Monday, December 27, 2010

Footage of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly used during filming of The Rain People

One of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Francis Ford Coppola. Mr. Coppola is seen here behind a Panavised Arriflex 2C and is also known to have a ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly.

Fellow SarKell member, Steven Bradford, discovered some awesome footage of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly in action. This film footage is from the production of 'Filmmaker: A Diary' which is a documentary of Francis Ford Coppola that was produced/filmed by George Lucas.

In this footage, you'll see Mr. Coppola's ColorTran Mini-Crab being used during the time he was filming his movie, The Rain People. You'll see perfect footage showing how compact, nimble and swift the Mini-Crab is during film production.

It was told to me by the past president of ColorTran, that Mr. Coppola ordered a Mini-Crab Dolly soon after they became available. I'm planning to reach out to Mr. Coppola to find out more about his Mini-Crab and to invite him to become a member of the SarKell Society. More news to follow in a future posting.

Copy and paste this address in your browser to see the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly at work: www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2qqIzwjiIQ

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Meet Darryl Humber from Dollygrippery

Allow me to introduce a good friend of ours! Darryl Humber, or also known as "D".

Darryl is a professional working Dolly-Grip. Pictured here is Darryl next to his preferred machine, a state-of-the-art, Hustler IV by Chapman. The Hustler IV is made in the same facility as the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dollies were once manufactured. Chapman purchased the facility from ColorTran. This was taken just last week on the set of HBO's 'True Blood'. Click on this image to enlarge.

Darryl also hosts an awesome website for Dolly-Grips called Dollygrippery. The Dollygrippery site is the definitive site for professional Dolly-Grips. The site features awesome images and commentary from working Dolly-Grips straight out-of Hollywood and beyond.

If your just starting out in dolly-gripping or you're a seasoned Pro...it would be to your advantage to visit Dollygrippery. You can learn the in's and out's of being a Dolly-Grip and follow-up on the newest state-of-the-art techniques and related grip equipment. You can visit Darryl and the other professional Dolly-Grippers at: www.dollygrippery.com

We also wish to thank Darryl as he was good enough to post a link to our ColorTran Mini-Crab Blog and SarKell Society on his website. We would also like to extend a warm welcome to all the visitors from Dollygrippery!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Market Value of a ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly

An illustration taken from the ColorTran Mini-Crab's owner's manual. This photo shows front and both sideboards attached, extra seat and miscellaneous head mounts. Click on this image to enlarge.

Many people have e-mailed me asking what one could expect to pay for a working ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly. After surveying the equipment houses and talking with my connections in production circles, I have gathered the following values. These figures are based on actual sales made over the past few years. These values don't reflect the occasional 'barn-finds' or private sales. 

The values below have been revised on 9/15/19. They are much lower than first posted. This is due to the fact that digital equipment (RED/4K, etc.) is becoming much more portable and the affordability of smaller-sized support equipment, i.e., Glidecam and Steadicam equipment has become more affordable.  

For instance, there's a Mini-Crab currently going (on-line) in the $2500.00 range. This is by no means 'cheap', but considering the cost of a used Sachtler Video-20 P fluid-head ($3K on eBay), the Mini-Crab Dolly is still a great bargain in the camera support category.

ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly Resale Values (revised 9/15/19) Dolly kits below must include the hydraulic pedestal and steering control.

  • Mint with carrying case and all accessories...........................$1700.00
  • Excellent condition, with some accessories...........................$1500.00
  • Good condition, fully operational...........................................$1200.00
  • Fair condition, fully operational...............................................$800.00
  • Poor condition, rolling but in need of an overhaul...................$400.00

Keep in mind there were only about 250 of the sophisticated Mini-Crab dollies made as compared to the less-advanced Elemack where production totals ran into the thousands.

It is in my humble opinion that inventor William Sargent of SarKell out-designed Mr. Sante Zelli's Elemack. I say this with confidence because I've used both, the Elemack (Spyder & Cricket) with Panavision cameras and the ColorTran with an older Arri-35BL-4 and a Mitchell SR35.

Granted, the Elemack out-sold the ColorTran Mini-Crab (quite possibly because Elemack listed at almost $2,000 less), but the way I look at it, back then, the Chevy Corvette also out-sold the Aston-Martin DB4. I'm not sure about you, but as for me, I would much rather be tooling behind a DB4 than a Vette any day!

Out of the roughly 250 Mini-Crabs that were originally built (nearly 50 years ago), it's been said, only about 75 to 100 complete dollies still exist. For me, that's one more reason owning a ColorTran Mini-Crab desirable...they're extremely rare!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Do you have a Mini-Crab? We'd like to hear from you!

The ColorTran Mini-Crab is very compact. When we need to transport it, we pack it into a Mercury Mountaineer (need to remove the hydraulic lift, too heavy otherwise). We can then easily transport the Mini-Crab, Jib, and other equipment to the production location.
Yes, Mini-Crab #157 (here attached with a 12' Jib) has it's own parking space! If you are lucky enough to own a Mini-Crab...we would like to hear from you! Please e-mail us at gregoryz@centurylink.net and send us a few pictures and a brief story about your dolly.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy 80th Birthday to William Sargent!

Please join me in wishing William Sargent, the inventor/creator of our beloved Mini-Crab Dolly a very Happy Birthday! Mr. Sargent turned the big 80 this past Sunday, November 28th.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. SARGENT!!!!!!!

William Sargent (left) is seen here with his very good friend, Hal Hansen (right) at an airport near Salt Lake City. Both of these gentlemen were passengers in the Cessna Float-Plane you see behind them. This plane is owned by their mutual friend, a retired Delta airlines pilot. Click on this image to enlarge.

Mr. Sargent, we wish you very best wishes, good health and happiness to you and your most beautiful wife, Patti.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

SarKell demonstrating the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly before a live audience

A very rare photo of team SarKell and the Mini-Crab Prototype. In these never before published photographs, the inventor of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly, William Sargent (left) and his partner, Robert Kelljan (right) were demonstrating how easy it was to unpack and set-up the Mini-Crab Dolly. These were taken at the SMPTE show in Downtown Los Angeles in the early 1960's.
Now, with the hydraulic lift and camera in place, William Sargent is "pitching" the attributes of the Mini-Crab to a very attentive audience. Click on this image to enlarge. Once you've enlarged it, click it again to super enlarge!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Robert Kelljan "The Kell in SarKell" demonstrating the unpacking of the Mini-Crab Dolly

Here is William Sargent's partner, the late Robert Kelljan.

Mr. Kelljan is demonstrating how easy it is to unpack the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly from it's carrying case during a Demo shoot. If you click on this image to enlarge, you'll see the seat, steering and shift control assembly and the camera lift control lever is nicely stowed away.

This dolly may quite possibly be one of the very first to roll off the assembly line as there is no evidence of a manufacturers tag.

Mr. Kelljan was a working actor and a successful television director, directing iconic TV episodes of 'Charlie's Angels', 'Starsky and Hutch' and 'Hill Street Blues', to name a few. William Sargent has often told me that Robert Kelljan was the consummate partner and a true friend.

You can see some of Robert Kelljan's work at: www.imdb.com/name/nm0446059/filmoyear

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Using our ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly #157

Recently, my son Adam and I were hired out along with our ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly and a 12' Jib. We were part of a three-man camera crew to film a Martial Arts Ultimate Fighting Exhibition here in Ohio. This is an actual shot of Adam filming the fighter from above the cage with the Jib. Adam is watching his filming through a monitor on the floor. The fighter is waiting for the next round to start as the ring-girl is carrying the round number above her head. Click on any image to enlarge.


Prior to the show, Adam balanced the 12' Jib-arm with about 50 lbs. of steel weight and then rehearsed our shooting angles. The Mini-Crab works great when using a long Jib.
There were a total of 12 fights (about 4 hours of filming!) that we did using Sony 3-CCD HD cameras outfitted with beautiful Zeiss T* zoom lenses. We used our Mini-Crab with a Camera Turrett 300, 12' Jib. Luckily, with the Mini-Crab's hydraulic pedestal fully extended, we just cleared the top of the cage by a couple of feet. We were stationary and the other two cameramen were handholding their rigs, one at the opposite side of the ring, the other roving near the fighters.
Photo of Adam and Greg Zaryk. Just before showtime, Adam is relaxing on the Mini-Crab. It was fun working together even though we are not fans of the ultimate fighting sport. Adam actually did most of the Jib filming including the final championship match. He's much smoother than I am in panning a high mounted camera.

I'm so amazed with how William Sargent designed the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly. It's so compact and versatile that it's effortless to use, disassemble and transport.

I must say, you don't know how perfect this dolly is until you've used it! It's hard to believe that it's almost 50 years old! Way ahead of it's time! A true testament to a marvelous design by a genius designer...William Sargent!
We'd like to hear your production stories using the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly. Please e-mail them to me at gregoryz@centurylink.net with a picture or two of the Mini-Crab in use.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

William Sargent...Designer/Inventor of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly

Ladies and gentlemen...the one and only...William Sargent.

This recent portrait of William on his motorcycle was taken by his beautiful wife, Patti.

William Sargent has had an awesome career as a TV/Film actor, voice-over artist and has made an awesome contribution to the film production world with his design and invention of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly.

William is the quintessential man, successful, artistically talented, incredibly gifted in design and manufacture and a great person and friend to many!
As always, click on this or any image to enlarge.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

First Punch Film Production and Mike Broy from St. Louis, Missouri. FPF may have one of the last Mini-Crab's built!

This is Mini-Crab #209 and could be one of the last of the Mini-Crab's that were built at the ColorTran plant in Burbank, Calif. It's unknown, but it's estimated there were anywhere between 200-250 of these magnificent dollies built.

Mini-Crab number 209 is seen here with the accessory seat which would allow the rider/cameraman along with a lightweight camera to ride above the hydraulic pedestal. Thanks for this picture Mike and for becoming a member of the SarKell Society!

See more of First Punch Film Production's work at: www.firstpunchfilm.com

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Photograph of SarKell at the Berkey-ColorTran plant in Burbank where the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dollies were being assembled

Here's another rare photograph of actor/director, Robert Kelljan (left), along with the designer of the Mini-Crab Dolly and actor, William Sargent (center, standing on dolly), horsing around and having fun with a fellow Berkey-ColorTran employee. ColorTran Mini-Crab Dollies were built at this very location on Chestnut Street in Burbank, California. You can really tell that William Sargent and Robert Kelljan were actors! Click on this image to see their great expressions!

I am very grateful to William Sargent for providing such awesome photographs for our SarKell Blog. Mr. Sargent has been gracious with his time and resources! Thank you Mr. Sargent for all you do! You are a true gentleman and a wonderful friend!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rare photo of ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly's designer/inventor, William Sargent and his partner Robert Kelljan



Just weeks before their fateful meeting with Berkey-ColorTran president, Milt Forman. Working actor and designer/inventor of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly, William Sargent and his partner and actor/director, Robert Kelljan are set up at the S.M.P.T.E. exhibition in downtown Los Angeles. In between 'SarKell' is the prized Prototype of the Mini-Crab Dolly.

William Sargent, acted in many beloved TV shows and movies including the original Twilight Zone and Star-Trek TV series and many, many more.

See more of William Sargent's work at: (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0765095/)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SarKell Society Member, Steven Bradford and ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly #34

One of the earliest produced dollies to register is #34 from Seattle, Washington. Pictured above is Steven Bradford, a film school instructor and keeper of this Mini-Crab shown with all the accessories, front and sideboard extensions, lead weights and both 16mm & 35mm head mounts. This is a "before shot" as Steven is planning to restore this dolly someday!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Former Berkey-ColorTran President, Joseph P. Tawil shares his recollections of the Mini-Crab's First Public Appearence


In the photo above, the SarKell team is demonstrating the Mini-Crab prototype for it's first public unveiling at The Hudson Hotel in NYC.

The distinguished looking gentleman peering through the Mitchell is the genius designer/inventor of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly, William Sargent. Pushing the Mini-Crab prototype (partial view) through the "mock doorway" is his partner Robert Kelljan. Both men were working actors in Hollywood when they teamed-up as SarKell.


The Unveiling of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly - By Joseph P. Tawil



The fabulous new light weight dolly was first shown in New York in 1965. There was nothing quite like it in such a compact package. The dolly could crab, steer or track, had a hydraulic continuous smooth lift, and carried camera operator and assistant, all on a platform that could go through a small doorway. Big dolly performance in a light weight portable dolly that could be packed into a road case and placed in the trunk of a station wagon. The way Bill Sargent designed it to come apart, and to go together so quickly was brilliant. Film production was becoming more and more mobile and the SarKell dolly was the solution. We were all very excited about the debut scheduled in New York and we needed a hotel with a ballroom having smooth wood floors to show of the dolly’s smooth movement and to provide some refreshments for our invited guests.

We chose the Henry Hudson Hotel on West 57 Street, for its wood floor ballroom and convenient midtown location. The date was November 9, 1965. We arrived early, set up the room and we were all ready for our invited guests. We being, Bill Sargent (designer), Bob Kelljan (SarKell partner), Herb Hollander (my sales manager), and Joe Tawil (that’s me). A few people started showing up at about 3:00 p.m. and I was having a ball showing off the, tracking, steering and crabbing options; the smooth hydraulic lift, and how it all came apart to fit into a compact road case. Both Bill Sargent and Bob Kelljan officially demonstrated the dolly as shown in the photo above. It was now named the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly.
All was going well and more people were arriving. A little after 5:00 p.m. the lights went out in the ballroom. I was sure it was just a fuse and they would soon be turned on again. After a while the hotel staff showed up with a box of candles and I thought they were really so incompetent they didn’t know how to replace a fuse. However I was not going to be deterred. Top New York production people were in the ball room to see the dolly and I was going to show it. We lit the candles and placed them around the room. We also held the candles in our hands. When I needed to demonstrate a function of the dolly I handed the candle to one of our guests and said "hold this so I can show you how this works".
What we didn’t know was that date, November 9, 1965, was another event about to hit New York at 5:27 p. m. It was the great north eastern blackout stretching from Canada to Philadelphia and just about everything in-between. We had no idea of the extent of the blackout. We thought it was just the hotel until some guests arrived to tell us it was much bigger that they had driven from their office on 32nd Street to 57th Street and that the lights were out all the way. Remember this is before the cell phone and as much as we were in the dark, the authorities did not know much more about what was happening. There was no TV, no Radio – there was no electricity – It is interesting to note that NBC had battery back up for the radio station but it ha been removed only weeks before the blackout) - we were all in the dark. But not me, we had candles, we had guests and fortunately some food and beverages laid out. We went on showing the dolly and took orders for 32 units that day. We knew we had a winner.
The dolly was a great success, I had a lot of fun and satisfaction seeing it used around the world. We shipped dollies to Latin America, Europe and Asia. As exciting and as satisfying as it was to be part of this adventure I had one more blessing from its launch. I got to meet Bill Sargent and we have been life long friends. That is more than icing on the cake.
We wish to sincerely thank fellow SarKell Society Member and former Berkey-ColorTran president, Joseph P. Tawil for this great account of showing the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly for the very first time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vintage Ad of the ColorTran Mini-Crab and it's inventor, William Sargent

This vintage Ad was shared with me by none other than the designer/inventor of the Mini-Crab himself, William Sargent. In fact, pictured above is Mr. Sargent riding high on the accessory seat. More on the fascinating career and contributions of William Sargent will be coming soon! Click on this image to see closer.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Meet David Rakoczy, CEO of Emerald Coast Filmworks Inc. and owner of #148

Filmmaker David Rakoczy is sitting onboard his SarKell designed, ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly #148. David has an extensive background in Motion Pictures working in Hollywood for over twenty years including four HBO Feature Films as lead Cinematographer. You can see his resume and some of his work at: www.emeraldcoastfilmworks.com

When I first started looking for information on the Internet about the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly, David was the first "point-of-reference" I found talking about his ColorTran Dolly! Welcome aboard David!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Compared to other dollies...the ColorTran Mini-Crab is not only the most versatile...It's also the most compact and portable dolly out there!

See for yourself! Take a look at these other dollies for comparison! Paul Newman riding an earlier Italian-made Elemack Mark I (on tracks) hand-holding an Arri 35-2. Click on any image to enlarge.
Filmmaker, Andrew Costikyan being pushed on a three-wheeled Fisher dolly (on tracks).
Mr. Costikyan using his Costikyan Western Dolly fitted with a Mit and a Worral gear-head on top of a high-hat.

So you see, there's nothing as compact and versatile as the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly! The ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly weighs only 293 pounds and measures in at just under 27 inches wide by 39 inches long.

Photo Credits: Richard L. Bare, The Film Director, IDG Books. Jon J. Conrad, The TV Commercial How it is Made, VN Reinhold Co.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ColorTran Mini Crab Dolly Owner's...Register your dolly!

ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly #157 in it's original factory "ColorTran Blue" paint finish. There were only about 250 of these hand-built dollies made. If your lucky enough to own one, please register your dolly by e-mailing me at: gregoryz@centurylink.net

(Click on any image to enlarge for greater detail, once you've enlarged it, click again for even more detail!)
Using my ColorTran Mini-Crab as a rolling camera crane/Jib base.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Heavy Cameras on the Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly!


The massive 160 pound Panavision R-200 (above) and the 130 pound Mitchell BNCR (pictured below on a location shoot) were often mounted on Colortran Mini-Crab Dollies. Although the Colortran dolly was not intended for "top-heavy" 35mm cameras, many Colortran's were paired-up with the big 35's. Virtually untippable! A true testament to a perfectly designed dolly by an incredibly genius inventor!
It's barely noticeable, but that's a Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly under a Mitchell BNCR/Worral gear-head combination. Click on this image to enlarge.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More tid-bits regarding the Mini-Crab Dolly

I first thought about repainting the dolly, but then decided to leave it in it's original ColorTran Blue finish. Click on any image to see closer!
The manufacturer's tag on the back panel of my ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly.



During my research on the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly, I was surprised that I couldn't find much on the Internet about the extremely well-made dolly. But then again, the ColorTran dolly is now more than 40 years old!

As I began looking for information, I would run across Internet forums of people finding rusty old ColorTrans’ in garden sheds or some equipment house selling a beat-up, hand "re-painted" Colortran for big bucks. Quite frankly, there’s not much out there.

A fine gentleman by the name of Rudy Goldberg, recently shared his recollections about seeing the ColorTran dolly for the very first time. Mr. Goldberg, who gave his permission to share this account was referred to me by a longtime Hollywood equipment insider.

Mr. Goldberg remembers attending one of the special "coming out" parties thrown by Berkey-ColorTran's sales team during the mid-60’s. This mixer took place at Berkey-ColorTran in Burbank, at the very place where the ColorTran’s were being assembled. According to Mr. Goldberg, many high-level studio equipment managers and other V.I.P's were invited to see ColorTran's much talked about “compact” invention.

During this cocktail party, Mr. Goldberg recalls being ushered into a room and seeing an older Moviola Crab dolly standing side-by-side to a newly minted ColorTran dolly. Both dollies had (he believes) big Mitchell's strapped on (the Mit's were presumably provided by one of the camera houses) and grip people on-hand ready to give interested guests a test drive.

This get-together was to convince the equipment managers that it was time to change-out their older fleet of dollies to the more advanced “near portable” dolly made by ColorTran. Guests included cinematographers, equipment managers and other studio production people. Mr. Goldberg recalls conversing with fluid head manufacturer, Chad O'Connor, who was also there admiring the new ColorTran dolly.

I'm hoping this Blog will at the very least, inform and update others, who like me became interested in acquiring and using the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly. A couple of months ago, when I began looking for a ColorTran Mini-Crab, I Googled and found practically nothing of substance on the Internet. Now, if someone Google's ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly, they will at least uncover this Blog and the general information it contains.

If you're an owner (or a wannabe owner!) of a ColorTran dolly, you will enjoy many years of service. Be it in any cine/digital application. Yes, the ColorTran is technically sophisticated and modern-looking enough to enter the world of RED, too! In any event, you will obtain the most flawless dolly/tracking shots money can buy! Suffice it to say, the ColorTran dolly was ingeniously designed, handsomely crafted and is an American-made classic in the truest sense!

So, if you can find one of these rare birds, that's reasonably priced, with working/rebuilt hydraulics and not too beat-up, BUY IT!
Believe me, you'll be happy you made the ColorTran Mini-Crab investment and even more happier using it!

My sincere thanks to our good friend, Mr. Rudy Goldberg of Beverly Hills, California for sharing his recollections of the Berkey-ColorTran cocktail party. If you have any stories about the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly that I can share, especially operating it on a film set, please let me know!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly


                 The ingeniously designed and versatile Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly.
I'm sure we weren't the first to discover that underneath the trap-door of the platform where the CO2 bottle rests, is a nice area for storage. You can stowaway small things, i.e., keys, tools, cell-phone, wallet, etc.


Manufacturing of the ingeniously designed Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly started sometime around 1967. The Colortran dollies were being produced up through 1975. A total of about 250 of these hand-built dollies were assembled at the Berkey-Colortran location on Chestnut Street in Burbank, California. This facility is now being used by another equipment outfit company, Chapman.

Based on Colortran's hefty $5825.00 price tag (see price list above), these dollies were made to order, not built and stockpiled. Back then it was actually cheaper to buy a brand new Cadillac Coupe DeVille ($5275.00) than a Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly.

The Colortran dolly was touted as being untippable and was known to accommodate the industry standard cameras of the time, Mitchell BNCR (130 lbs.) and the even beastlier, Panavison R-200 (160 lbs.). The Colortran is nearly as portable and versatile as a dolly could be. Before the advent of the Steadicam system, the Colortran was the answer to the big McAlister, Moviola Crab, Fearless and Fisher dollies, which were the standard on many film sets.

The Mini-Crab is a soft-riding, compact, nearly 300-pound platform that can steer effortlessly, crab 360 degrees and slip through a normal size doorway with ease. Even laden-down with two riders and a heavy camera, the Mini-Crab performs flawlessly. Other dollies particularly the larger crabs, i.e., Moviola, had a difficult time, if not impossible, maneuvering through tight spots such as doorways and corridors. Not the Mini-Crab!

In its day, another portable “crab” contender, the Elemack, challenged the Colortran. In my humble opinion, the Elemack lacked the versatility the Colortran offered. During my filmmaking days, I personally used an earlier version of the Elemack, called the “Spyder”. After a few weeks of working with the Elemack, which incidentally, was paired up with a "lighter" (80 pound) Panaflex camera, we were ready to ditch-it for a shopping cart!

As the dolly-grip for the above project, I remember operating the Elemack during several tracking shots when the ride became choppy.

Eventually, the DP, being totally exasperated with the ride, turned his head much in the same demonic fashion as 'Regan' did in 'The Exorcist' and questioned me about the crappy push. None of us could figure out the reason of the rough ride. The choppiness came and went and occurred mostly on slow pushes.

After unbuckling the camera, we tipped the dolly over and did a complete check of each of the tires, wheels and lastly the wheel-bearings to make sure they were functioning properly. After more than an hour of trying to pin-point the problem, we gave up! We kept on shooting with a half-working Elemack until Victor Duncan sent over a sweet, battery-powered Fisher Dolly.

Other issues we had with the Elemack included the mechanism to disengage the opening/closing of the legs, which would never work right. This even after constant servicing through Victor Duncan of Detroit. Not to mention, using the manual foot-pump to jack-up the column was to say, tedious. On occasion, we would even find a puddle of hydraulic fluid underneath the Elemack, which I understand is common for this breed. Personally, it became a pain since it was I who was always wiping up after it!

The fact is, with the Elemack, you can't even lay a director's finder, lens or more importantly a cup of coffee down like you could on-top of the rubberized platform of the Colortran. After my experience with the Elemack, I'm convinced the Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly WAS and STILL IS the best designed 'vintage' portable crab dolly out there, especially given it's compact size. This made possible by its genius designer, William Sargent. Not only is the Colortran Mini-Crab American made, the build quality of that era is first-rate.

In short, if you're ever faced with renting or more importantly purchasing a crab-dolly, my advice would be...STAY AWAY from the Elemack brand. Especially, the Cricket and Spyder models.

If you're not lucky enough to find a Colortran Mini-Crab, I would suggest checking into a pre-owned Chapman. Yes, the Chapman's are pricey...but they will give you many years of trouble-free service. As mentioned earlier, the Chapman's are built at the same factory the Colortran's were assembled. In fact, I was told that many of the lathes and other machines that were once used to manufacture parts for the Colortran Mini-Crab's are still being used today to produce the Chapman's. Lastly, if you can't get your hands on a Chapman, I would then recommend a Fisher Dolly.

Now, back to the Colortran...if you were to flip the Mini-Crab dolly over and remove it's lower panel, you would see a maze of sophisticated engineering much akin to looking inside a fine Swiss watch. Hand-milled gears, forged steering controls, hydraulics, etc.

The Colortran dolly was built around an extremely heavy one-piece aluminum casting. It’s speculated that many of these dollies have found their way to the scrap-heap before their true identity became known. Stripped down, the empty shell of a Colortran Mini-Crab tips the scales with more than 175 pounds of solid, pure, high-grade extrusion aluminum. It’s conceivable; many of these dollies were unknowingly scrapped for the price of aluminum, which may be one of the reasons why very few are known to exist.

Recently, my son Adam and I had the good fortune of acquiring a Colortran dolly with special provenance. This Mini-Crab bears the serial number of 157, which by indications found, was once owned by filmmaker and Academy Award winner, David L. Wolper.

Mr. Wolper is recognized as a prolific television/feature film producer who is credited for producing the “Roots” and “North and South” TV mini-series, among many others. Mr. Wolper also produced many films for the big screen including 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory', (1971), 'This is Elvis', (1981), and 'L.A. Confidential', (1997).

It’s doubtful that #157 was used in filming any of these productions; more likely it was used in Mr. Wolper’s earlier television career. This was when his production company produced and filmed documentaries similar to the ones seen on the Biography channel.

Before we adopted #157, the dolly eventually ended up on the east coast. First at a PBS station in Maryland, a Verizon TV studio, then to a state law enforcement TV studio. It was lastly owned by an independent producer.

Presently, we're in the planning stages of producing a film on how difficult it is for people with disabilities to find jobs (competitive employment). This is an area of which I have some experience with and proud to say is my beloved full-time occupation. What better way to film people who use wheelchairs or may have difficulty walking, than to have a camera mounted onto a quiet moving dolly.

My son and I also offer a dolly-grip service to local filmmakers in the Cleveland area which will hopefully help fund the documentary. I'm looking to put my past experience as a dolly-grip to good use. This time around, the cameras have shrunk down to a mere fraction of the heavy 16 or 35mm steel beasts that once rode atop #157. We also offer a lightweight 13’ jib that can be attached to the dolly to "fly" cameras when needed.

Our Colortran is still solid as a rock and with the (8) original studio tires, maintains extremely smooth control much when it did, I'm sure, some 40 years ago. Again, thanks to a very clever designer!

We're hoping to put together a list of existing Colortran dollies and their owners. If you’re fortunate enough to own a Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly, please e-mail me the serial number of your unit. This is located on the manufacture tag on the back panel of the dolly, see photo of the tag on the September 10th posting.

Over the years, some of these Mini-Crab’s have lost their tags. Not to worry, the serial number of your dolly is also stamped on the top of the steering base. Also, let me know the serial number of your hydraulic lift, which is an entirely different number than the serial number of the dolly. The serial number of the hydraulic lift can be found on the base of the lift itself.

If you have any information, facts, details or user stories about the Colortran Mini-Crab, please let us know and with your permission, we will share it on this Blog. Eventually, Adam and I would like to form a group of Colortran Dolly owners called the SarKell Society. Among other things, this Society will list the owner's name, general location and the serial number of the member's dolly in a future posting.

Forming the SarKell Society should help us Colortran Dolly owners to preserve and increase the value of our beautifully crafted dollies. Ultimately, we can help one another with buying/selling a Colortran dolly, operational ideas, Colortran restoration, general maintenance, wheel alignment, service, parts and accessories.

Speaking of accessories, Adam and I are on the look-out for some items to better outfit our dolly. We're looking for the floorboards that would enlarge the Colortran platform. Also, if you have the operator's lift-seat that was designed to fit onto the hydraulic pedestal or the carrying case for the dolly itself, we would be most interested! Please let me know by e-mailing me at: gregoryz@centurylink.net

Let's keep in touch and enjoy using your Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly!
Greg and Adam Zaryk, owners of #157

Friday, September 3, 2010

The SarKell Society - Membership *WILL BE UPDATED SOON--SEND YOUR INFO TODAY*

Update: July 25, 2015: Dear Mini-Crab owners, if you haven't done so already, please send me your dolly's serial number, a picture of you and your dolly along with your name and location. I'm preparing to update the Sarkell Society list (posted below). Thank you!

Click on above membership list to enlarge.


If you're the owner of a Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly...register your dolly today by e-mailing your name, city/state, the dolly's serial number and your e-mail address to:

gregoryz@centurylink.net