Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Track With A Moving Subject

I have a shot coming up.. a tracking shot where we are dollying in while an artist walks towards, and past the camera. I have been racking my brains for a way to get some marks, to co-ordinate the artist and dolly grip for accuracy/repeatability, or to make "winging" the shot easier.

Anyone got a method for this type of shot?

It will be long lens and wide aperture, so obviously the more accurate the better ! It can be MOS so audible cues or calls are possible, and I'll have wireless focus so I can stand at 90 degrees to the action...and NO we can't afford a light ranger ! Or a cine tape ! Low rent, low tech solutions only !


Rory Moles
1st AC London

Hi Rory,

I had that experience before and the DP tied a 10 feet rope from the bottom of the dolly to the subject (distance I was using) but since your subject moves towards camera you can set feet marks on the rope to have a "ruler" to the subject.

1st AC
Santa Monica

Rory Moles wrote:

>>Low rent, low tech solutions only !

If you have some time to put colourful marks on the floor and can get hold of laser pointer, I guess that might be an affordable solution.

Make marks for the dolly and marks for the actor. Fix the laser pointer on the camera pointing downwards, to the dolly marks. That is how I do shots like that.

Hope this helps,


Emmanuel, Munich

Assistant Caméra - Camera Assistant - Kamera Assistent
BVK- European based
Mobil# Munich +491608036889 - London +447910034443 (please use German number)

Well, I think this is an example of the importance of a good dolly grip!

Here's how I would do it: Through the range of the shot set marks for the talent at a number of spots. On those same spots, have the dolly grip set marks for the dolly. If the dolly grip is good he can time the passing of each dolly mark at the same time as the corresponding talent mark.(Have the dolly marks set to the front wheel of the dolly or set you own to make sure the dolly grip is not insane. Have the loader or some other trustworthy individual call out the talent marks. This will help you and the dolly grip on speed and timing.

Love your dolly grip. I always thought of him as a member of the camera dept. Remember, (at least in the states) the dollies are kept in the camera truck.

Craig Finetti
Las Vegas

I had that shot one day ...85mm , T 1.3 from 15 feet to 22" .

Man did I sweat ..

The laser is the cheapest accurate solution .If everybody gets to rehearse at least a couple of times to get the momentum set

If you can have 2 people calling out your marks and the actors mark, with coordination, you can nail it down. Sometimes it s more confusing, depends on you and how much the people calling the mark understand how critical it is .But the dolly pusher can only keep a steady speed and hit the end mark like a robot Same for the actor, hope you can have him understand what you are about to go through .

One thing you can try to set up ,see if your comfortable with the idea ,is a long TV antenna that retracts and that could be attach to the dolly. Set it off frame. At the end mark of the dolly and actor, if all goes well, the antenna tip will hit the actors belly or waist .

If it retracts because the actor or dolly went too far, just make note of how much a section of the antenna is, and compensate accordingly.

...Small note for the laser solution ..if you can have 3 lasers, set one for the end mark , set another one 1 feet closer and one feet further from the end mark. It might give you a better idea of how much to compensate at the end .

Use the force Rory
Resist the dark side of the Force ( which is called stress in our world )

Good luck

Eric Bensoussan 1st AC
Montreal ,Canada

All great advice so far ...

Another thing that I do when the pressure is on and there is not enough time for rehearsals is let the actor/actress camera operator and dolly grip rehearse the move while I walk alongside with a tape measure - memorising (or noting down in a book) the distances. I find that they tend to get into a rhythm and I don't have to set marks for the actor/actress - thus stilting their action. - I find that I can often compensate for actor/actress discrepancies - but not if the dolly grip is out! - Thus the grip is very important!

Anna Carrington
Assistant Camera

I think you will have to mark out 2 or 3 key positions (actor & dolly) & treat it as if it were a steadicam shot. If the director wants a specific action or look from the actor at a particular size within the frame or position within the set, use that spot as a reference for a focus point & you'll probably have to wing the rest. The dolly grip has to always be your best friend on the set. they can make you look like a hero, if you get on well, or a total knucklehead, if you don't. Best of luck!

Angelo Sartore
1st. AC


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