Recreate Spike Lee’s Double-Dolly Shot at Home

Double-dolly shotCredit: The Art Department
One of the most stylized shots in cinema can be recreated with these three things in your backyard. 

Dollies are one of the most essential tools in filmmaking. Using a dolly in film and music videos is extremely common to create a smooth movement that follows the actor or artist. No dolly trick is cooler than Spike Lee’s double dolly. 

The double dolly, invented and popularized by Spike Lee, creates a slight break from the reality of the film while it heightens the mood of the scene. To recreate the shot, a traditional dolly has a camera attached to one end while the actor is placed directly across from the camera on either the same dolly platform and a separate dolly. If you’re looking for a more practical way to recreate the double dolly shot at home, The Art Department showed us how to do this sick shot at home with a trailer, truck, and a traffic-less road. Check out his full video here: 

To start, it is important to know why you are using the double dolly shot. Lee even said that when he first started using this technique, he only did it to show off his skill. It was only later in his career that he started to be more intentional with the shot to enhance the mood of the scene. Do the same when planning to use the double dolly for your shoot. 

Once you’ve decided to go through with the shot, here is what you'll need to recreate the double-dolly look:

  • Trailer
  • Truck with trailer attachment
  • Camera with 85 mm lens 
  • An empty road

Have your camera placed near the front of the trailer and the actor wherever looks best in the frame. The Art Department used an 85mm lens to capture the background while creating a detailed portrait. To create movement, have the truck pull the trailer down a traffic-less road and hit record. The shot may be a little wobbly, but you’ll get the shot you’re looking for after a few readjustments. Maybe the person is too far back or the truck isn’t moving fast or slow enough for the camera to capture what you envisioned. Play around with it.

It’s a simple trick, but the simplest of tricks can have the biggest impact. Creating movement in your projects makes the whole thing feel a little more cinematic. Not everyone has the luxury of two dollies, let alone one, so using the tools you have at home will save you time and money while performing the visual trick that you desire. 

Let us know what you think of this DIY double-dolly tick in the comments below!      

Your Comment

4 Comments

I never cared for this shot. It doesn't say anything other than "I can do something visual as a director". Moving shots should be motivated by the story, this double dolly shot works fine in music videos but it has no place in dramas. It's a distraction in the worst way because it becomes immediately apparent that the subject is just kind of float walking - it takes me out of the moment.

July 16, 2021 at 11:09PM, Edited July 16, 11:09PM

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Resonance
203

i had a lots of respect for Spike Lee and it's art, but not invented this kind of camera movment (and not do it Bill Butler for Jaws (1975), be cause you can found this in previous movies).

July 21, 2021 at 3:33AM

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Carlo Macchiavello
Director (with strong tech knowledge)
864

Bogus! Versions of this technique go back to Hitchcock. You certainly don't need a truck to shoot in a hallway or an interior set. And best to get the camera dept and grips involved rather than the art department.

July 23, 2021 at 10:51AM

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Elan Soltes
VFX Supervisor
8

In this case I think it was motivated by the song lyric, "I'm always in motion." In fact the talent could have been moving around on many more objects, a merry-go-round, on a fire truck, on a horse, a motorcycle, whatever fit the lyrics best. I say good effort. Keep experimenting.

July 23, 2021 at 11:57AM

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Dave Stanton
DP
272