Monday, March 25, 2013

The Aerocrane

   A while back, I included the Aerocrane on my list of Things That Suck. I had used it on a series and had very bad luck with it. We couldn't ever seem to get it back in the cases right (not just me, three of us) even after taking pictures. This culminated in a 2 AM aberration involving a ratchet strap and a note to the rental house. Yes, I know it's easy to take it out and make a note, or a diagram, but none of us had time. Plus, every time it came out, it was in a different case setup. This was minor compared to the problems I had with parts that didn't fit, or wouldn't come apart due to a piece inside the arm shifting. The solution involved me attacking it with a pair of channel locks to turn the male coupler inside it, which had shifted out of vertical, to make it go together. It also never seemed to be quite long enough at around nine feet max.  Now I won't say it was all bad. We got some good shots with it. I just didn't like it very much. I recently became very familiar with this jib once again and the circumstances were somewhat different. Instead of using the Hustler 4 or some other heavy dolly as a base, we used the lightweight Magnum Dolly from Movietech. This thing was a dream. Two grips can very comfortably carry it, set it on the track, and then mount the arm. With a Power Pod on it, the options are greatly increased from the standard dolly on track scenario. The secret is in the system. The Key, Dolly , and Best Boy I was working with have been using this setup with the DP for many years and have it down to a science. It takes a couple of days to get used to it and get the steps down as well as become familiar with the arm, but once that's done, it's extremely fast and easy. The secret is also in using your own arm, so that you know it's been well maintained and you know where it's been, so there are no unwelcome surprises with sections that don't go together etc. So, I have to say, I was wrong. In the right hands, with people who know it's strengths, it is a very effective piece of equipment. So yes, in short, I have reevaluated my stand on the Aerocrane. I was wrong and am proud to admit it.

D

PS:
 I recently reacquired the .com suffix back from the clutches of Crazy Lady. It's mine, I invented it, and I stupidly and drunkenly let it go. It should be linked back up to the site and operational by tomorrow. So now both .com, and .net bring you here. So there.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fisher Open House 2013

  It's that time of year again. Frank Kay of JL Fisher sent me the latest update about this year's festivities. I can't really say enough about this event. It is truly a day for Dolly Grips, and we don't get many. I've only been able to make it once over the years due to location work, etc. but there was beer, barbecue, beer, and good friends. Fisher pulls out all the stops and puts on a great show. If you are in Burbank on May 18th, do yourself a favor and drop in. Do me a favor and mention Dollygrippery. I won't be able to make it once again because I'll be in the middle of a show but represent for me and I may send you a t shirt (coming soon).

The details:

JL Fisher Open House

Date: May 18, 2013

Place: 1000 W Isabel St

Time: 9 AM til 4 PM

Don't miss the Moving Camera Seminar hosted by George Spiro Dibie ASC.


 Moving right along, I just wrapped myself on my latest show. No, I didn't quit. I was always going to leave a week early to start the next job with my regular crew. As most of you know, I never use real names here, but I have to thank Mitch Lillian. I learned so much from you and understand why you are truly one of the great Key Grips.Words fail me. Best Boy, Paul Candrilli, you were a gem to work with and kept us laughing on those long rainy days. You are a real prick knocker. "A" Camera Dolly Grip Bruce Hamme, you're one of the best in the business and I'll be your guitar tech any day.To one of the finest grip crews I've ever been a part of: Sonny, Pat, Danny, and Jimmy, you made me proud. Finally, thanks to our DP, Mr.Robert Deakins. It was a pleasure to work with you. I never saw a man do so much with unbleached muslin. I hope to see you down the road.

D


PS- Stop emailing me. Yes, I know his name is "Roger."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Little Help From My Friends

  I've been having a little, okay, a lot of trouble lately, coming up with good topics for posts. Over the last  six years we've covered just about every imaginable aspect of the craft. A look back at previous posts lists everything from dance floor to track laying, safety to handheld support, car rigs to lens flagging. I've expounded long and drunkenly on various theories and philosophies of moving a camera. Frankly, the well is dry. Also due to the pressures of work and family, time has also been short. The writing has gotten sloppy and not up to my former standards. Thanks to a couple of friends of the site, I have some new ways to attack things and some good inspiration and encouragement. Michael from Blood, Sweat, and Tedium gave me a much needed pat on the back and some good advice, as did our friend Onno from Solid Grip Systems.  Onno suggested that I revisit some of the older posts and give them a fresh perspective. Although I had loathed the idea of repeating myself, I think a lot of this stuff from a few years ago could certainly be updated and rewritten with the benefit of age and a little more wisdom. Mitch, the Key Grip I'm working with now has also given me some good ideas as has Danny, my frequent B Camera cohort. So hopefully over the next few weeks, I will have a little more interest in this little project and be better able to translate it to the page. My next job involves a lot of location work so I will also probably have more time to devote to it from my hotel room(s). As always, suggestions are welcome here from those of you who are old-timers, and also those who are the up and comers. Till then, I'm thinking. In between all the other crap.
  Tomorrow is my last day on this job. I'm leaving a couple of weeks early (this was planned from the beginning, although back then it was only a week early). I'm taking a week off and then getting on a plane. You may not hear from me for a few days while I tie up loose ends. Hopefully Azurgrip will throw something up to keep you busy.

D

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My 3D Experience

  Wick recently suggested a post involving 3D and how it affects us as Dolly Grips. To be honest, I don't have that much experience with it. A couple of years ago, the powers that be on a series I was doing decided to that we should reshoot a scene we had already done from the current episode. Only we were going to redo it in 3D.  So, all of us gathered on a Saturday to take a half-day seminar by the 3D techs (nerds) to better acquaint us with what was coming. I found the whole thing very interesting. We learned about "Convergence Points" and "Racking Convergence" and "Neutral Zones"  and basically a lot of very compelling things with cool Star Trek names. I don't remember much of it at this point (let's be honest, my eyes started glazing over at the first mention of "points of convergence.") So we all learned a great deal about 3D, but I was concerned about the nuts and bolts, which would directly affect me.
   I don't recall when exactly the shoot was, but I think it was after an intentionally short day. My first thought upon seeing the huge 3D rig was something along the lines of, "Oh $%&*." This thing was huge. It was a large red case of about 3' high by 2' wide. While interested, I was also wondering how I had suddenly stepped back into the 40's with blimped Mitchell cameras. I then began to consult with the director and operator about recreating the shots we had done in regular 2D a few days before. The first shot was a dolly through a doorway. And therein was the first snag. "Unless you want the lens at four feet high or take the top of the door out, we can't do it," I told the operator. So, we compromised. This was not the first compromise of the day. I then discovered that all the dance floor had to be double laid because the rig was so top heavy that every seam was transmitted through the arm, resulting in a dolly move not unlike what one would see while dollying on a dirt road or doing really bad handheld. So, we brought in more plywood. The next snag was when we needed to place the camera high and wide in a corner of the room. Again, the rig made it impossible to get high or wide enough to get the exact shot we needed. So we compromised. Later, we needed to go into low mode. I soon discovered that this doesn't work either without orienting the dolly the only way it will work, to the side, making the shot we wanted to do impossible because of the geography of the room. So we compromised. By the end of the day, we had spent at least seven hours reshooting a scene that took around four to shoot originally And I was exhausted from double laying everything and constantly redoing things which we discovered didn't work. "I don't know how anyone ever finishes one of these things," I thought. Then, I thought, it's just a different piece of equipment. You adapt. We've gotten so used to cameras and equipment that are streamlined for camera placement and movement, that you truly do have to put put yourself back in the age of Citizen Kane, when the cameras were huge, to make it work.
   Again, this is only my short experience. After all the compromises, the final product, when I saw it, was extraordinary. It looked fantastic. But I don't think I would want to do it for four months.


  Many of you have much more experience that I do with this technology. I know Gil has done at least one whole feature in 3D and many more of you probably have as well. What are your experiences? What tips can you give the rest of us?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Major Award!

   Dollygrippery would like to congratulate my friend Brad Rea for receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for Moving Camera Platform Operator from the SOC. Brad is truly one of the best Dolly Grips in the world with "A" camera credits like Memoirs of a Geisha, A Walk in the Clouds, Armageddon, Angels and Demons, and  Star Trek: Into Darkness on his resume. And the list goes on and on. Brad is like a rock. Nothing rattles him and he's a great guy to boot. Congratulations, Brad! No one deserves it more than you!

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, the show is going well. I spent today in the freezing rain (all man made) which, luckily I am used to since I've also spent much of the last month and a half in the freezing rain (both real and man made).  Unfortunately I will be leaving a week or so early to start the next epic which I hate doing, but don't really have a choice in. This is truly one of the finest grip crews I've had the pleasure to be a part of. And we have our wrap times down to about fifteen minutes, tops. I have about three weeks left before I have to fly to Northern California to prep the next job, which is basically a remake of Cannonball Run without Burt Reynolds, and with $150,000 cars. I hope all of you are staying busy and staying safe. Try to remember that making movies should be fun. My first Key Grip told me many years ago that when it stops being fun, it's time to get out. Oh yeah, he also said never get in a helicopter. So I try to remember those two things, especially the fun part. We're blessed to be able to do the things we do and work with the people we work with.

'Til next time,
D




PS:
   If I don't post often it's because I am having a problem coming up with ideas. Over the last six years of Dollygrippery, I've pretty much covered every aspect of this craft. Give me some ideas. Is there something you would like to suggest? Send it in at dollygrippery at gmail dot com.