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Get a grip! by Will Strauss O f all the many areas of television 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 SuperTechno crane. 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 fiddly set-up. 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 Beefy Baby. 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 counterbalance system 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? Good question. Here are twelve recent advances that caught my eye... 46 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE TV-BAY074FEB13.indd 46 11/02/2013 16:45