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Dollies, cranes, and tracks oh my!


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#1 FilmmakerJack

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Posted 16 May 2005 - 08:05 PM

Hey, I was wondering what were some things that could be done to have the shot of a dolly or crane. Am I just going to have to rent out the equipment? I have dollies on wheels, but most of the pavement I am filming on has rocks or grooves and whatnot. What are some suggestions as to what I could do?
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#2 drew_town

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Posted 16 May 2005 - 08:30 PM

The use of a wheelchair is a common indie practice. Lay down some boards or something to cover the gaps in the ground. Crane? You can rent a cheap jib arm.
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#3 John Thomas

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Posted 16 May 2005 - 09:41 PM

Jack,

It's location, location, location. I work in New York City and shot a low budget film that took place on the upper east side. The Director wanted several night "walk and talk" scenes on Madison Ave. I spent a day of prep looking for a smooth sidewalk on Park Ave. with a good background. I had to use Park because there is an island between the North and South lanes where I could hide some par cans to light the scene. As the shot progressed the par cans in the background were dimmed out and invisible in background of the shot. We ran the whole thing on a put-put around the corner and a battery light on the dolly. The Dolly had big pneumatic tires and with a wide lens on the camera we got away with it. I never would have pulled it off on a bumpy sidewalk on Madison. If they don't give you the money to do it right, then only work with directors who will help you do it any way you can.

good luck,
JT
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#4 Jon Amerikaner

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Posted 16 May 2005 - 10:43 PM

Yes, rent! No reason to buy unless you're going to use it a lot. And I mean a lot! The biggest problem with homemade dollies like wheelchairs and skateboards is that they amplify any bumps on the ground and are nearly impossible to control for identical takes. If you use a chair or board try buying some PVC pipe and cutting it in half to use as a track for the wheels. But the pipe needs to be off the ground a bit so you need to secure it to some boards. Like railroad tracks! If you have the resources you could also hire a Steadicam owner/operator for a day. Or, try a slow steady zoom. It won't look the same as a dolly but you can keep your subject framed in a similar composition as they move towards or away from the camera. If the action is moving parallel to the frame, the zoom method will work only if the camera is a significant distance from your subject.

But you need to ask, "is this the right way to handle the shot?" I've worked with a few directors who want every shot moving because they think it looks cool, not because its right for the moment. Definitely consider the content of the scene and what you want to communicate to the audience. Sometimes a rock steady camera and some careful blocking can work much better than any long tracking shot ever could.

PS
When renting, ask for a discount! Unless your Steve Spielberg or little Georgie Lucas, they probably won't mind.
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#5 J. Lamar King

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Posted 17 May 2005 - 12:08 AM

Sugar works a treat at filling in small cracks and holes in a sidewalk.
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#6 Rik Andino

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Posted 17 May 2005 - 02:56 AM

When shooting on rough terrian you really need a good set of tracks
And couple of apples boxes and a bunch of wooden shivs
And a good Grip to level them tracks using the apple boxes and shivs.

You could use the wheelchair but it'll be very bumpy.

The only other way is going handheld.

Renting a good dolly and some track will run you less than $100 a day
Which isn't that bad considering what other things cost...


Good Luck
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#7 Rik Andino

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Posted 17 May 2005 - 01:05 PM

I have dollies on wheels...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


What kinda dolly?
What kinda wheels?
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