Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Going Live - Follow Up

Well, I got through it. It was a PBS concert special for the Canadian Tenors (with special guests Sarah McLauchlan and David Foster).

Thankfully not live to air, but was treated as such. 9 cameras - 1 jib on the balcony, 2 dollies, 3 handheld and the rest static.

Of the two dollies, one was at the back of the room and I was on stage left. This was a last minute change and really wasn't thought out properly. There wasn't enough space to get any proper angles and we had another camera shooting at us. I brought up the issues of hall beauty side lights that backlit both side camera positions to the director & DP. They agreed that the lights weren't required there. However, I tried to get the stage manager to clear "looky loos" in the wings, but that failed. I had a monitor to watch and cringed at the beautiful close ups of Sarah playing piano, but with three idiots in white shirts behind her. At one point there were so many people hanging about back there that I wished I could run around and get in the buffet line.

We didn't have any formal rehearsals, but did have a couple meetings to discuss what the director wanted. They band did go through the tops and bottoms of a couple songs - anything with choreographed parts. If I did anything like this again, I'd want and suggest to production to send out a head of time the album / songs that we were covering so the operators had an idea of the songs, timing and singers. In this case we had four roaming the stage with no real marks. Felt like two and a half hours of keeping overs.

I really felt crappy about the shots we were getting but I had to keep reminding myself that there were other angles to cut to. Thankfully, the director was pretty clear over the ClearComs and knew what he wanted.

Walked away with smiles and hope to do another concert like that.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Going Live

My background has been lodged firmly in feature film and television series - ok with commercials and music videos stuck in between.

I've been asked to work a live multi camera concert gig. It's working with a recording truck, director, headsets, etc.

I've never done anything like this before. Any suggestions? What should I be watchful for?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Repost of an Old Favorite: "Gripping Basics"

I'm a little short on time, and inspiration this week. 14 hour days, midnight company moves, wife out of town, and three dogs to care for (one is 15 and can no longer make it out the door, so he leaves me a little surprise every night), have all made finding time to post a little hard.  I went back through the archives and found this one. Since we've had some search hits for "grip description" it might be appropriate. My firm belief is that you have to put in a fair amount of time as a set grip before you can be an effective Dolly Grip. All of us on this site have spent many a night hauling sandbags and setting flags before we moved on to pushing dolly. A good Dolly Grip can work a set with the best of them. Here are a few tips to help those of you still in the trenches.

First posted 11/17/07. New comments added.

Someone contacted me recently and suggested I write a post on basic Gripping. Here are some tips:

Righty tighty, lefty loosey This one should be on a t-shirt. It's the Cardinal Rule. Learn it. It comes up a lot.

If they ask for a double, bring a single too.

When you set a 4x4 outside, use a combo stand.

When you set a flag, put the big leg under the weight.

When you set diffusion, fill the frame.

Put the diffusion at the angle of the light.

It will always start raining at wrap.

If you tie a 12x12 off to a sandbag cart, turn it sideways to the rag.

Gel closest to the light, then diffusion. In my original post, I got a comment from a grip who took offense at this one. He said he always puts the gel outside the diffusion and gave some lame ass reason for it. I took it easy on him. I shouldn't have. Gel goes before diffusion. Every experienced Set Grip knows this. So shut it. The other grips are laughing at you.

Bfl (big f#$%^g light), big f#$%g flag. One of the hardest things for me to figure out when I was a young grip was which sized flag to bring. In time, you'll get it. Generally, though, make the flag size correspond to the light size.

When laying track, level is good, getting the bumps out of the joints is better. If the track is consistent, the Dolly Grip can level it on the head. He can't correct for a huge bump in the seam though.

Always, ALWAYS bring everything. I'm guilty of breaking this one. It always bites me in the ass. Whatever you don't have is the first thing they'll ask for. To this one I'll add, Bring the Luma Beams.

If you bring a half-apple, also bring two quarters (and maybe a pancake).

Know your knots (clove hitch, bowline, truckers hitch, bohemian lesbian death hitch).

The "board stretcher" does not exist.

Neither does the "air hook."

"T-stops" are not in the jockey box (they are usually in the workbox, second drawer down).

If you keep two seats on the dolly, you are a chump. To this I'll add, to all you new Dolly Grips: If your focus puller needs to ride every shot, he's a moron. He's not the only one being taken for a ride. Miss your mark by six inches. Re-mark it.

The operator does not always need a sideboard. Don't just put it on there at the beginning of the day. Please.

Seat offsets are for the weak-minded. Apologies to certain Dolly Grips whom I really admire.

Always look at the set from where the camera is, it's all that matters.

Never fall asleep on an 8-step ladder. I did this one time. It wasn't pretty. I woke up on the way down.

Safety everything. It will fall. It will hit Katherine Heigle on the head. You will get fired.

Keep an extra jacket on the truck. It will always get colder than you think it will. Few things are more emasculating than wearing a fellow grip's jacket. Unless you're a female grip.

If you have a question, or don't know how to do something, ASK.  I get it. You're 22 and you don't want to look like you don't know something. I've been there. Trust me, everyone knows you're 22. They expect you to be respectful, keep your mouth shut, and your ears open. They will bury you. It will hurt.

As my friend Ted says, never be afraid to break something. Ted's a Rigging Key. He hangs thousands of pounds over poeple's heads.

Those are all I can think of for now...oh yeah, Murphy's Law applies more in this business than any other...if it can go wrong, it will. Never take anything for granted.

I still go back and set grip in between shows sometimes. It's good for the soul and makes me feel 22 again. (OK, it didn't hurt this much then, but you know what I mean).

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Chapman Hydrascope- Short Review

I used the 32' Hydrascope last night and must say I was very happy with it's performance. I didn't have time to really put it through any paces or ask all the questions I had, but I can say that the techs at Chapman have worked really hard to deliver an exceptionally finely-tuned arm. I know there had been some problems with the telescoping as far as hitting exact marks, etc., but these have been ironed out and starts and stops are sweeeet. The action on the swings and booms is very smooth with no friction problems or "settling back" upon landing. It's easy to lock off at the end of a move (I did it with one hand and it was solid as a rock). The telescoping action was fine and I didn't feel any vibration or chatter. The arm is hydraulic rather than electric, so has to be "pumped up" from time to time but it's no more intrusive than having to do it on a dolly. The tech, James, tells me they are beginning construction on a 70' arm, which I can't wait to see.
 All in all, you can call me a fan. The added bonus of having it on the Raptor base for exterior work made the whole thing a very positive experience and I won't hesitate to push for it in the future. Don't forget that the Hydrascope is immune to water, so for rain or underwater work, it's the machine to get.
 For more info, visit

PS- I should qualify this review with the fact that I did not actually use the pickle. I just didn't have time to play around with it, so have no experience in how well it works. Anyone who does is welcome to comment.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Dolly Grip Job Description

This post is a case of catering to my search engine hits. I get a lot of hits from Google with the search title dolly grip job description. This inevitably leads them to my post Dolly Grips and the Camera Department. That post really doesn't actually describe the job, so I'm going to post this to lead prospective searchers here instead. Those of you who are regular readers may add to it in the comments or skip this post altogether. It ain't nothing you ain't seen before.
 The Dolly Grip is responsible for camera movement in the film world. We operate all moving camera platforms (except Steadicam) and are responsible for their maintenance and setup. We also work in conjunction with the camera operator to come up with the best way to do a particular shot, as well as what piece of equipment will work best. Dolly Grips are considered to be kind of a rough camera operator, in that it is our responsibility to have the camera in a particular place at a particular time during a shot in order that the camera operator can refine it and make it work. We do the broad strokes so the guy looking through the eyepiece can do the detailed work of composing the frame. To do this job properly you must have an innate sense of how shots are staged and know where the camera needs to be to make it work. You must develop a sense of split second timing and be able to repeat a shot from take to take as exactly as possible. You must also have a knowledge of many different camera platforms from various dollies to various types of camera cranes and be knowledgeable in their safe operation, keeping in mind that your primary responsibility is safety. As technology changes, so does the role of the Dolly Grip, and our skills are relied upon more than at any other time in the history of filmaking.
Aside from the technical demands,the Dolly Grip also adds emotion to a scene through camera movement. The "slow creep," the dramatic boom up, the quick push -in, have been used for decades to move the viewer and help tell the story. The Dolly Grip achieves this through absolute control of his machine, timing, and an understanding of the emotion the director is trying to convey. We've helped create some of the most memorable images in movie history through movement: The soaring crane shot in Gone With the Wind, the dramatic push-in on Brody in Jaws. These are just a couple of shots immortalized by the Dolly Grip.
The best Dolly Grips work as a team with their Camera Operators and make it their responsibility to assist them in any way they can to get the shot safely and smoothly.
There. I hope this helps those of you who have found this site through Google. Welcome to our little corner of the interweb. Comments are welcome.