From American Cinematographer – The Thin Red Line

I began thinking about using the Akela crane, which has an extremely long, 72′ arm that would allow us to get the camera into places where we couldn’t walk or lay dolly track. The only problem was that I wanted to install the crane on the sides of hills, which involved building some fairly substantial platforms, because the Akela weighs about 6,000 pounds. It worked out fabulously, though. The Akela’s arm does have a slight arc, but it’s a much more minimal arc than any conventional crane arm. Because of that, we could make shots that had the appearance of a dolly shot. That was the whole reason for bringing in the Akela, and we constantly had it at very low angles; I don’t think we used it more than once or twice for a high-angled shot. Our expert technicians, Michael Gough and Mark Willard, kept wanting to show off how high it would go, but I kept hammering them with my mantra: ‘It’s a dolly, not a crane.’ We basically turned our crane technicians into dolly grips, but they did a fantastic job.

John Toll, ASC - American Cinematographer


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