Monday, November 27, 2023

Happy Birthday William!

Dear Friends of the Colortran Mini Crab Dolly Site. Today, November 28th, is William Sargent's Birthday!

We hope you will join us in wishing our dear friend, consummate actor, voice-over artist and the inventor of the Colortran Mini Crab Dolly, William Sargent, a heartfelt Happy Birthday!

William, enjoy your special day! 

With all our love, Greg, Christine, Adam and Alexis

Friday, December 10, 2021

In Memoriam: Joseph Tawil 1937 - 2021

Our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Joseph Tawil (pictured above) on his recent passing. 

Mr. Tawil was a good friend and contributor to our Colortran Mini Crab Dolly site. During the 1960's as president of Colortran, Mr. Tawil worked closely with William Sargent in the unveiling and marketing of the Colortran Mini Crab Dolly. The two them became and remained close friends throughout the years. Mr. Tawil shared with us his reflections below regarding the first public unveiling of the Mini Crab Dolly. 

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 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 Tawil for this great account of showing the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly for the very first time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Maintaining Your Mini-Crab Dolly

Greeting's Mini-Crab Dolly owners!

Here below is a reposting of some helpful tips on maintaining your crab dolly that we originally posted back in 2012. Also, please consider sending me your story about your mini-crab dolly. Email your story and pics to:

Thank you, Greg Zaryk


Recently, Adam and I performed some maintenance on #157. We took the lower panel off to do a 'lube-job' on #157's chain and gears.

Please note, when performing any maintenance below the deck, and you're planning on flipping your Mini-Crab over, be sure to position the wheels as shown above (in full-crab mode). This provides the least amount of stress on the wheels/trucks. It also helps to have a good amount of foam underneath as to not inflict damage to the aluminum wall.

When oiling your Mini-Crab, use a lubricant to oil all the gears and lightly oil the entire chain. Don't try to spray everything in sight, then end up having lubricant dripping everywhere. In fact, if you get overspray onto the aluminum undercarriage, I would recommend wiping it off as quickly as possible. Otherwise, some lubricants can have a tattoo effect on the aluminum. Click on any image to enlarge, once enlarged, click again to super enlarge.

Also, it doesn't hurt to lubricate all bolts, Allen screws, strap screws, etc., to keep them from rusting. Remember, some of these dollies are approaching 50 years old, so they will need a little extra TLC.

I'm still quite fascinated on the design and build quality of this dolly. The inventor, William Sargent, is to say the least...a mechanical wizard! No one but Sargent could have pulled-off this sophisticated yet 'portable' design. 

Take a look at the above're really looking at perfect harmony! Compact hydraulics, 360-degree crab steering, precision bearings and gears all self-contained inside an aluminum shell that was designed some 50 years ago. Way ahead of its time! My hats off to you, Mr. Sargent!

Keeping the Well for the hydraulic lift clean from oxidation and the build-up of old grease helps with easier installation and removal of the hydraulic lift when needed. At almost 1" thick, the Well area has the thickest concentration of solid-aluminum on the dolly.
Once the Well is clean and shiny, I'll apply a thin layer of grease inside. I will also put a thin layer of grease on the hydraulic lift. The white nylon blocks you see here are the brakes that you apply against the hydraulic lift once it's in-place inside the Well.
Lightly lubricate the entire chain. Remember...once a chain gets's worthless.
Lightly lubricate all gears and other metal items.

Originally, I thought there were only 2-factory stampings of the serial number #157. Well, lo and behold, I found a third #157 stamping that's on the bottom of the Well for the hydraulic lift. 

So this dolly has a total of 3-factory stampings of the serial number and 4 if you're counting the DL Wolper ownership stamp. I haven't seen this many stampings on one particular item since admiring a vintage Luger pistol, where every piece imaginable on a Luger is stamped!

If you have any questions on maintaining your Mini-Crab Dolly, just email me at:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Making Money with your Mini Crab Dolly!

Over the years I've received many emails on how were able to generate income with our Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly. You may have seen some older posts of my son Adam and I using our Mini-Crab for MMA fights, etc. 

I found the price list (below) that Adam and I used in the Cleveland, Ohio area. We also offered a Jib, using a Camera Turret Model 300 that we included in our grip package. Sure the equipment has changed, but whether your using a RED One or a digital SLR system, the creator of the project will still need smooth tracking shots, etc.

You can certainly tailor your price list to include the equipment you have and the type of grip service you wish to offer. Your market may be stronger than the Cleveland area. I hear Seattle, New York City, Chicago and Miami have a lot of ongoing independent projects. 

Once you create your price list, be sure to send it to all the independent producers and ad agencies in your area. I'm hoping this may help to generate some work for you! Let me know of any other ideas we can share with our fellow Mini-Crab owners. Use your mouse and click on this price list to enlarge.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

William Sargent the Actor!

A studio still of William Sargent on an episode of the NBC TV Series, Mr. Novak, which ran in the early 1960's. Many people don't realize the inventor of the Colortran Mini Crab Dolly was also an accomplished actor!

We plan to add more acting pictures of William Sargent soon!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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.

Dear readers....this is a reposting of one of the first stories we posted about the Mini-Crab back in 2010. If you have a Mini-Crab or a story about using one...please send it to us at

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 and the Panavison R-200. 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 McAlisterMoviola 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:

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

For Sale - Jib for the Mini-Crab

We have the perfect accessory for your Mini-Crab! It's the Camera Turret CT-300 Jib that's pictured above and throughout this blog. We used it extensively with Mini-Crab #157. It has the proper mounting adapter that would enable it to fit easily onto the Colortran Mini-Crab Dolly.

The CT-300 is made out of aircraft aluminum and still being made today.The Jib head automatically articulates with the vertical movement of the Jib.
This professional Jib package includes the following:

5' 3" center Jib Arm
3' extension Jib Arm
Monitor Bracket
Cables for standard Jib length,
Cables for extension Jib length
Counterweights bar
Tool kit
Adapter to mount Jib onto your Mini-Crab Dolly or use with a heavy-duty tripod.

Don't mistaken this professional Jib with the flimsy ones you see out there now. In fact, I inspected a cheaper quality Jib and I was shocked at the back-and-forth play it had while moving it up and down.

You can attach your fluid head as the one shown is not available.

This is the real thing. It's rated for 30 lbs. It was made to support heavier rigs.

If interested or for more info, e-mail me directly at: