Saturday, June 14, 2014

Track Laying: A Primer

  Ok, so if you search over the last few years of this blog,you will find a few track posts. I think it's time to revisit this.  Mainly because I seem to be working with a lot of young grips lately who don't know how to do it. Track laying is the most basic of grip jobs. It's literally the easiest but creates the most stress. Everybody calm down. Track laying is not a great mystery. Here's what you do. Lay it out. Leave four feet for the chassis on whichever end it's on,. I connect it all together at this point, but some don't. Find the highest point on the track. Whichever side it's on is now called the HIGH RAIL. All that matters is that you bring the track up level with THE HIGH RAIL. Don't fill it yet. All that matters is the joints (where the track fastens together) and the ends (the ends). Then go side to side and bring the low rail up to it. That's it. That's all there is. Now sometimes you go LAY OF THE LAND. All this means is that it is still straight, but not level to the world (Earth). La y it out. Find the highest point. Get down on your knees and sight down it and make it straight to eye. Then get a level and go side to side at each joint and bring each joint up level with the high rail. That's it,  Don't fill it until the dolly grip says, " Pack it." And that's all there is to it.
The Captain has spoken,
Lay it straight,


  1. Niall5:44 PM

    Of course the question one would ask is when does it benefit a dolly grip to Level or Lay of The Land?

  2. That was simple and good. Never a bad time to remind oneself of the preferred method, and demystify the process at the same time. Now let's move on to curved track...I got my ass kicked by a wide 360 track a few weeks back. I felt fine whole leveling it but when I got the dolly and the DP on it it turned into an amateur hour track ride for him on the kiddie coaster at the amusement park. I had no excuses except that may have been the 1,100'th time the Matthew's track had been used over the last 20 years. Was my track bent or am I still doing it wrong?

  3. Reasons for leveling of the land:
    1) Not enough gear to level out and the slope is not this much.
    2) If your actors need to cross the track, you do not want to see them lifting their feet high : - 0
    3) If you want a close profile shot on an actor walking down the street under a slight slope, you do not want to boom down to keep the camera at the same heigt...

    Another trick for laying of the land: Get the highest track on the required angle, weigh it down so it will not move anymore. Join the next track and use the straightness of the leveller to allign the second track and pack it up...

  4. Anonymous2:32 PM

    Lay of the land sucks ass. The dolly doesn't float like it ought to and it's much harder to do a smooth move or feather the ends. I got burned on a lay of the land shot that the b cam op insisted on. Al fucking Pacino was the talent and he seemed not at all amused with the clusterfuckery of the shot when i couldnt hold the fully loaded dolly still for a long ass speech(without a brake) and then feather a move uphill. Cam op whispered something in his ear, most likely throwing me under the bus. Fuck lay of the land.

  5. Sorry to hear about your experience, and I understand exactly what you are talking about. Sometimes on steep lay of the land shots I will build a counter balance sled on another section of track. It allows you to keep the feel of the dolly neutral. If you don't have the length, you can build in a mechanical disadvantage with pulleys, so the counterbalance has to move only half the length or one third or a quarter, depending on available space / track. You will need to load it up appropriately.