Want to capture stunning tracking shots without spending a Hollywood budget? Here are four quick and easy methods for building an affordable dolly setup at home.
Top image via Fisenko Evgeny.
The simple fact of filmmaking is, no matter what stage you are in your career, your goal will always be to improve your photographic skills as a DP or your eye as a director. The type of gear you use or are forced to work with only partially contributes to the story you’re telling. Some of the biggest working directors in the industry have been adopting the iPhone filmmaking route. So, whether you’re shooting with an overwhelming budget or a a few bucks lent from your parents, you can pull off some pretty spectacular shots. Here’s how to do it.
$50 Dolly and Track
This will be a simple, trustworthy dolly for anybody needing a quick tracking shot or product shot who doesn’t have the budget for an expensive slider. The build is as simple as ever. All you need is a piece of plywood big enough to fit your tripod, an “L” bracket, some skateboard or rollerblade wheels, a bolt to fit through the wheel, and some nuts and washers. Throw this bad boy on some PVC pipe tracks and you’re taking about some seriously cinematic shots. Low-budget filmmaking has never looked this good or been this accessible, so make the most of your equipment.
The PVC Route
Even though this video is a few years old, the method is a steady as the shot. All you need are a few PVC pipes and and some rollerblade wheels. This option requires fewer screws and more squeezing. Working with PVC pipes can be an easier way for you to extend the length of your track and get a more sweeping shot than if you have a heavy board sitting on the tracks. If you want to extend the track but keep it durable, just buy a smaller pipe and stick it in-between the two connected pipes. This will keep the two tracks together.
The Slider Platform
For a rigid, immovable track you can build one of these rail-type dollies. Bust out your saw or Dremel. With only a little cutting and hacking you can set these rails up and expect a straight sliding movement that doesn’t offer much wiggle room. This can be a good or a bad thing depending the type of tracking or dolly shot you’re trying to pull off. Make sure you have a way to secure your tripod on the dolly. Not all tripods have a grip or lock, so you might need to sandbag the tripod and the pipes you’ve laid down for the track.
The Mini Dolly
Much like the previous dollies, this requires a hefty amount of PVC pipe as well as plywood. However, for anybody specifically in the business of capturing the perfect product shot, think small. The board only needs to be big enough to fit your tripod head, or even just your camera. The board needs to be screwed down to the smaller PVC pipe. This helps the surface of the board stay smooth and unaffected by the potential bumps and squeaks that come with sliding down the tracks.
For more DIY builds and gear hacks check out a few of these articles:
- 10 Cheap Tripod Dolly Options to Try at Home
- 5 DIY Tips for Your Next Shoot
- 7 DIY Filmmaking Techniques Using the Versatile Wheelchair Dolly
- Filmmaking Hacks Every Filmmaker Should Know
What’s the best piece of gear you’ve ever built? Share the wealth!