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Get a grip!
by Will Strauss
O f all the
technology that tv-bay
Magazine covers, you might think
that camera support is the one that
appears, on the surface at least, to
move the slowest.
Take the tripod for example.
Fundamentally, the design hasn’t
changed for a hundred years.
Or how about the dolly? The
wheels and track device that
Alfred Hitchcock utilized in 1958
for the now legendary dolly zoom
(or ‘push pull’) effect in Vertigo is
much the same as the one used
today (give or take the odd bit of
lightweight aluminium I imagine).
At the same time, if you ask a dolly
grip what his/her most important
tools are the answer is unlikely to
be software-related or a magic
digital device of some nature. Such
is the hugely practical nature of
camera support there is a good
chance that he (or she) will say a
tape measure, chalk, a spirit level
and some wooden board.
However, if you think that the pace
of camera support technology is
slow. You’d be wrong. Very wrong.
In fact, if anything, when it comes
to camera-related innovation,
support is one of the areas where
inventions are plentiful whether
you’re talking cranes, jibs, dollies
and track, fluid heads, steadicam,
shoulder mounts or whatever.
Innovations can be as small as
a pistol grip for a video-enabled
DSLR camera or as big as a 100 ft
Sometimes it’s ergonomic
improvements to how the camera
is mounted; sometimes it’s where
you can stick it (so to speak); while
on other occasions it’s simply
about providing a faster and less
As a result, camera support is
very much a hybrid world where
‘homemade’ (or perhaps, ‘set-
made’) devices for steadying,
moving, mounting, adjusting and
relocating the position of the
camera exist happily alongside
expensively R&D’d innovations
from major manufacturers and
products developed by small
independent practitioners as a
solution to a long-term vocational
frustration. The dolly, for one, has been
improved, enhanced and tweaked
countless times. Some have seats.
Some don’t. Some have three
legs, some four. The Wally Dolly
is good for uneven surfaces for
example. The Spider Dolly has
floating wheels and can ride on
rubber track while the Indie Dolly
has a pretty much silent motion
and the Microdolly is famed for its
quick set-up. And so on.
Which reminds me. As an aside,
it is worth noting that camera
support and the world of grip often
uses the most ridiculous names
for its bits of kit. I’m going to list
some for you. Are you sitting
comfortably? Cheese plates, Low Boys, Spigots,
The Elemack Spyder (aka The
Octopus), Apple Boxes, Half
Apples, Pancakes, C-Clamps,
Baby Pins, Bazookas, Vibration
Isolators, Scrims, Mufflers and my
own personal favourite the Rolling
I haven’t made any of these up.
They are all real. Admittedly, some
of these things are lighting related
(and only the US includes lighting
under the heading of ‘grip’) but you
get the idea. Don’t be surprised if
they turn up as a question on BBC
comedy quiz QI at some point.
Polecam Starter Pack: PSP
The Polecam system
uses Carbon Fibre
tubes that slot
together to create
a reach from 1.5m
(5’) to 8m (26’).
Whether you want to shoot from
the back of a car, on a boat
or the edge of a Mountain, the
Polecam System gets into tight
spots where a traditional crane would be
out of the question.
Miller Skyline 70 - levelling fluid head
Developed specifically for lightweight
sports, field production and OB rigs
this leveling fluid head
uses a brand new
that provides eight
positions of adjustment
to enable payloads from
10lbs (4.5kg) to 83lbs
(37.5kg) at 125mm C of
G (Centre of Gravity)
to achieve “perfect
balance”. L’il Mule – motion control dolly
Another innovation brought to market via
Kickstarter, the L’il Mule is a motorized
trackless dolly developed by Warren
Herndon, the man behind the Omni-
Tracker video dolly. It can handle a Red
Epic and is designed for creating arced
or linear camera moves when shooting
time lapse or video.
Silly naming conventions aside,
where is camera support in 2013?
Here are twelve recent advances
that caught my eye...
46 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE