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Old December 13th, 2003, 09:05 PM   #1
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Do you need dolly tracks to use a dolly?

I'm talking about a cheapie dolly like this:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=280124&is=REG

Do you acutally need tracks in order to perform a shot where the tripod follows alongside a talent?

Or are tracks reserved for more expensive dollies?
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Old December 13th, 2003, 09:41 PM   #2
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Chris:

You can use track with a variety of dollys, from simple skate wheel setups to the high end pro dollies. However I don't believe you can use track with a three-legged dolly like the one you linked to, and that type is really not that ideal for the type of shot you describe, more to move the camera from place to place without having to pick it up inbetween. It is possible to make a small move with a three wheel version, but only on a very smooth floor and most likely you will see a side-to-side motion in the frame. You need four wheels to prevent this rotation from happening.

Here's a simple three wheel dolly that makes excellent tracking shots on inexpensive PVC pipe or their own Flextrack, if the floor is not smooth enough for a rubber wheel dolly.
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Old December 14th, 2003, 03:00 AM   #3
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Chris, don't know how pro/budget you need but I made a dolly for my low/no budget LadyX episode that worked a treat for what we used it for. Used the basic plans from the shadowgirl project.

http://www.shadowgirlproject.com/dolly01.asp

Cost me about NZ$150, which is about US$80ish and you could probably build cheaper if you looked around or scrounged some parts.

The site is in french but translate through google or something. If you want to see it in action, look at Episode 26 of the LadyX series http://www.ladyxfilms.com and look at the last scene at the party. It's about 5:26 into the movie. Of course there is a certain skill required of the grip but I was happy with it's performance for that short.

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Old December 14th, 2003, 12:22 PM   #4
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Re: Do you need dolly tracks to use a dolly?

<<<-- Originally posted by Chris Mueller

Do you acutally need tracks in order to perform a shot where the tripod follows alongside a talent?

Or are tracks reserved for more expensive dollies? -->>>

As Charles mentioned, this type of dolly is best used for moving the camera from shot to shot. However, it is possible to use it for actual dolly shots, with certain limitations. First of all, you must have a very smooth floor. Think the marble floors found in auto showrooms. Second, it is best to have a "dolly grip" to move the tripod/dolly while you concentrate on framing, which can be difficult to do with a small camera's lcd, while avoiding tripping over your own feet. If you must operate the dolly and camera yourself, put one hand on a dolly leg and use the other hand on the pan handle. And remember; wider focal lengths will be more forgiving of any wobbles or shakes.

With a three legged dolly, it is best if you can keep one leg in the lead, with the other two following. This will allow you to steer. Most of these dollies allow you to lock the wheels in place with a pin that has different positions available. For instance, you can lock the lead wheel in line with the dolly leg, and the other two can lock in line with the lead. This would allow for a reasonably straight line dolly move. If you leave the two wheels unlocked, it is easy to steer the dolly. The additional weight of a couple of sand bags might make the rig more stable and eliminate some wobble.

But the very best dolly moves are done on a dolly that allows the camera operator to ride along and control the camera independent of the dolly.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old December 14th, 2003, 12:23 PM   #5
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An under $800 alternative is the indie-dolly, offered at b&h:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=287940&is=REG

This can be used with a tripod. Anyone ever tried this out?
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Old December 14th, 2003, 06:57 PM   #6
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The tripod dollies that have locking swivels are designed to do exactly what you want. On smooth surfaces only though.

I have several dollies that have these locks. And they are very handly for reasonably smooth and level surfaces.

You can even run them in U-channel if you need to use track. Angle-iron, held upside down in V-blocks will also work. But the iron (or aluminum) has to be fairly large to keep the wheels in bounds.
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Old December 16th, 2003, 09:10 PM   #7
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Hmmm. It seems as though dollies are expensive. I was just wondering on a general, hypothetical level (though spending a hundred or so on a set of wheels to stick to the bottom of a tripod doesn't seem like too much if it'll allow me to get some steady movements, despite lack of tracks).

Thanks for the info!
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Old December 16th, 2003, 11:06 PM   #8
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Well if you're going to do that I'd suggest take up the idea I mentioned before. Make one that rides on tracks. Simple to make, and cheap and smooth.

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Old December 17th, 2003, 08:04 AM   #9
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http://www.longvalleyequip.com/

I bought a super track dolly from this website.... It works incredibly great.... under 600 and can hold a camera opperator, assistant and a crane or jib if you want....

I highly reccomend!

Peter
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Old December 17th, 2003, 08:18 AM   #10
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Home made dollie

Aaron, this idea seems to be great! I just ordered two sets of skateboard wheels and some bearings on eBay. I am tired of the not so smooth movements of the wheel-chair! :)

By the way, I know it is not yours, but the shadowgirlproject web site is really well made. Lot of entertaining informations about the production. And it is french, my first language!
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Old December 17th, 2003, 11:29 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Sciretta :
http://www.longvalleyequip.com/

I bought a super track dolly from this website.... It works incredibly great.... under 600 and can hold a camera opperator, assistant and a crane or jib if you want....

I highly reccomend!

Peter
That looks pretty good, but does the rig come with any track at all?
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Old December 18th, 2003, 11:49 AM   #12
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Re: Home made dollie

<<<-- Originally posted by Jean-Philippe Archibald : Aaron, this idea seems to be great! I just ordered two sets of skateboard wheels and some bearings on eBay. I am tired of the not so smooth movements of the wheel-chair! :)

By the way, I know it is not yours, but the shadowgirlproject web site is really well made. Lot of entertaining informations about the production. And it is french, my first language! -->>>

A caution here. Skate-board and in-line skate wheel/bearings are designed to accept a load at 90 degrees to the axle. Loads at 45 degrees (placing the wheels on a piece of angle iron so the wheels straddle a pipe-track) will wipe the bearings out fairly fast.

So a better design would be \|/ Three wheels with the center wheel supporting the load and the side wheels guiding along the track.
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Old December 18th, 2003, 11:55 PM   #13
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<<<-- Originally posted by Peter Sciretta : http://www.longvalleyequip.com/
-->>>

This looks like a scary proposition. The tracks do not seem to have any cross bracing, like the Matthews product line. Longvalley's stuff appears to use the dolly wheels themselves to keep the tracks parallel.

Also, how well do they work on dirt or asphalt? What's the leveling mechanism?

After watching the making of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and woman), I can see why dollies are so expensive. Outdoors, they have to perform under very inhospitable conditions.
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Old December 19th, 2003, 01:52 AM   #14
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<<After watching the making of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and woman), I can see why dollies are so expensive.>>

You ain't kidding. Fisher and Chapman (the two most widely used dolly manufacturers in the US) don't sell their dollies, only lease them to rental houses or production companies, but I have heard that the valuation for insurance hovers around $250,000 per dolly...!
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Old December 19th, 2003, 03:08 AM   #15
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IMHO the indie-dolly product that Marc linked to above is overpriced, especially given the short run of track you're given with it. For half the cost you can get an identical dolly with a non-proprietary track.

Tracking dolly

Of course, with a little ingenuity and a couple of days at the machine shop, you can build something like this for probably about $75 in parts.

And let's not forget the old trick of sitting in the trunk of a hatchback that's had some air let out of its tires.

I imagine, Charles, that the extraordinary markup on the higher-end products is a result of their relatively limited market, and not any especially valuable engineering work that's gone into them. A Lexus, vastly more sophisticated than a camera dolly, doesn't cost a quarter of a million dollars.

I wonder if there are any numbers on theft rates on unbuyable film equipment--the dollies you mention, or Panavision packages. Do they send private investigators after film crews that report their equipment "missing"?
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