WheelChair Dolly

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by matt, Nov 12, 2003.

  1. matt

    matt Guest

    Anyone here ever use a tripod strapped to a wheelchair to use as a
    makeshift dolly? Ive always thought it was a good idea and am about to
    buy a used wheelchair for this purpose...
    matt, Nov 12, 2003
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  2. matt

    Rick Diamond Guest

    hand-held from a wheelchair will work better.
    Rick Diamond, Nov 12, 2003
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  3. matt

    BLITZ Guest

    True. The tripod won't absorb what little shake you will have. Handheld,
    or clamp would be the best way to go.
    BLITZ, Nov 12, 2003
  4. matt

    someone Guest

    I always hand hold the camera while riding the wheelchair. Works quite well
    except for large expansion joints. Other problem is that the camera is
    quite low for people walking or anything at chest height.
    someone, Nov 12, 2003
  5. matt

    matt Guest

    Thanks for answering. Your answers make sense. Any advice- besides
    ebay- where to get one? A web search on "used wheelchair" gave lots of
    site selling them for $100-200 and up for a manual wheelchair.
    Also- anybody ever DO what we're talking about? DO wheel chair shots
    look cool? Any indy films Ive ever seen use one? I know "El Mariachi"
    had shots with Rodriguez scooting himself along on an office chair.
    matt, Nov 12, 2003
  6. matt

    thrillcat Guest

    I think I would actually probably prefer an office chair...one with no arms
    to get in the way, and 360 degree rotation for dollying past the action but
    panning to keep it in frame...
    thrillcat, Nov 12, 2003
  7. matt

    Alan Lloyd Guest

    The larger wheels of a wheenchair make for a considerably smoother
    ride. Not to mention it helps to have someone act as a dolly grip and
    handle the motion for you, allowing you to concentrate entirely on the
    act of shooting.

    The oldest use of this technique that I am aware of is in Godard's
    "Breathless", in which the camera is in a wheelchair rolling
    backwards, as Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg walk along the street
    in Paris. Are there older uses? Perhaps.

    And here's a hint - rent one if possible. Probably less expensive and
    no hassle of storing or selling afterwards.

    I have also been on wheeled scaffolds for construction shots, as well
    as moving material handling "trains" and more than once used a fork
    lift to fill in for a crane shot in an industrial setting. Sometimes
    creatively using what you have around is a good way to enhance a shot
    well beyond the available budget constraints.

    All that said, in any of those settings, if I had a dolly available,
    I'd have used that.
    Alan Lloyd, Nov 12, 2003
  8. matt

    thrillcat Guest

    I've got enough fat on me to act as a shock absorber, and an office chair
    has a back that can be used to grip, or could even be modified to add actual


    Travis Ballstadt

    thrillcat, Nov 12, 2003
  9. I agree with Alan. I would prefer a wheel chair to an office chair for many
    reasons. The wheels are larger and the rake and trail on the front wheels
    make for a lot less wobble at faster speeds. Granted, pushing an office
    chair faster than its intended use is an unfair comparison. But the fact
    remains that pushing around an office chair above the manufacturer's
    intended max speed, with a camera operator sitting in the hot seat happens
    all the time.
    Also, office chairs are a lot noisier than wheel chairs. They just plain
    suck where background sound or dialog is important. Ask any sound guy.
    Wheel chairs have hand holds for the dolly grip and the operator. Not to
    mention foot boards.
    Yes, I know that it is no big deal to use the horizontal wheel supports of
    the pedestal as foot holds. And some degree of control is easily achievable
    by using these supports as anchor points to swivel the seat from. And this
    is the only advantage I see in using an office chair as opposed to a wheel
    chair as a dolly. But, the biggest flaw is when an office chair attempts to
    run over anything much thicker than a quarter. Then its possibly "ass over
    tea kettle" time for the shooter. Best case is a perfectly good take is
    blown by a bump in the middle of the shot.
    Chair shots are low. But you can "sand bag", "apple box", or "phone book"
    the seat of a wheel chair or even cross your legs and sit on them to gain a
    little height and still have a much more stable (safe) stance than in an
    office chair.
    I even have strapped a light stand to an upright on a wheel chair to have a
    traveling light source. Worked just fine too.
    Personally, I don't like using either one, but if they were offered up side
    by side....... I'd take the wheel chair every time.

    Bill F.
    Bill Farnsworth, Nov 13, 2003
  10. matt

    John Chu Guest

    I was looking at the documentary included in Stanley Kubrick's The
    Shining DVD and they were using a wheelchair AND a steadicam to follow
    the kid on the big wheel when he's riding around the resort.

    Cool use of a wheelchair.
    John Chu, Nov 13, 2003
  11. matt

    Bill Davis Guest

    Nobody's brought up the REAL problem with using chairs (wheeled or
    otherwise) as a camera accessory.

    It's a BITCH lugging them out to a location. Even a collapsable wheelchair
    will take up lots more space than any other part of your production rig
    with the possible exception of a shooting cart. And you'll actually USE it
    about a tenth as much.

    If it's there already, fine. If not, a skateboard dolly - even one that's
    homemade - will provide MUCH superior shots and won't take up the entire
    back of your production vehical.

    (The older I get the LESS crap I want to lug to my shoots - human nature I
    Bill Davis, Nov 13, 2003
  12. Yes sir.
    Now I know why the last shoot we were on, you actually brought along
    less excess baggage than I ever thought possible.

    Sorry about the monitor, but that's what you get for trying to use me as
    a curb feeler. But thanks for hiring Steven Spielberg as my gaffer.
    (Y'all will never figure this one out)

    ps: A WORD OF WARNING: Be it wheel chair, office chair, a dolly, or mule,
    NEVER let Bill Davis steer!
    (just kidding) :)

    Bill F.
    Bill Farnsworth, Nov 13, 2003
  13. matt

    Ed Guest

    WE got one for my father-in-law, unfortunately not for video purposes at the
    Salvation Army store. Have also seen them at similar thrift shops such as
    Ed, Nov 13, 2003
  14. matt

    Bill Davis Guest


    HEY! Are you DEAD? NO?!! Then enough about my driving!

    I'll have everyone know that everytime Farnsworth has had to drive with
    me, I've got him back in one piece. Mostly.

    NO SIREE... all his gray hair is HIS OWN DAMN FAULT - NOT the result of my

    And just to set the record straight, not ONCE have I caused the death or
    permanent disfigurement of any other videographer, DP or gaffer through my
    driving skills (or lack thereof)


    SO there!

    (Speaking of gray hair, you made it to the altar yet, Bill?)
    Bill Davis, Nov 13, 2003
  15. A wheelchair can make an ideal and smooth-rolling base for a tripod
    head. Reduce the air-pressure in the tires for a minimum of jiggle when
    dollying. You can also make a lower rack that will hold a large

    I didn't just strap a makeshift rig on mine-----I built a very
    solid apparatus to support a large and good quality head, with long,
    dual arms and mechanical remote zoom, focus and rec/pause controls. I
    mounted two 10-inch, DC color monitors facing front and rear, along with
    stereo speakers, for great playback in the field (also a 12-inch
    subwoofer and an audio receiver/amplifier/tape-player). I put a 5-inch,
    450-line of res, color monitor with a hood on top, for a viewfinder. I
    also had a 9-inch, 750 line of res, B&W monitor next to the camera, for
    use as an alternate viewfinder and the best in focusing accuracy.

    All this, as well as a camcorder, was powered by a 12-volt, 60 amp,
    deep-cycle, lead-acid battery, that made a nice, low anchor, to
    stabilize the weight higher up. Another bonus of a wheelchair is that
    if you turn it backwards and pull it up, the large wheels climb stairs
    much better than the puny rollers on regular dollies. My
    triple-redundant tie-down system for everything, gave me a good feeling
    of ease and security.

    This outfit attracted far more attention than I wanted and I had to
    suffer with women flashing me frequently. Then they came out with
    optical image stabilization and 4-lb., 3-CCD camcorders and who needs

    Steve McDonald
    Steve McDonald, Nov 15, 2003
  16. I'm probably not the first to wonder how this could be considered
    suffering :^)

    R. Alan Monroe, Nov 15, 2003
  17. Ha! Danged near poked my eye out with the viewfinder cuz you ran the lens
    into an .......immovable object that was sharing the aisle with us.
    Fortunately, it was your camera that took it on the nose.

    Gray hair? Nah! Looking forward to marital bliss (third time's a charm.
    Right? RIGHT?) Anyways...... It could be any time between now and April.
    I'll keep you on the inside.

    Bill F.
    Bill Farnsworth, Nov 19, 2003
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