Magazine article American Cinematographer

Introducing the "Little Big Crane"

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Introducing the "Little Big Crane"

Article excerpt

A new, light, portable crane that can be assembled fast like an Erector set, and breaks down into segments for easy toting, does a big job on the set

We named the new crane the Little Big Crane because it's so small and yet it can do big things. One of the things that this crane has over other cranes is that it can be totally disassembled and carried into buildings and utilized in areas where you have weight problems with the larger cranes. You can use it on precious surfaces, like tile floors, because it doesn't have the weight. Yet it still goes up 18 feet, which is quite high for a portable crane.

You can take it up to the top of a mountain. You can airfreight it. (We took it to London for HEAVEN'S GATE.) You can take it to sports events and not have a problem of getting it through doors or down stairways. You can just disassemble it and take it down. You can use it virtually anywhere, and I think that's the greatest thing it has over other cranes; it's so versatile.

On HEAVEN'S GATE we used it in an area where it would have been absolutely impossible to take a larger crane. We hand-carried it out onto a beaver pond, right where the beaver had its den, and we set it up and used it. We also took it into a restricted wilderness area where there were no vehicles of any kind allowed. We packed it in on desert dollies for about a mile and used it down next to a lake where it was absolutely forbidden to have any motorized equipment. We couldn't have gotten the shot that we got with any other piece of equipment.

The Little Big Crane can also be put on the bed of a truck and the rig can be used as an insert car. It can be used on a train or a boat-even a small boat. There's no place you can't take it, because you can disassemble it. On HEAVEN'S GATE we used it in a very, very confined area, the sleeping quarters of the immigrants, a corridor about five feet wide. It was extremely tight quarters. We've put the crane on top of six-foot parallels, we've put it on top of a 10-ton truck, we've put it in the middle of rivers, we've put it in pick-up trucks, we've used it in small buildings. There hasn't been anyplace where we haven't been able to use it.

The crane comes with two arms. One is a ten-foot arm and the other is a six-foot arm. The shorter arm goes up 11 feet and the longer arm goes up 18 feet. The original concept of the crane called for it to carry just the operator, but now it carries both an operator and an assistant.

The base right now travels on what is called a "pipe dolly", which is a 12-wheel dolly that travels on 1-5/8-inch pipe which you can get anyplace in the country. This means that there is no set amount of track you have to carry; you can always pick up track wherever you are. The posts for the crane have manual leveling and disassemble from the base. The base can be mounted in a pick-up truck; it can be mounted on the ground; it can be mounted just about anywhere. It can be used on the roof of the tallest building.

The largest piece of the crane is approximately 10 feet long and two feet wide and two feet high (at its largest end); it is part of the main arm, which breaks in half. The entire crane was shipped to England in seven crates. The most inconvenient crate, of course, was the one holding the lead. Empty, the crane weighs about 1,200 pounds and three men can assemble it in under 30 minutes.

Basically, the reason for the building of this crane was the constant trouble you have with a large piece of equipment on a motion picture set. You have a large piece of equipment and then you have no way of getting your lights close to the camera-or moving the piece of equipment around the lighting units to get it across the set. Another reason for building it was the weight factor. Also, the laying of tracks for the big cranes is much more difficult. One of the unusual things that happened on HEAVEN'S GATE was that we laid 400 feet of track for the crane and got our shot that same afternoon. …

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