Why do people use Dollies? Are there advantages?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by jayeskreezy, Apr 8, 2007.

  1. jayeskreezy macrumors 65816

    Mar 3, 2005
    Why do people use dollies and is there any footage of someone using one? What are the advantages of using one?
  2. TheAnswer macrumors 68030


    Jan 25, 2002
    Orange County, CA
    The main advantage of the dolly is the tracking shot. There are tons of examples in feature films. A tracking shot has characteristics that make it different from either a pan (when roughly parallel to subject) or the zoom (when moving towards or away from the subject). Then of course there is the Vertigo-zoom shot which will combine a track-in/out with a zoom in the opposite direction.
  3. heelie macrumors newbie

    Apr 7, 2007
    In addition to using dollys to make shots look more energetic and vibrant, a camera dolly can be used for more utilitarian reasons. a film camera with all of its fully loaded magazines, zoom lenses, video tap, follow focus, batteries and the like, can easily weigh close to 100 pounds. So it becomes easier to work with a camera to dolly the camera around for set ups. Most dolly have a decent boom arm to to make slight adjustments in height too. Working with a camera that heavy on a tripod becomes really demanding and trouble some. A dolly doens't work in all places but for most set ups it does. One still has to use a tripod once in a while or a bazooka. Dollys also come with risers to get the the camera a few feet higher and some sort of low boom attachment to get a lower shot.

    and then there are camera cranes ...
  4. eRondeau macrumors 65816


    Mar 3, 2004
    Canada's South Coast
    Smooth, smooth, smooth...

    If you're using a small video camera mounted on a wheeled tripod, you're definitely missing the full effect of a dolly. Way back when I was in college, studio cameras weighed about 200lbs and the dollies they sat on weighed that much again. They were huge, heavy beasts. But what that gave you was a sense of smoothness you just can't get from anything lighter. Smooth tracking, panning, tilting -- even if you tried to make jerky video you just couldn't do it!
  5. SkAlex macrumors member

    Jun 21, 2004
    I assume the question being asked is really "Why use a dolly instead of a zoom?"

    The two look completely different. The best way to see it is to really just see for yourself with even a little DV-cam, even if it's just a hand-held camera move. But basically, when you zoom, you're making an optical shift in the lens - moving from a wide angle lens to a telephoto. This has several effects to the image - one being that it flattens the image; the distance between objects appears to decrease as you zoom in. The other is that your depth of field decreases as you zoom in; the amount of what's in focus gets smaller... so things in the background will get more blurry.

    In short, the way I think of it is that a dolly more closely mimics the way that we actually see in the world - we move through space and the relation of objects around us changes accordingly. [end dorky film-school rant...] :rolleyes:
  6. Grey Beard macrumors 65816

    Grey Beard

    Sep 10, 2005
    The Antipodes.
    Uhm, perhaps dollies are cheaper than a hooker and are reusable. For footage you'd be better to look to a pron site. :D
    Damn, I get bored over easter.
  7. poppe macrumors 68020


    Apr 29, 2006
    Woodland Hills
    Not exactly what you want nor is it really a response to your question, but I tend to use the Glide Cam quite a bit. It doesn't have the smoothness of a dolly, but once you get a steady hand at it you can get some pretty nice and easy shots. Still not a replacement, but you know...
  8. 2jaded2care macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2003
    To expand on (or is it simply re-word?) SkAlex's useful "dorky film-school rant"...

    A zoom-in looks more like an artificial enlargement of a two-dimensional image. There are changes in depth of field, but not perspective. (This is why most camera operators prefer to "hide" a zoom by incorporating it into a pan.)

    A dolly-in, as SkAlex points out, is a more natural effect, involving (often subtle) changes in angle, which a zoom lacks... Think of the dolly shots up to Harrison Ford's face in Raiders. These would look completely different if they had been filmed as zoom shots.

    IOW, it's similar to the difference between walking up to someone, versus walking up to a picture of that person (depth of field and distortion issues notwithstanding).
  9. sigamy macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2003
    NJ USA
    I'm not sure if I understand your question but dollies (and cranes/jibs) add camera movement to shots. Camera movement adds dramatic effect and can be used to direct the viewers attention.

    As you make more films you will see where camera movement can add a great deal to your production value and style. It can help give even small DV projects more of a "film look". But just like everything be careful not to over use it.

    Even for corporate and wedding video, more and more people are using cranes. We just had a shoot here, just a stage with speakes and then people seated in the crowed. The large crane added so much to the wide shots, it helps to emerse the viewer into the scene much more.
  10. bimmzy macrumors regular


    Dec 29, 2006

    one could always sit in a wheelchair with your little camera, or even a shopping trolly. that would give a similar effect to a heavy ped. :)

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