DIY dollies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes using a variety of tricks and technology. Sometimes, though, you just have to go back to basics. That’s exactly what’s in this entertaining video from filmmaker David Sandberg. This is the second such dolly David has made since leaving his previous one in Sweden.
Using a variety of inexpensive items available at any hardware store (with the exception of the skateboard wheels), David builds a very respectable dolly. He might describe it as “a sh**ty dolly”, but I don’t think so. This type of dolly is almost exactly what I used when I first started with video around a decade ago. The PVC pipe track makes it easy to get smooth sliding moves on
It’s a very simple build, and very effective, especially at that cost. There’s no motion control and you probably won’t shoot Hollywood blockbuster footage with it, but it’s certainly good enough for many applications.
The materials list is quite short.
- A piece of stiff board or plywood appropriately large enough to stand your tripod on with the legs spread.
- 4 angle brackets with enough holes to let you screw it to the board, and mount the next item on the list.
- 8 Skateboard Wheels
- 8 Bolts & nuts of suitable size to fit through the skateboard wheel bearings
- 8 (not 6) Screws to attach the angle brackets to your board
- 2 (or more) lengths of PVC pipe
Total cost of everything should be less than $50 at most any hardware store. Skateboard wheels can be picked up online very inexpensively. The cost can go up, obviously, if you buy higher quality parts, or need much much longer tracks.
One tip, not all skateboard wheels come with spacers, so pick your wheels before you order your bolts and nuts. A couple of nuts can also act as spacers and you may need more than 8 in total.
The great thing about this design is that it’s easy to extend the track. If you want to do a long steady tracking shot of people moving in front of the camera, it couldn’t be simple. Super long PVC pipe (if you can even find long enough pieces) are a bit unwieldy. Instead, you can just join shorter pieces. A couple of different ways are shown in the video, but the one I’ve always preferred is David’s newer method. Simply use a smaller piece of pipe, that just fits inside, then add gaffer tape to add friction and hold the two larger, longer pieces together.
David suggests that the dolly might not be all that stable. But, the one that we built nearly 10 years ago ended up being more stable than a similarly designed commercial one that we bought. The only real difference between the two was that the one we bought came with a plastic base instead of a wooden board.
Our DIY option was easily capable of handling a large Libec tripod with a great big Sony DSR-500 broadcast camera on top. Stability will depend on how good your construction skills are, though, and the quality of your materials.
The tracks make it easily run along a long distance. We’re not talking miles, but certainly more than any slider. It also provides a smooth surface for the wheels to run along, even on relatively rough ground. If the ground’s too rough, you can always use blocks to prop sections of it up and keep it level.
Have you built a dolly like this one before? What other tips can you offer to help make life a little easier when constructing or using one? Let us know in the comments.