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Tips for Using Mobile Jib Cranes

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 12/29/2010

Here are some things to observe when you are trying to integrate a mobile jib crane into your production.

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    Going Mobile

    Mobile jib cranes are often the practical alternative to full size cranes used in film production. These cranes are incredibly expensive to rent and operate, but often a mobile jib crane will serve the same function on a smaller scale. These mobile jib cranes, or jib arms, are going to be designed to remain unfixed to a specific location. This means that it will remain attachable to different mounting locations so that you can keep it versatile and with the ability to bring it into a number of different production situations. Here are a few tips for working with a mobile jib crane in your digital video production.

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    The mobile jib crane is going to need to have adequate support for its use, especially since the jib arm is really based around the balancing of two alternative weights on an axis. Now, the mobile jib arm is going to be able to attach to a variety of heads that will support it even though they may not be the right option. For example, a mobile jib crane will likely be too heavy and will require to much movement to attach to something like a monopod. To do this you need an adequate tripod that is stable and has a secure hydraulic head so that you can mix the motion of the tripod pan and tilt features along with the jib movement. Select a variety of tripods that you can easily bring the jib arm onto, take off when needed, and will remain stable enough so that you can concern yourself with the correct camera movement.

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    Know the Equipment

    Mobile jib cranes tend to be a little more light weight and, at times, less stable than more stationary ones. What this means is that using it can put your expensive video equipment at some risk, especially if it is not attached properly. It may seem redundant, but the most important tip for using a mobile jib arm is to take time with it making sure you understand the different components. First, make sure that you are clear how the camera attaches to the head, how the jib arm attaches to its support device, and how the arm is secured. It is going to be especially important for you to ensure that the weights are properly placed on the opposing end and that you try doing this several times before you balance out a heavy HD camera on the other side.

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    Additional Crew

    An assistant camera person is always going to be important for pulling focus and adjusting other camera features that the Director of Photography cannot be worrying about, but it is even more important when you are working with a mobile jib arm because the motion of the jib arm, as well as maintaining proper balance, is just another element. Since the movement of the jib needs to be rehearsed out ahead of time, you should begin working with the assistant camera person for this planning process in the same way that they prepare for a rack focus. Depending on the complexity of the jib shots that you are trying to use you may want to even bring on a third person for this process who can just do the physical movement of the jib. This may end up being a jib grip position, which is similar to a dolly grip who controls the planned movement of a camera dolly. If you already have a second assistant camera person then this duty will likely fall to them by default.