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Can the Steadicam replace the dolly?

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#1 skunker


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Posted 11 May 2004 - 08:10 PM

Hello folks,
I am thinking of purchasing the new Steadicam FLYER and was wondering if it was good enough to replace the traditional dolly? Are dolly shots usually neglected in favor of steadicam shots nowadays or is there still heavy use of the dolly?

You can certainly do more with a Steadicam than you could with a dolly, right?

Wondering if I'd need to rent a dolly....

Thanks for any insight.
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#2 guillermo nespolo

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 08:18 PM

a dolly shot its a dolly shot and a stedi shot its a steadi shot///
yes both can step on the other job but will be 100 % shure that its not gonna be the same for good or for bad
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#3 geoff shotz

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 11:10 PM

oh skunker- boy have you opened up a big can of worms with this one. i can't wait to read this thread. we have all done numerous "standi-cam" or "bi-pod" shots that should have been done on sticks or a dolly. i am sure we all will do many more, but there are definitely correct tools for every job. a screwdriver can be a hammer or a chisel, but really, it's best at being a screwdriver. i have only seen dailies from one operator, (props to larry mcconkey here) where the d.p. and the director had no idea that a series of motion filled inserts (100mm. or so) were in fact on the steadicam and not on the dolly. use the right tool for the job and understand the definition, ability, applications, and limitations for the tools you have available. my two cents.

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#4 BJMcDonnell SOC

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 11:43 PM

AMEN to your comment Geoff!

BJ McDonnell
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#5 WillArnot


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Posted 12 May 2004 - 02:45 AM


My favourite op to Dir quote is from Sandy Hayes here in NYC.

When the Dir asked him to "just stand there and hold it really still." Sandy replied, "What? Like a tripod?"


Being an ex dolly grip I can't even go here. Skunker, it sounds like you need a little more time in the trenches. I was really pissed when someone said this to me 15 yrs ago, so I truly don't mean to offend. But I have come to see how true it was. Good luck to you.

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#6 Charles Papert

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Posted 12 May 2004 - 09:26 AM

Here's a specific thought about your potential purchase, "skunker"; the Flyer is a great lightweight rig, but by its very nature will require MORE skill to truly emulate a dolly shot than the larger rigs. This is because you have that much less mass and subsquently less inertia, and so it will be more prone to wind interference and acceleration effects and all of the goodies that conspire to make Steadicam shots look un-dolly-like.

To specifically answer your question; yes, these days many shots that SHOULD be on the dolly are shunted over to Steadicam for reasons of "efficiency", sometimes bona fide, sometimes arbitrary, but the success of this conceit is entirely based on the individual operator being able to pull off the task. It's a bit of a catch-22; the more you have honed your skill in this thing, the more likely you are able to imitate a tripod or dolly--and the less you want to be doing just that! The hallmark of a great Steadicam operator is that many of your shots are undetectable from the dolly in the final analysis, under the highest level of scrutiny (specifically, other Steadicam operators!)

However, if the expectations of accuracy are not so unyielding, it is a reasonable substitute for a dolly. You may want to ask yourself if standing perfectly still while a talking head drones on for ten minutes before ambling 4 feet to the left, thus justifying your existence, is something you want to inflict on yourself--certainly a lightweight setup as one would surely be using with a Flyer would eliminate some of the physical downside to all this. Just be aware that the learning curve to make a super-slow walking shot that appears dolly-like is a fairly long one, and requires many hours of practice.

My advice would be to spend some time in a rig (if you haven't already done so) and get a feel for the task ahead of you, or better yet, take a workshop. That will give you enough information to decide if you are prepared to spend the time and energy in learning the skillset necessary to become the "dolly that bleeds".
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#7 KarloTomic



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Posted 12 May 2004 - 01:51 PM

I've cheated in the past by riding on a Matthews doorway dolly with the rig, no track to set up and the shot looked solid.
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