When it comes to dolly moves, the camera assistant, camera operator, and dolly grip all have to be on the same page to get the shot right. As camera moves get more complicated, the pressure rises on all three of these crew members.
That’s why having skilled crew on this team is important.
A talented dolly grip isn’t easy to come by and, for camera assistants especially, they make a crucial ally during dolly shots.
So, why is a dolly grip so important to you?
Because Your Marks Are in Their Hands
One tiny bump off the mark while the dolly grip pushes the camera back and forth along the tracks is all that it takes. They’re trying to nail the exact same frame that was set in rehearsals. That same frame that you used to measure for focus.
If the dolly fails to hit its marks, a shot can easily end up out of focus.
And all of your own intricate markings mean nothing if the dolly grip doesn’t land on theirs.
But who do you think gets the blame when the shot is out of focus? That’s right. The camera assistant.
Because You Require Rhythm and Consistency on Their Part
Without rhythm and consistency in a dolly move, it is going to be extremely difficult to pull focus accurately every time.
After a few rehearsals, the rhythm of the shot should be nailed down allowing you to “feel” the focus pull rather than concentrate on it. A dolly grip that isn’t able to keep a consistent speed will throw this off completely and you will be left starting from square one every take.
Rehearsals (if you get any) won’t mean anything if the shot ends up “feeling” different every time you do it.
Because If You Treat Them Right, They’ll Treat You Right
Over at Dollygrippery, seasoned dolly grip “D” wrote, “We tend to work more closely with those [camera] guys than we often do with our own. We rig the cameras, carry the cameras, level the cameras, even carry a case or two if we really like them.”
That last part is what you should remember: if we really like them.
The ol’ quid pro quo in action.
Crew will often go out of their way to help you if you’re willing to help them. A dolly grip is no different. They can make your life easier by rigging you a seat, grabbing sandbags for the camera, or by helping you get marks.
They might even do all of this without you having to ask, if they really like you.
Camera moves are already tough enough to accomplish, so make it easier by having the dolly grip on your side.
Treating a dolly grip right doesn’t take a bunch of extra effort. Just acknowledge their hard work and thank them profusely.
And if you haven’t decided to already, you should but them a beer. It’s like purchasing insurance that they don’t miss marks on purpose to cause a few focus pulling mistakes.