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Camera Sliders and what to do?


Tony Johnson
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Are camera sliders the new dolly? A discussion point and what to do about it.

For the last few years on both major movies and TV I have noticed the increased use of sliders for tracking shots. These are a menace to sound as they have steel bearings and are noisy. What often starts out as a camera correction or slow creep turns into a fast track in over dial rendering it ADR.

Rather than try and stop their use, which I don't think is possible as they are a major time and money saver, would it be an idea ( with Jeffs say so and input) to approach the manufacturers as a JWSound collective rather than a lone voice from a Sound Mixer to build these to be quiet. One of the main makers is Ronford Baker who we all know as Tripod makers from way back. I doubt these guys know they are being used for a different purpose than intended but anyway maybe it's not such a major expense to have these built with a rubber wheel system or something to make them silent. There are now a few different manufacturers making these and they are all the same with steel bearings and they are making longer ones which gives even more scope as a tracking device.

Anyway just an idea to see if we can collectively make a difference through a group sound forum.

Tony

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The cheap ones... eh...  :-

I am not sure there are different types. All sliders I have used have the same steel bearing design and all make the same noise. They were designed to go on tripods so the operator could adjust the camera, especially for over shoulder shots, so they could compensate if an actor missed their mark so they were about 3foot long and used to adjust. Now there are much longer ones and are used to track the camera.

Tony

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It depends a great deal on the speed of the camera movement on the slider.  It's also not entirely the cost of the unit.  I've worked with more expensive ones that were extremely loud, whereas I have a relatively inexpensive one that is blessedly quiet.

 

A Dana Dolly (which is basically a cross between a traditional dolly and a slider) is generally well behaved noise-wise, but again, a lot depends upon the speed of the move.

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It depends a great deal on the speed of the camera movement on the slider.

Your right John it does. My problem is that they often use them with that in mind, meaning it's a very slow move but then things change and it becomes a fast track and it's too late to swap it out for a Dolly. They are not designed with sound in mind as a Dolly is.

Tony

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In my world they have replaced dolly use about 50% of the time--often the DP gets a slider or he gets nothing to move the camera with.  The only time I have trouble with pretty much any of them is when they do a fast reset during a shot, usually in a multicam situation, during dialog.  The noise is loud enough that everyone can hear it, so usually that takes care of the issue.  I don't think baby powder, Lemon Pledge etc etc will help this.  The DanaDolly and the knockoffs of same are generally quieter.  But the use of these things is only going to increase...

 

philp

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I see the Dana Dolly on set quite often and have had no sound problems with them. The small sliders can be problematic for sure. I've seen some grips prepping the slider with a lubricant spray (Teflon?) which helps, but not completely. I have asked operators to reset their moves slowly in the middle of a take instead of slamming it back, but that usually only lasts for one take or so.

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You might try Teflon Paste.

I used to use stuff like this to reduce noise in the CD/DVD Drive head rails.

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/12371287-GM-Synthetic-Lubricant-Paste-With-Teflon-3-Oz-Container-/321230444319?hash=item4acad3971f&vxp=mtr

 

Spray on stuff is probably to thin to stop noise.  But the Teflon Gel is like Petrolium Jelly and lubricates but absorbs vibration of the 

bearings.  It may not slide at full speed but will probably be quieter when it does.

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I can appreciate the methods used to make these quieter but I think the thrust needs to be for them to be redesigned especially as they become so prevalent. The scary thing for me is that after so many years of R&D went into making Dollies quiet and fully useable with sound these Sliders have just been made ignoring the needs of the Sound Dept. I also see them becoming more mainstream than Dollies as budgets and time are squeezed, also they seem to fit well with the small HD Cam world which are making inroads into Feature Film making.

Tony

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Once more ... it depends on the device. I have set up many that are precision machined bases with precision bearings, nylon guides, spring bumpers, tension adjustments, etc. I have also seen some that are nothing more than skateboard wheels on a couple of pipes.

The good ones are very expensive, and very quiet.

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Once more ... it depends on the device. I have set up many that are precision machined bases with precision bearings, nylon guides, spring bumpers, tension adjustments, etc. I have also seen some that are nothing more than skateboard wheels on a couple of pipes.

The good ones are very expensive, and very quiet.

My experience is based on the model shown in the photo above. Brian do you have a make and model of the silent ones??

Tony

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I've worked with a few that don't have bearings, or wheels. They have some sort of plastic-like (Teflon?) pads that slide on the rails. I know some specifically said not to use wet or dry lube of any kind.... But out of desperation that ended up happening. I think some of them are designed ok on paper, but after getting bumped out of alignment they get goofy.

I would hope the good ones take over and the crappy ones are seen as the equivalent of a basement rig of skateboard wheels on PVC pipes. They sort of work, but you make a lot of compromises.

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Odd. The ones that we use on our dollies on my show and about in general on work are very quiet. I've never noticed them making any noise. 

Maybe with a DSLR or something that doesn't have the mass to weigh it down?

 

S

 

We have this version on a Fisher Dolly most of the time. It helps immensely lining up overs and various other shots. But it's not used as a dolly like some folks do.post-8-0-16172300-1428643051_thumb.jpg

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Ironically I encountered some pretty gnarly noise from a Dana Dolly this week when used as Philip is describing (fast reposition). Unfortunately it was a wide-and-tight shoot, with the wide camera crashing around whenever they lost a shot. Pretty incongruous with the interior office scene playing out.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

My company makes the Dana Dolly, and before I started this, I was a Key Grip for a couple of decades. When I started making the DD, one of the first things I thought of was making the thing quiet. We did a lot of testing on bearings and wheels and we actually machine our wheels rough to try and avoid the squeak of smooth wheels, and we use bearings made to be smooth and quiet as opposed to skateboard bearings. I'd like to share a couple of things I've discovered that will make things squeak. Number 1 - Silicone Spray. This is like spraying a thin film of glass on a surface. It will work for a few hours, then watch out. As soon as both surfaces get well coated, it starts to sound like a finger rubbing on clean wet glass, and that's approximately what it is. 2 - WD-40. Works great for a limited time, but WD stands for "water displacement" and any bearing you spray with this will dry out eventually and squeak. 3 - Salt Water. If you use a slider or bearing dolly around Salt Water, you'll want to re-lube the bearings because they're going to dry out. I usually use Pledge spray wax, or baby powder, or well, nothing at all if there's not a squeak.

If you happen to come across a noisy Dana Dolly, if you can share with the owner that we will completely replace the bearings and clean the wheels for $40 plus shipping, I'd appreciate it. All they have to do is call us. I've been working with a bearing company on a third generation bearing that I hope will stay quiet longer.  Anyway, we're trying to help. If you have feedback, I'd appreciate that too. No use making pretty pictures without great sound.

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In the end, let them do what they can to quiet any noisy slider or dolly track...  All you can do is make the point of hearing it... and asking for any form of relief... 

As always, it's not your show, or your responsibility to make sure the gear others use is quiet for filming... Production will use what they use ...it's not always pretty... it is what it is....  Notate, and move on...  unless of course they ask you to pay to fix it in post....:mellow:  LOL

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Mike is a great guy! Know him from my time here in Phx...He will definitely do you..or whomever right!

On a film I worked on recently we used a Fisher dolly on track and had a hell of a time keeping it quiet... They tried everything in their power to eliminate the squeaks and pops etc...The only thing they couldn't do under any circumstance?? Remove the overweight DP from the dolly!!

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