How a Dolly Can Be a Versatile Tool on Set

Cinematographer Lewis Potts brings us through his methods in creating an indoor scene, as well as the rest of the commercial he shot. However, there’s something in particular worth sharing.

I think Potts’ cinematography channel has plenty of useful insights. In addition, this video is a great example of using a dolly on location. Potts uses it for multiple shots and angles. Squeezing more out of a dolly helps justify setting one up on location. It's not a cheap option, though, and a recce may be needed in order to be sure a dolly will fit.

For example, jibs and cranes can't stay completely in line with a subject while tilting up (see diagram below). A dolly with an extension arm is a much better idea. A jib will only work if you’re looking for a panning or static overhead shot.

A jib isn't useful for top down shots, because the subject will not remain directly under the camera.

In addition to that, having a dolly (and operator) on set can save so many headaches. It’s smoother and more predictable than a gimbal or Steadicam, which makes the focus pullers' job a lot easier, which, in turn, means that takes are more likely to go smoothly. Chapman Leonard and J.L.Fisher are popular, high-end, brands.

Unfortunately, the price of renting a dolly isn’t cheap. Expect to pay about $500 per day. If you're wondering how a jib might work on tracks, Potts has another example on his channel too.

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