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An alternative to tracks - for documentary (9 replies and 9 comments)

simon m
2 months ago
simon m 2 months ago

Hello Roger, I'm exploring different options for achieving some simple camera movement for a documentary project. Push-ins, Pull-outs, short walk and talks. It's a documentary budget, so extra grips and tracks are out of the question. Would love to know your thoughts on a pneumatic tripod dolly for such moves? I'll post a picture of one. Thank you!

https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Digital-Juice-Orbit-Dolly-8inch-Pneumatic-Wheels.jpg
Mike
2 months ago
Mike 2 months ago

Not Roger.

Interesting Photo. A well conceived Dolly with lockable steering and carry handles too. I can’t really tell but it looks like it has folding legs and again is lockable. Pneumatic tyres is great as you can alter the tyre pressure to suit the ground surface, soft being the ideal choice to soak up the bumps and cause enough “drag” to stop it free wheeling. It would be better if it had brakes to lock it in place probably the Mk 2 will do that. Obviously, Chinese made but some brands are well engineered and should not be dismissed. Well worth the investment and tenth of the cost of the PRO market gear.

Btw, Pneumatic tyres was common place from 1930 - 1960’s, the Austin dolly lead the way with its steerable wheels and was used on nearly every film. Watch a 1940’s film using reference headphones and listen to the squealing of tyres on the painted concrete surface, while the Director was shouting at the crew.

simon m
2 months ago

Hi Mike, yes for all those reasons I'm interested in this dolly. I'd need to weigh it down with a couple of sand bags, and let some air out of the tires, as you mention, but it might work for us. I was just curious if Roger, with all his experience, might see any potential problems that I might not think of. cheers.

The Byre
2 months ago
The Byre 2 months ago
simon m
2 months ago
simon m 2 months ago

Thanks, but I am particularly interested in track-less dollys, as this is a documentary project.

The Byre
2 months ago

Trackless is always going to be a bit wobbly (or 'shoogly' as we saw in Scotland) unless you have a smooth floor.

simon m
2 months ago

Ha! yes, it's true, there is some inherent shooglyness in this rig. I'm only looking for relatively small camera movement; like push-ins.

Mike
2 months ago
Mike 2 months ago

I think the “Dolly” will do the job alright providing there is some weight on those wheels and the tripod legs are firmly held in position. You probably can keep the tripod on it all day providing you have chocks on the tyres or preferably brakes to lock it down. It’s all down to price these days and longevity, how long will it last before some over enthusiastic soul decides to stand on it and ‘scoot’ around the set.  It’s the design and engineering you are paying for and are there any spares back up. NB, cheap wheels and tyres will eventually let you down, so think longevity!

Those Rickshaw dolly’s are now getting very popular and are easy to make. Attached photo.

 

https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/AA251F7D-D71A-4FAD-A9EF-FB77582F39CA.jpeg
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/855588BB-5997-4465-9F44-20C3C15EC468.jpeg
The Byre
2 months ago

That wheelchair thing is a lot of kit to be schlepping about! We are talking about a documentary, so that's run-n-gun stuff, not a Pink Floyd stage show!

There was a guy in the US who created the best portable dolly system ever - but that was back in about 1996 and he seems to have vanished since then. It was a beautifully engineered stainless steel assembly that was held together by strong rubber bands - that meant you could throw it onto the ground and it assembled itself into a 12' dolly track!

The whole thing with wheels packed away into what looked like a large umbrella bag. It meant you could hike up a mountain and have a dolly track at the top! The downside was that it cost real money - though I can't remember how much.

Mike
2 months ago

Rickshaw dolly is multi purpose, can be used for fly fishing or your wife can use it to collect you from the pub! What a useful tool!

simon m
2 months ago

Haha! We were just in the UK and I think I saw one of these parked outside the local pub. Must have been filmmakers.

Mike
2 months ago

Did it have the initials “RD” stamped on the side?

simon m
2 months ago
simon m 2 months ago

Thanks so much gents for all your ideas and input. And stories! cheers.

Roger Deakins
2 months ago
Roger Deakins 2 months ago

All those tool are good on a shot to shot basis but for a documentary, I'm not so sure. I don't know what camera you use but isn't there a simple gimbal system that would give you more flexibility?

Hans
2 months ago
Hans 2 months ago

If you don't mind that the camera moves slightly lower during the push in, maybe this is a good technique. Camera on a monopod pushing in: 
https://youtu.be/OXphjHpD6ps?t=34»

For walks and talks Rogers' suggestion of  gimbal would be good. 

simon m
2 months ago

Thanks Hans. Yes, I've seen this video also. Although that's a good 'quick and dirty' way to get a push-in, we're looking for a more 'professional' result, for lack of a better term. But I appreciate your input.

Mike
2 months ago
Mike 2 months ago

There seems to be a whole choice of stabilisers on the market, some very simple devices and some quite sophisticated. Most are made in China by small engineering firms who are very good at copying other people’s designs but they are well engineered, I can vouch for that. I have “obtained” some examples and they certainly stand up to Romford Baker, Arri. and other well known and expensive types. The advantage of Chinese versions is that they are cheap or at least affordable, they were not designed to be rented out but are manufactured for the “masses” made by the million for wannabe Spielbergs or I should say Wannabe Roger Deakins. Their designs are not always functional but do appeal to those who just want to look the part and then perhaps to sell on as the purchaser realises it doesn’t perform as well as the “real thing” and invest more money in upgrading due to their friends have the better or more “cool” version. At the end of the day it nearly always pays to buy the proper tool for the job even if it means buying second hand. Professionally made tools are designed for heavy duty use which means longevity and should last a lifetime. I still have Ronford Baker heads and tripods made 50 years ago which still work like new albeit new parts fitted during their service. Ronford still service vintage gear and if they do not have the parts, they will remake it. Very few of these old company’s are left now as it’s a throw away society, old gear now means dead and useless. Who wants to be seen using a vintage Cartoni or Miller tripod!!

https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/66397FFC-0A46-4637-91B5-F9366E74A9DD.jpeg
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/FA0E7139-56A4-47E1-890B-821E5CAC6860.jpeg
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/B22BC411-C6FD-498B-A367-D1501B9ECC51.jpeg
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/4AE8F06B-5E91-462B-836F-DE000F488992.jpeg
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/23CBEAB3-D86C-480C-BEB4-AD3E3EC1C1E8.jpeg
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/D07882D9-1393-4638-9D32-C397D10F63A4.jpeg
https://www.rogerdeakins.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/1C826EE2-8002-4132-A74B-7443CA08FB7F.jpeg
simon m
2 months ago

Thanks Mike. Couldn't agree with you more.

simon m
2 months ago
simon m 2 months ago

Yes we were planning on using a gimbal for longer walk/talk shots, and also when following the subjects into/around locations. I was thinking to use the pneumatic tire tripod dolly mostly for interview type situations on location. I just wanted a stable platform with the ability to push-in. It's very tricky to have tools to accomplish the shots you want, but still be efficient both economically and set-up wise!! Yikes.

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