I made a camera dolly.
It's a track dolly, a kind of enhanced version of this one. And it's not completely finished, but it was complete enough to be operational. I'll get some pictures up later, after it's more finished.
There is a definite need for some more advanced dolly track. I just got some lengths of PVC, and they're way too flexible just by themselves. I really need to do the whole steel pipe on the inside thing, and have spacers to maintain the track distance accurately. I went with a standard 24.5" Hollywood track spacing in case we ever had the opportunity to use "real" dolly track.
It still has some problems. I think I need to loosen the bolts a little because I think one of the wheels may be binding ocasionally. In one configuration, it seemed to drag at random bits. And any imperfection at all gets magnified hugely going to the camera. This would be better if the camera could be mounted lower to the dolly, but that would also mean raising the dolly track up off the ground, and that means solid rails which gets back to the problem above again.
Still, when we're on a relatively flat and level surface, it's really nice. And since we got Valentino's for a location, it will come in handy.
We also managed to do something last night that amazed both Tony and I. And I fully blame Kristi.
We really shot two things last night. One was an exterior of the house, which is where the dolly track came in handy. Two lights, one with a light blue up fairly high, and a smaller one with an orange gel down lower. The idea was to create a moonlight/streetlight color scheme. I also took some branches from the shrubs that had been trimmed and put 'em up in the air to use as cookies to make the light look a bit more natural and mottled. I think it looked pretty good for a quick setup-- the dolly took a blasted long time, but I suppose because it was the first time using it, that was to be expected. We set up track in probably three different places before we found something that actually went smoothly. We finally got something good and broke down the exterior.
The other scene was an interior scene which was highly emotionally charged.
I lit it very simply. The two china balls, one with a blue gel and one with a double orange. Very soft diffused light, but enough change to have depth. I also put a shroud over a hallway light with a 1/4 CTO to make it a very directed soft spot that she would walk through, just because it looked cool with her emerging out of the darkness. It's a quick thing, but sparkly.
The original plan was to start off with a handheld tracking shot which would get cut into several pieces, partly to let me add some accent lights to various bits, and partly to let Kristi have some emotional breathing room.
We ran through a couple of shots with Tony running the camera. There were a couple of gaffes with catching reflections in the mirrored closet doors, and Tony asked me to run the camera. So I tried it, and had a couple of gaffes where I caught my reflection in the mirrored closet doors. It's a lot harder than it looks.
Bear in mind that Kristi was being a trooper, pulling a really heavily emotional scene over and over. I finally figured out a set of camera moves that I thought would work, and we tried it.
It was unreal. The camera danced around Kristi, she pulled off an absolutely amazing performance, and she just kept going through the scene, so I kept going too-- kept the camera moving and refocusing on her performance. Then she stopped. Tony said "cut". And he was sitting on the floor with his mouth agape.
We played it back. It was raw, and voyeuristic, and emotional, and full of energy. And it was the entire scene in one take.
No cuts, no edits. Everything in one shot.
And we were done for the night.
So we packed up the gear and settled in to watch some TV. I finally got to see the "Serenity" special, an episode of Smallville (beautiful and unbelievably complex camera work, somewhat lacking in the story department), and Robot Chicken with the ultimate Scooby Doo episode.
Then home, and sleep, and the refreshing smell of more cooking weeds.