...

Hello Gentlemen.

Yes. Dance floor can be challenging. Especially in a dressed set and the lighting department insists on getting in the way. "Hey guys. Give me 10 mins to lay the floor and the set's yours". They look at you like your crazy and start setting up their ladders and stands. Don't get me started.

I carry 6-4'x 8', 2-4'x 4', 1- 8'x 30", 1-8'x 18", 1-8'x 24", 2-2'x 2', 2-4' triangles, 2-30" triangles, 2-24" triangles and recently added 6 pancake sized cover sheets. You always have pancakes and they come in handy when you need to move a little to save the day and not have to re-lay the dance floor. The 30" triangles come in handy when having to go from one room to another through a doorway. Most doors are 28"-32". Take the two 30" triangles and slide them diagonal to fit the opening. You end up with two square surfaces on each side of the door opening.

I carry all this in 3/4" plywood and 1/4" PVC or black ABS plastic. I prefer the Grey PVC. ABS comes in black or white.

On a hard floor surface I carry 2" electricians tape and tape the seams. Quick. But on carpet I screw the plastic to the plywood to keep the 3/4" from separating when the crew walks all over the floor. All my plastic cover sheets have counter sunk screw holes every 2'.
On thick carpet I double the plywood sub floor, screw it together before applying cover sheets.

I hate laying dance floor on thick carpet. No one likes to unload the plywood rack when the truck's 4 blocks away to double up the sub floor. But when everyone else on the crew is out having a coke and a smoke after the lighting setup, you'll be onset for another hour doing a 10 point dolly move with a slow left to right creep in crab. You'll be glad you opted to double that sub floor because the dolly won't change speeds during that slow creep.

Azurgrip said...

Gil -

Do you have the issue of the PVC cracking at the screw holes?