Cinematography Forum
Slow, slow dolly
Slow, slow dolly
by Craig Bass on Jun 1, 2011 at 6:06:34 am

I often notice in films the use of extremely slow push-in shots. I would love to achieve something similar in my own filmmaking; however, no matter how hard I try I cannot get my dolly to move this slow and steady. How do the pros accomplish this? My ignorance has led me to two solutions; either somehow dampening the tracks; or, placing a heck of a lot of weight on the dolly so that the dolly pusher can barely move it.

What's the answer?

Re: Slow, slow dolly
by Todd Terry on Jun 1, 2011 at 2:44:23 pm

Well, when you see this in a film you have a couple of things going...

Firstly, they are using a really good dolly... the really high-end dollys have wheels that run as smooth as butter, and make it possible to do smooth moves.

Secondly, and you already guessed this, is weight. The heavier the dolly, the easier it is to make smooth moves. I can get fairly smooth dolly moves with our deck and spider dollys that have skateboard wheels. But I can get much smoother dollys with our big crab dolly. That beast weighs 600lbs even without head, camera, or riders.

David Lynch is fond of very slow dollys in his films. The story goes that when Lynch does dolly shots, he piles on as many sandbags as the dolly will hold... so many that the dolly grips really have to give it their all and push hard to get the thing moving, then start pulling hard in advance to slow it and stop it. He feels that gives him the proper "arc" of speed throughout the shot. A bit extreme for most of us, but it seems to work for him.

There are a few things you can do to make it a bit easier with your equipment... firstly make sure the dolly wheels are perfectly clean. Secondly, make sure they are perfectly round... as wheels will develop flat spots after sitting in one place, even for just a little while. If you can, store your dolly off the wheels, and before you do a shot rock back and forth several times to eliminate the flat spots. Make sure your track is perfectly level... if it is even a bit out of level it will make a slow perfect dolly much more difficult. And make sure your track is perfectly clean... dolly grips use a super-secret product on the track to keep the track clean and silent (it's Lemon Pledge furniture polish).


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

Re: Slow, slow dolly
by Richard Herd on Jun 1, 2011 at 5:50:13 pm

You can use two people. One in front pushing, the other in back pushing back.

Re: Slow, slow dolly
by Mark Suszko on Jun 2, 2011 at 2:28:33 am

I often have to simulate this in the field with a very slow zoom, instead of an actual dolly. There are zoom speed controllers that help with this and give awesome results, (and we use one in the studio) but in the field, just as often, I use a personal technique I developed of holding the forward and aft SIDES of the zoom rocker with a pinching motion of the thumb and pointer finger, where flexing the thumb up or down from this "pinched" position gives a really delicate amount of speed control from a bog-standard Fujinon or Canon zoom rocker, without any add-on controllers. I can get a 2-minute zoom out of it, this way. If you try it and find you like it, please name it after me:-) (not joking).

As far as a dolly, you might be able to rig up some ropes and pulleys to both reduce the speed and multiply the force. The more pulleys in the gang, the slower the thing goes and the more rope you need.

Re: Slow, slow dolly
by Ralph Chaney on Jun 14, 2011 at 11:57:30 pm


I've heard of a slight "pinching" movement and coincidently it IS called, "The Suszko"... but it has nothing to do with filmaking. ;-) (maybe it's not coincidence?)


-> Ralph

Re: Slow, slow dolly
by Mark Suszko on Jun 15, 2011 at 2:29:06 pm

A gentleman never tells. Let's stick to focus and zoom controls, though.

Re: Slow, slow dolly
by john sharaf on Jun 6, 2011 at 3:28:10 pm

Hi Craig,

Late to this thread, but I'd like to add that nowadays the use of finely crafted and machined "Sliders" especially the unit known as the Original Slider ( have facilitated the ability to do exactly what you're asking for, and in addition do so in very cramped spaces and locations without the weight and bother of conventional dollies and track. Check out the website fot some interesting pictures.