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Old July 28th, 2005, 10:07 AM   #1
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'Wheelchair' Dolly?

Hey Everyone,

I read on a filming site that you can use a regular old wheelchair to film 'okay' moving shots such as walking, following, etc. Does this actually work? And also, do you know where (not exactly specifically) I could get one (maybe at my local hospital, etc.)? Thank you so much for your reply!

Sincerely,

Robert Sullivan
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Old July 28th, 2005, 10:27 AM   #2
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Sure, a wheel chair works fine--as long as the surface is smooth!!! But why not just build a dolly that runs on rails so you don't have to worry about it? It will probably be cheaper than buying a wheelchair too.

Dan
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Old July 28th, 2005, 11:04 AM   #3
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Part of that smoothness of motion can be attributed to the large diameter of the rear wheels. That's why they make lawnmowers with large rear wheels so that the mower won't fall into every uneven spot in the lawn. You get a smoother, more even cut this way.

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Old July 28th, 2005, 11:07 AM   #4
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I think this became a popular idea when Robert Rodriguez used it in El Mariachi, so yes, it does work. He borrowed the wheelchair from a hospital, but, like most of his low-budget achievements on that movie, he managed that only because he was shooting in a small town in Mexico. I would guess you are more likely to find a used wheelchair to buy than a hospital that will loan you one. Try a surplus and donated goods store. I've never seen one at Goodwill, but the St. Vincent-DePaul society near where I live has them all the time (they also have gurneys - maybe you could do something with that). One of my friends also bought a used wheelchair at a garage sale, so maybe you could get lucky that way. Let us know how it works out in your movie.
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Old July 28th, 2005, 01:04 PM   #5
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Also, depending on where you live you can rent them from medical supply houses. I have had to rent wheelchairs on a number of occasions for different purposes. It is not expensive at all to rent one for a month if you have a shoot coming up although I would probably just make a dolly system.
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Old July 28th, 2005, 01:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zach Mull
I think this became a popular idea when Robert Rodriguez used it in El Mariachi, so yes, it does work.
Boy, Robert Rodriguez sure gets a lot of credit for stuff that came 40 years before him. How 'bout Cassavettes? Or Kubrick (he even used a wheel chair in The Shinning pushing Garrett Brown around with a steadicam)? Lenny Lipton? Ed wood? Roger Corman? John Waters?

Dan
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Old July 28th, 2005, 03:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Selakovich
Boy, Robert Rodriguez sure gets a lot of credit for stuff that came 40 years before him. How 'bout Cassavettes? Or Kubrick (he even used a wheel chair in The Shinning pushing Garrett Brown around with a steadicam)? Lenny Lipton? Ed wood? Roger Corman? John Waters?

Dan
YES! AND, the use of a wheelchair as a crude dolly is mentioned in practically every filmmaking book since the 40s. Also, don't forget the commercially-produced "Standolly" which was (is) a custom dolly based on the design of the wheel chair. It's been around since 1970 or earlier.

"Everything old is new again..."
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Old July 28th, 2005, 08:43 PM   #8
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Dan, I didn't say he invented the technique - read what you quoted from me again. But I didn't hear it from my friends or see it on message boards all the time until the El Mariachi DVD came out. It takes a lot less effort to listen to a director's commentary on an new movie than to research all of film history, and many people who use this board have never been on a feature set but have read Rodriguez's book. Instead of a history lesson, do you have any useful information about using a wheelchair as a dolly? You seem to know quite a bit about low-cost support systems.
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Old July 28th, 2005, 09:02 PM   #9
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"Ah I See..." Said The Blind Man :D

Thanks alot you guys for your help, I will look at my nearest Salvation Army, Goodwill, and do some garage sale hunting; I can try my local newspaper and use 411.ca to find their phone number and ask them first :). As for the dolly, let's just say I'm not exactly mechanically inclined to build one and I know pre-made ones are UNBELIEVABLY expensive, I don't have that kind of budget... :P As soon as I get one, I'll let you know! :D Anyway, has anyone here shot a film using one??? Also, I know this is off subject but I don't want to go to the trouble of posting another thread, has anyone here made a movie using only ONE camera? I'm very interested since I only have one and want to film my own, :). Thanks for your further replies everyone!

Rob
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Old July 28th, 2005, 09:17 PM   #10
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Robert, people shoot movies with one camera all the time. It's a pretty standard practice. I think Robert Rodriguez pioneered this technique way back in the 1990s :). You just take each scene from multiple angles. If you're not familiar with single-camera production, you may want to do some research before you start buying wheelchairs to use for dollys. Good luck.
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Old July 29th, 2005, 02:00 AM   #11
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Zach,
I know you were responding to the comments of the other Dan, but I'm going to throw in my 2-cents worth anyhow.
Contrary to what some people think, the wheelchair isn't restricted to smooth surfaces, it's only restricted to surfaces that it can be pushed over. That's because when you shoot wheelchair shots, the camera is hand held. You can smooth out a lot of bumps by making your arm act like a Steadicam arm.

And Robert,
As Zach says, don't worry about dollies yet. Learn more about the basics first.
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Old July 29th, 2005, 09:58 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zach Mull
Dan, I didn't say he invented the technique - read what you quoted from me again. But I didn't hear it from my friends or see it on message boards all the time until the El Mariachi DVD came out. It takes a lot less effort to listen to a director's commentary on an new movie than to research all of film history, and many people who use this board have never been on a feature set but have read Rodriguez's book. Instead of a history lesson, do you have any useful information about using a wheelchair as a dolly? You seem to know quite a bit about low-cost support systems.
That wasn't dig to you at all Zach, but now that I re-read my post, it sure seems to come off that way. So sorry. I saw a independent film 7 or 8 years ago where the filmmakers thanked R.R. in the credits for opening the door for independent film, and it just stuck in the pet peeve part of my brain.

As for a smooth surface for dolly shots with a wheelchair; my experience has been that the smoother the surface the better. While your body can absorb some cracks in the sidewalk, they are noticeable, if even slightly. Plus, getting the camera to the correct height on a wheel chair can be problematic, if the shot requires anything other than the height of a seated operator with the camera on his shoulder. An operator can be on his knees in the seat, but that causes other problems like balance; i.e. keeping the shot looking like a dolly shot. We've also rigged a tripod to the arm rests, but it is a pain. Sure, it can be done, but dollies are so easy to make why go through the trouble of using a wheelchair?

As a side note, there is an artist here in L.A. that needed a rig where she could walk and talk to people on the street. She needed a way to shoot herself with the person she was interviewing without having an operator. I rigged a baby stroller for her. I think it works pretty well. The main reason is because the stoller uses bicycle like tires, unlike the hard wheels of a wheelchair. She has a video blog if any of you would like to check out the shots and interviews: http://www.walklawithme.com

Dan
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Old July 30th, 2005, 04:00 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Selakovich

As a side note, there is an artist here in L.A. that needed a rig where she could walk and talk to people on the street. She needed a way to shoot herself with the person she was interviewing without having an operator. I rigged a baby stroller for her. I think it works pretty well. The main reason is because the stoller uses bicycle like tires, unlike the hard wheels of a wheelchair. She has a video blog if any of you would like to check out the shots and interviews: http://www.walklawithme.com

Dan
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I plan on doing the same with my son's buggy that has been in the shed for a decade - once I get rid of the wasp nest that has set up in it. : (
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Old July 30th, 2005, 06:44 AM   #14
 
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Instead of a history lesson, do you have any useful information about using a wheelchair as a dolly?
Zach, like Dan said, he wasn't trying to stick you. But he brings up an excellent point. If anyone wants to learn about how to make films or videos, there is a great deal to be learned (how it was done) in the history of filmmaking. Studying the history of anything provides a wealth of practical information.

Jay
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Old July 30th, 2005, 09:52 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Jay Gladwell
If anyone wants to learn about how to make films or videos, there is a great deal to be learned (how it was done) in the history of filmmaking. Studying the history of anything provides a wealth of practical information.

Jay
Couldn't have said it better myself!

Dan
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