Camera Dolly

Camera Dolly and Jib

Dolly and the jib – sounds a bit like a nightclub act, doesn’t it? Or maybe a 1980s television detective team. Actually, these are two of the most effective tools for giving your video wonderful perspective. With these, we can shoot from angles that would be impossible using any other camera technique. The results can really make your video stand out.

What Is A Dolly?

There are many types of camera dollies, which allow the camera to smoothly follow the action

A dolly is essentially a cart on which the camera is placed in order to create smooth motion perspectives. For example, if you want to have a smooth motion shot of a person or people walking, you can use a dolly to follow their movements. Of course it’s possible for a camera operator to mimic this simply by walking in front, behind, or alongside them, and in some cases it’s preferable because it gives the shot a more raw, realistic feel. However, if you want that sleek, no-bump-or-stumble look, the dolly is the way to go. A dolly also provides consistency of movement, which is important if you’re going to edit shots from different takes together into a single scene.

Dollies can have up to three people working on them. The camera operator is essential. There may also be a camera assistant. Then there’s the grip who, like the camera operator, is essential, since that person is the one who actually steers the dolly.

While using a dolly gives you a unique perspective, there are some limitations. Most dolly shots look best when the dolly is rolling along a smooth surface. In best-case scenarios, special dolly tracks are laid down. This isn’t always possible, so any relatively flat smooth surface can be used. If the surface is fairly even in height but not texture, we can lay down a temporary flat surface such as plywood that the dolly can roll along.

What Is A Jib?

Whereas the dolly is used mostly for ground-level shots, the jib is used to add a perspective of height as well as motion. Essentially a jib is a large arm attached to a tripod. The camera is positioned on one end, the other end has camera controls plus a weight so that the camera can be easily balanced. The camera operator can bring the camera from a high position to a low position, giving the impression of swooping in on a target. The jib can also move in an arc to give more flexibility in the perspective.

Hencar’s CEO Joe Carter preps the scene while Director of Photography and Editing Teague Kennedy sets up a shot using a jib

You’ll often see jib shots at the on live shows, as the show is rejoined from a commercial break, when the camera starts far and high away from the person or people on the set, then quickly moves down towards them in a smooth motion.

While a jib gives you more options as far as the perspective of shots, and certainly adds a new layer of action, there are also some restrictions. The jib can only go so high, since it’s essentially a see-saw on a fixed tripod. In the studio the jib can be a permanent piece of equipment so there’s more flexibility in terms of its size, but shooting on location means the height must be limited to keep the jib manageable.

The dolly and jib can add a lot to your video. If you think of even one scene of your video, and imagine it being shot using either of these devices versus a static, ground level camera, you’ll quickly see the potential. Hencar’s aim is to give you every option possible to make your video stand out and shine.


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