When To Use A Camera Dolly

Having a camera dolly on set will add huge production value to your production. It will introduce movement to your images, the ability to use techniques that will increase drama and convey different moods and feelings. A slight tracking shot can make a world of difference in making an otherwise static talking heads scene look and feel more interesting. A dolly is one of the most powerful tools at a filmmaker’s disposal.

Choosing the Right Dolly

Getting the right dolly requires you to understand the equipment you are filming with and the meaning behind of shot you want to achieve. You must choose a dolly that is suitable to the equipment you are working with in terms of weight and the intended result. Do you require hydraulic booming in your shot/s? Do you even require the camera to boom up and down at all? Is the dolly you are choosing an overkill in relation to the camera and lenses that you are using or the intended shot?

High-end dollies are all hydraulic so they provide ultra-smooth and really accurate booming movement. If you are filming with high-end equipment, which is usually quite heavy when it is all put together, you will usually require a heavy high-end dolly. That might not be the case if you are working with lightweight cameras. You might only need a wooden platform with four wheels and a tripod with the camera on the dolly. There are many options available for lightweight configurations.

This is a very important decision and you should discuss the options available to you with your rental company, as they can give you invaluable advice based on the equipment you are hiring or filming with.

Where to use the dolly

In order for a dolly to work correctly, the surface or ground underneath must be smooth and even. This is imperative if you plan to use the dolly on pneumatic wheels and not on track. You should be aware of the advantages to use the dolly on wheels, but also about the limitations. If you use the dolly on wheels, a bump in the movement, however small, will definitely be seen on camera. That has the potential to ruin whatever mood or emotion you are trying to convey.  When the ground is uneven, such as when you are filming outdoors on grass, it is not uncommon to use sheets of plywood to place on the ground. This will provide an even surface where you can then lay track on top to achieve a perfectly even surface.

If laying track, you must ensure that you use good quality track that will not bend due to the payload, as the dolly travels. The heavier the dolly, the sturdier the track must be. Usually this process is done by a qualified grip on set, especially with heavy-duty dollies and track where health and safety regulations apply and risk assessments are to be carried out.

Moving the Dolly

Moving a dolly for a shot takes some skill; do not underestimate this part of the process. The operator/ grip has to start and stop the movement smoothly and accurately, and sometimes the shot might require ultra-slow or fast tracking speeds. Achieving the right pace for the shot consistently, every take, is a skill and will help moving the production along without substantial delays or frustrations. The operator/ grip of the dolly is as important to the shot as the equipment itself and you should be aware that it takes time to achieve the desired result.

Talk to us about the different dolly options available. Our range of dollies are priced so that you can take advantage of movement in your shots without your budget being stretched too far. We have a solution for any camera. We would be more than happy to sit down with you and discuss your upcoming job. Give us a call on +44 2087359170 or send us an email on info@decodeuk.com

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