On the larger end, there are the options of using a Doorway or Western dolly, or on the smaller and lighter end of things, there are what have become known as skateboard dollies. These are small, light dollies that ride upon PVC pipes using various combinations of skateboard wheels. A significant drawback to any of these types of dollies is limited flexibility for compound moves. Few of this class of dollies are able to use both straight track and curved track. Adding an on-board operator to a Doorway, Western or skateboard dolly also adds extra weight load and rolling resistance. Another challenge for lighter-weight dollies is the lack of smoothness in comparison to a heavy-duty dolly. Weight and inertia result in smoother moves.
• You need a smaller, lighter dolly that’s versatile in configuration and use, yet is as steady and flexible as a heavy-duty dolly.
• It must be transportable with any camera package, from a prosumer HD camcorder to a 35mm motion picture camera.
• It must be affordable, yet still able to provide high-quality movement for straight or curved shots.
SOLUTIONPhilips showed me a new product called the RED Dolly (no relation to the RED Camera). The RED Dolly features a number of design ideas that are unique and innovative. Matthews developed an early version of this dolly for a well-known Hollywood key grip back in the 1970s. The key grip requested that Matthews build him a dolly that could give the camera the point of view of a character in a wheelchair. The production also needed the camera to track alongside the character in a wheelchair. Matthews built a dolly with a camera mount and rider mount that was lower, lighter and more maneuverable than the large, heavy dollies of the day.
The original 28-year-old dolly surfaced this year, and Matthews was requested to rebuild it to like-new condition for its new owner. Matthews decided to take the basic design concept of the dolly and refine it to a more modern-day design.
"When we used the dolly to create our own promotional video, even we were amazed at how flexible and useful the dolly was," says Philips. "We were able to capture shots that basically would have been difficult to impossible with existing gear."
The small size of the RED Dolly is impressive. It measures a mere 24 inches wide by 33 inches long and weighs 113 pounds. It’s capable of operation in several different configurations with the camera operator sitting up, lying down and lying flat on the stomach for shots just a few inches above ground level. The camera can be handheld or shoulder mounted by the operator, mounted on a bazooka tube at various heights or even mounted on a bungee platform suspended from overhead. The dolly also features a platform for a Steadicam operator to ride on. Using a gravity platform with a low center of gravity that can be built into the dolly, the operator easily can step off during movement for combination dolly/Steadicam shots.