Another site I frequent had a question from a grip who is in the market for a crane as to which is the best. Immediately, I saw the makings of a post. A great many of the replies recommended the GFMs and Giraffe. First let's look at a few different kinds of cranes. The portable crane really changed the way a lot of movies are shot. The Louma revolutionized the industry with the ability to place a camera in a tight space and still deliver a crane move. Everyone's old favorite, the Lenny Arm continued this trend and before you know it, we were inundated with portable cranes, most from Europe or South Africa, and most named after animals. The Giraffe, Panther, Pegasus, Phoenix, and others greatly expanded the Dolly Grip's options and since they could be purchased, unlike the Lenny Arm, a lot of Grip's wallets. My earliest crane experiences were with the beloved Titan and the often cursed, but very effective Lenny. Then came the Giraffe, which due to it's ease of assembly and relatively light-weight components, became the most often seen, used, and purchased crane (at least in the markets I was working in). It snapped together quickly, could accomodate a rider at shorter lengths, and a "hothead" at longer (I believe up to 37' if memory serves) configurations. It also didn't involve the large wrenches and cumbersome steel of the Lenny. Then, the Giraffe seemed to become less visible, and the Phoenix became the new favorite. Now, with Technocranes everywhere, the Phoenix seems to be the most used portable crane when the shot doesn't call for an extendable arm. I like the Phoenix. Gentlemen Grips, who I work for often, has two, and they are easy to put together, more solid than the Giraffe, and have a minimum of "whip" even at the longest length. The Lenny arm will still get it done, with a little more work (how many of us have put it together and realized we'd forgotten to put the "ears" for the cables between the sections?). One thing's for sure, it's a solid choice because it's an ultra-reinforced chunk of steel. I think you could hit it with a stakebed and it would probably destroy the stakebed. For jibs, I prefer the Fisher 23. This is the best non rideable portable crane in existence in my opinion. For ease and speed of assembly and great action on the bearings it can't be beat. I like the Hydrascope and really want to see the new 70 footer. I also like the Moviebird just for it's great arm swing and really easy action at almost 50'. These of course are my own opinions and experiences and not at all the rule. There are a lot of portables I haven't tried, such as the GFMs and Panthers. Give me some feedback. What are your favorites?
I wrote this on my wife's fancy tiny computer,which I can barely see. It's almost like writing a post on my cellphone, aside from the fact that I'm in Vegas and likes my Vodka drink. Therefore, it's not the most well written post I've ever done but I hope you get the gist.
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Enjoy your Vodka !!
Second your opinion on the Fisher23 and the Pegasus and Phoenix.
I love the GFM cranes. Not the GF-9 (very light) but the GF-10 is a fantastic step forward on the Phoenix/ Pegasus. The GF-16 is the big brother of the 10, but is truly a wonderful crane. Really well thought out. You can build it with centre post low, and once you are completely built up and weighted up, you can lift the column up by crank. The crank is really clever as well. It is mechanical, but you can use a screw gun with the appropriate bit to raise it electrically.
Have you ever worked with any of the Strada cranes? Those things are massive...100 feet reach, with an operator (kind of).
They have a nice demo video, and have worked a lot of large projects, but I've never heard from anyone who has used them.
Hi Douglas. I have used the Strada on one movie and seen it used on first unit of a show I was doing 2nd unit on. It works great for certain things. It is used a good bit for things like helicopter povs and things too I think. It's not a crane you would use except in special applications but it does what it does well.
As D says - only special applications. It works great for paning the arm over expanses, and simulates helicopter POVs.
You had better know exactly what you want to do with it. Ive used it extensively (I am 50% owner of one) when it first came out and was a hell of a novelty. It used to go out all the time. More often than not, the shot was not thought out well, we had humped it to a difficult location, the shot did not work, and now its sitting in frame.
It can be beautiful to work with, but god help you if theres wind.
I used it on a movie called "The Fall". I had to do a lot of moves that were dead centre drop downs framing architecture in symetry . Even the slightest wind blowing makes your muscles work like you are wrangling a rampaging rhinoceros .
When the shot is well thought out it can make some great shots.
BTW - now that the novelty has worn off, it hardly ever goes out ... but we had a good run for some years.
I'm kind of over cranes .Too much standing.
I see nobody has mentioned two early workhorses, the Tulip and the Skymote / Super Skymote. Both rock-solid and really the first good and truly portable cranes. In their size range (under 27'), there's still nothing that sets up faster or is more stable. They had an undeservedly poor rep in the US and UK.
I had a Pegasus, with a custom shelved out truck to move it around, and enjoyed it a lot. The GFM cranes do indeed seem to be the top of the line cranes now.
A lot of the Akela /Strada market went to the Supertechno 50, is my guess.
Sanjay, when asked about setup time, I used to say we could set up the crane faster than the director could figure out what he was going to do with it! :)
I actually thought about the Tulip after I wrote the post. The Tulip has a strange history. Mention it to any American grip over the age of 35 and he'll wince. I used it once, years ago just as it was falling out of favor. I did see one recently at Disneyland as part of a display with Mickey and Donald, however. You still find them on Ebay every now and then.
i prefer GFM cranes as well. top solid !! easy to handle. set up time o.k., but if its ready to go it works wonderful. yep, a good crane. GF-8 and GF-16
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