Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Video

Just a short note to inform you guys that the video bar has been updated. Onno sent a great clip of his Trussdolly working on a short film Really cool stuff so check it out. And keep the comments coming on the previous post too!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Picking Up the Pieces

Recently, our show had a "double up day." For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it just means a separate unit is formed using whichever DP is off that week and they shoot scenes from an earlier episode that we didn't get to. It's not really a second unit, but rather an alternate 1st unit. Anyway, the Dolly Grip we brought in is an old friend and a really good Dolly Grip. We got to talking and he brought up an issue we've all had to deal with- picking up after yourself. He said he had worked with a crew recently who refused to help him keep up with his parts. To the point of being forbidden to help him by the department heads. We've all dealt with this to one degree or another. The bottom line is, we don't always have time to run back behind and pick up all the low modes, risers, lifting handles, etc that we set to the side as we're working. We try, but sometimes it's impossible. Our day consists of an endless rotation of watching rehearsals, getting marks, laying track, shooting, and doing it all over again. There's barely even enough time to take a leak before the next marks are being laid down. Dolly equipment is grip equipment, that's why it rides on the grip truck. Why a crew would create such a frictional situation is beyond me. We depend on the guys to help us keep up with the two dollies and carts worth of gear we have to lug around and use. If there happens to be a shot on sticks, or something besides a dolly, I'll usually scout around and try to round up my parts, but this is a rare occurance. It's completely unreasonable to ask the one guy who never gets a break, who's always behind camera while the other guys are sitting at the carts, to also be solely responsible for everything associated with the dollies. If you're a department head who takes this position, you're being ridiculous. There just isn't time. And you try telling the DP that you can't get marks right now because you have to go back and find your seat riser. Now, that being said, this is where a B Camera Dolly Grip becomes invaluable. It kind of falls to him, since his dolly doesn't usually work every shot, to assist the A Camera Dolly Grip in keeping up with his stuff and helping move it to the next location. I don't think this is originally how this was meant to turn out (I work with some B Camera Dolly Grips whose A Camera resumes would put mine to shame) it just logically evolved to that point. I did it for years, schlepping the dance floor out of the house at wrap while the A Dolly Grip drank a frosty beer on the truck. It's just part of the deal. So guys, give us a break, we're counting on you.
PS- Before the comments start rolling in, I want to qualify the preceding post by saying that this is not an excuse to be lazy. I try to keep up with everything and always attempt to put a piece aside where I can easily remember it and throw it on the dolly as I'm moving to the next location. I am notorious (or used to be, I'm actually much better now) for misplacing or forgetting parts so I've had to learn to be extra careful in putting them in easy to spot places rather than just flinging them wherever it's convenient- that's not fair to the rest of the crew. They have other work to do also besides picking up after the Dolly Grip. They don't mind helping, the good ones understand our predicament. But it's unreasonable to ask them to go on a scavenger hunt after every set-up. I'm just goes both ways. Be considerate or you may find yourself spending hours looking for that 12" riser on your own.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Don Schisler- Rest In Peace

A really good and talented man passed away recently. Don Schisler was an engineer, designer, and insert car driver that I, and the whole Atlanta community, worked with for years. The guy was brilliant and truly one of the nicest men you could ever meet. I spent many hours talking with him over the years and he was kind of a mad scientist in a trucker hat. He was always thinking of ways to adapt everyday things to the film business and I remember at one point had modified fire trucks to be used as lighting platforms. The last thing I remember him talking about (around 1995) was an "All titanium dolly," honest. I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd seen him until I got an email last week informing me of his passing. I remember he was once late to work with an insert car because he saw a lady stranded on the interstate. A truly good man. We'll miss him. So long, Don. See you on the other side.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My GI Track Experience and a Visit from Wick

As I mentioned earlier this week, Gil at GI Track was kind enough, along with the guys at General Lift in LA, to arrange for us to have a few sticks of GI Track to try out. Our plan ha been to use it on some exteriors and put it through it's paces on a few shots. As it happened, the night we had it turned out to be all handheld and Steadicam, so I was relegated to running back to the truck in my downtime and trying it out without actually using it. The first question I wanted to answer was, how does it lay? I had three 8' and one 4' so I laid them out in a field with a slope. The track has a bigger profile than most track. It sits on an I-Beam which is, I guess about 3 inches high by three or four across. The latches are on the side rather than on the cross ties and I really like this feature. The track is really well constructed. It wedges really well and lays easily due to the wider surface of the beam. The only thing I would change on it is the actual engagement of the hook on the latches. The hook fits into a hole and tightens rather then grabbing onto a nub. I'm not crazy about this feature, but it's easily modified (plus, we had an early batch of it so it may be different now)Update- I spoke to Gil and his latches have been changed to stainless steel, much nicer than the one's we had on the first run track.. Once levelled, we put the caps on and threw both dollies on it. At first, there was a lot of friction between the Hustler wheels and the caps, but we actually just let the caps get water on them and it immediately loosened up. We also realized we hadn't properly staggered all the caps (it was a little dark by now). Once these bugs were worked out, it really began to perform. I can honestly say it's one of the smoothest rides on just dolly wheels I've ever had. Once the seams in the caps are staggered correctly it's pretty flawless and you could easily do a tight lens move on it without the skates. It does take a little more set up because of the caps, but after your crew got used to it, the time would probably be negligeable (plus, it wedges so much easier than Filmair track, that you'd probably come out about the same). I know a couple of guys who have bought it and I really want to get their impressions (Moose? are you out there?) and I know our own Azurgrip is a user. Overall, it's an ingenious system and really well made. I wish I could have spent more time with it to see how much time I could cut out of the lay, but I wanted to get it back to the owners before they needed it. I'll let Azurgrip give some more firsthand info if he wants to. The beauty of it is, if a cap gets damaged, it's easily replaced, unlike the fragile aluminum track we all deal with regularly. So visit the website and check it out. Ask questions. Gil is a great guy and will answer any you may have.
Also, Wick was in town at Fisher last week. He came by set and we had a little while to visit. We did some catching up and he told me about new things going on at Fisher. They're adding a new dampening system to their boom controls which should make it more intuitive for those of us who are not regular Fisher users. Also, he had some flyers for the Fisher Open House on Saturday May 16th at JL Fisher. The address is 1000 West Isabel St. in Burbank, CA 91506. There will be exhibits from different companies as well as facility tours by Jim Fisher and a Moving Camera Seminar from 2:00 to 3:30 PM. The whole thing starts at 10:00 AM and goes to 4:00 PM. Please go check it out. I'm going to try and make it myself if I don't have my daughter that weekend. It should be a really informative and good time.
Had an 80 hour week so I'm whipped. Drop a line and say hi.
On another note, the forum is not coming up for some reason. I've contacted Bravenet and am waiting on a solution. Bear with me.

Mothman Prophecies

I spent 17 hours travelling after a 13 hour shooting day today, so I'm procrastinating a little. I got home at 4 am, poured myself a drink, and popped in one of my favorite dvd's (since my sattelite tv is out). Mothman Prophecies is, to me, a really terrifying piece of work. Beautifully shot by Fred Murphy, and featuring gorgeous crane work by my old friend Rich Kerekes, it's a movie that should come off as hokey but somehow doesn't. The atmosphere created in this movie just gets me every time I watch it.I know most of the guys that worked on this movie in both the electric and grip dept, as well as Fred, and they blew me away. I tend to have pretty eclectic ideas about horror movies (I like Signs, I like Reign of Fire, my wife rolls her eyes) and this one affected me in a way that no other has done in years. This one's just creepy. And it shouldn't be.When you're watching it, you can't believe that you're somehow buying it, but you do. The story is hokey. The acting is cheesy. But it's so artfully made that it affects me and I pop it in whenever I need a good scare. Rich did great work behind the sled and on the crane and the bridge sequence just gets me every time. It's not to everyone's taste, but you can't deny the craftsmanship. I love it. "Wake up number thirty-seven" Check it out.
Coming up, when I sober up, a GI Track review and comments!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hi Guys!

I so apologize for my lack of posting but between work and a damaged roof on my house in Atlanta, I haven't had much spare time. I just came off an allnighter and am trying to recover (it gets harder every year). Alexa- I always love hearing from you. You ask great questions and are obviously going places. I got your email and will answer, I promise, when I have more time. Wick is in town and I'm going to try to get together with him this week, even if I can just get him out to set. Otherwise, I'm trying to spend some down time this weekend and recuperate before it all starts up again. Thank all of you for your contributions to this page and for reading. Once I get caught up on real life, I'll be back with a real post. Oh yeah, we tried out a few pieces of GI Track this week, thanks tro Gil and the guys at General Lift. It worked great and I'll give you a call, Gil, later this weekend. Please visit Gil's website at and check it out. It really does ride like a dream. That's all for now. I'll try and catch up later this week.