Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dealing With Surge

  I've done posts on choosing your surface before, but some of the work I did this week gave me the idea to do a refresher post. It was going to originally involve surging, the bane of all creep moves. The choice of what surface you roll on for a creep has a huge effect on the execution of the move. The more I thought about it, I decided to go ahead and include other moves as well.
  As I've stated before, and every Dolly Grip knows, creeps are the hardest, most grueling moves you can do. There's nothing quite like trying to make two feet of push-in last for two pages of dialogue. It can be mind numbing. And one thing that can make it harder is surge. Surge is the point in your beautiful, dramatic push-in where you meet an imperfection in the surface you are rolling on that causes the dolly to pick up speed or stall. It can really draw attention to itself, especially if there is a prominent foreground piece that suddenly seems to move faster or slower in the frame. Do yourself a favor, pick your surface wisely. I always try to do a creep on track. A lot of Dolly Grips use planks (usually 1x12 clear pine for example) for simple moves. I'm not a big fan of planks. In fact, I rarely use them. They just have too many imperfections that can ruin or make a creep harder. I always try to go on track when possible for a creep. It eliminates the variable of steering, and has the least imperfections of your choices, cutting out surges and stalls and allowing you to concentrate on the move and your timing. Always try to use the surface that suits each move and what you're trying to accomplish. If a lot of actors are walking through my trajectory, I'll go with floor. If the existing floor is flat and even enough, I'll go with just plastic. If it's not in the way and is just a move on a fixed plane, I'll go with track. I did make a conscious decision on my current show to go with floor in almost every case on interiors. The shots just evolve too much to get locked onto a piece of track. Foreground actors move around too much and directors always want to change the shot a couple of takes in and go tighter or wider at one point and a floor allows me to accomodate this. If the shot is a "special," though, and I know it won't change, such as a push-in on an object, or a solitary actor doing a long speech, I'll almost always go with a rail. As I've said before, one of my favorite shortcuts is to use two of my 2x8 dance floor pieces as planks for shorter moves. They have lower surge, they are easier to get in and out of sets than a 4x8, and still allow for versatility if the shot changes a little bit.
  I'm now three weeks into my show and it's been exhausting, so I haven't posted as much lately, but keep checking in. Stay safe. Till next time, and in keeping with our ongoing series of pretty actresses with dollies, this comes to us by way of Wick. It's European actress Justinia Sieniawka with a Fisher 11. Thanks Wick and Justinia! Keep 'em coming!


  1. Creeps are always tricky. Sometimes you have a shot which has to move a certain distance to match 37 seconds of voice over and land at a specific point on dialogue. I sometimes mark intervals (one second or 2 second or 5 second) on the floor so I am consistent across the move.
    As D says, i will always try and use track for these moves.
    I sometimes also try and put a little downhill slope into the track. It can help.

    ... and speed wheels !!

  2. Great tip Gripworks. Putting a slight grade on your track can help in controlling your move. I've used it for "motion control" moves too. I also try to find the middle part of the dialogue and make it correspond to the middle point of the move so that I know if I'm on the right track timing wise.

  3. I always use a bunch of keywords and then mark the dolly with a crayon in the rehearsal... 1st keyword is the 1st mark, and so on and so on...

  4. And offcourse on Onno's precision tracks!

  5. D, for the record, the lovely lady's correct spelling of her name is Justyna Sieniawska, and it sounds much better when she says it. Justyna was co-host at the Plus Camerimage Film Festival in Poland, which is well worth attending if any of you ever have the time.

    I agree re: track. Another thing that can help, depending on the length of the move, is to work off the dolly's tire, turning that instead of using the push bar. This gives you a lot more control over surges, and removes any looseness between pushbar, chassis, & wheel.

    Happy Holidays, everybody who gets'em! It's snowing and frozen solid here in Germany.


  6. Hello All,

    If you would want to us track (because the floor is asking for it) but the director keeps changing his mind you can use a speedrail (or alutube) as track, it is easy to us and maintain your stearing position; just lift the dolly, roll the tube underneath and let fall...) Even using one tube on the heavy0-side of the dolly only is already taking the uneven spots out of the original floor.

    As Sanjay mentioned making time marks or time-references is always a good thing to do.

    last month I was on a show with only dolly moves, lots of creeps. I either used my TwinDolly (slider) or the Panther on tracks using the Trackjacks for repositioning. Espicially with the jacks I found a new trick (which has ofcourse allready been used by others: Instead of leveling it exacly and still protect the floor from scratches caused by changing tracks I did throw a rope of 10mm underneath the tracktubes on each side: This gave me the ability to realign the tracks softly without any damag to the floor, kept away the creeking from wedges on a woodenfloor, gave me some sort of level on the existing floor eso eso....

    so far, of o bed after three weeks of 90 hours in 5 days....

    Good Luck to all,


  7. I love this site. So many cool ways to do the same thing. Awesome ideas to solve the same issue. I go with track when I can and then dance floor if there's a lot of traffic going through. But the seams in dance floor can be murderous. Always an x-factor. But I always like the challenge of a slow push in and the stress of landing on the right line.

    I remember when the director would ask for "a little creep" on this shot and we would call it a "Mickey Rooney." Has anyone updated the reference in their world? I've heard some good ones.

  8. Atleast here in Toronto, we still refer to it as a "Mickey Rooney", however, having worked with Mickey, a longer story would have it the other way...

    Side note - I'm off finally for two weeks Xmas hiatus. Hopefully I can thaw my brain enough by the fire to come up with something for the site.