This photo shows one of the most difficult dolly tracks that I’ve ever made. The total length of track is about 20 ft. The ground was comprised of a thin layer of moss covering a thousand years’ worth of pine needles. Walking on this forest floor felt more like bouncing on a gymnastics spring board. So laying the track was plenty difficult. As you can see it took about two dozen apple boxes and a hundred wedges or more to make the track level.
This was last fall when I had the opportunity to work with Creative Differences, a production company out of Los Angeles, making a television show about dinosaurs to be aired on the Discovery Channel. There were a lot of static shots (they’re called “plates” in the industry) of old forests or empty beaches. After shooting a 30 second plate we’d “fly in” giant wooden panels painted bright blue and place them behind shrubbery, trees, or rocks. Then we’d shoot the same plate with these blue panels in the frame. Sometimes we shot the same plate a dozen times, moving the blue panels between each shot. These blue panels would allow the computer animators to “paint in” CGI dinosaurs in post. Pretty fun stuff.
Tip: Use a yardstick style bubble leveler to make sure your track is perfectly flat. You can buy one at any hardware store for $15. Be sure to level your track before you put the dolly on it.