DIY Dolly - Filmmaking Tutorial 13

Uploaded by polcan99 on 09.12.2010

Hi. Welcome to another filmmaking tutorial. My name is Tom Antos.
Today I’m going to show you how you can build your own professional camera dolly
that can produce shots like these.
All these examples were filmed on my homemade dolly that yo can see me using here.
It’s a simple design that I came up with based on this professional doorway dolly which
we often used in various film and music videos productions.
Here, you can see it’s fitted with regular wheels that work great on smooth floors
that you can find on most film stages like the one you see here.
These can also be easily converted or replaced with wheels that fit on a dolly track.
This dolly also has the handle that allows you to rotate the wheels.
It’s an overall great dolly, although, some of the things I don’t like about it is,
the weight and the size of it. First of all, this dolly is heavy. I mean,
it’s so heavy that you really need someone to help you move it around.
Another thing is the size. It has removable side panels that make it
a bit smaller, but still, I found that it doesn’t always
fit in all the doorways, as the name would suggest.
Not to mention that it’s hard to fit it into a regular car if you need to
transport it to your location and you don’t have a production truck.
Also, on top of that, it’s expensive. If you can afford to rent it or buy it
for your production, then great. Unfortunately, I know a lot of filmmakers
don’t have that kind of money to spend on just a dolly.
So, that’s why I’m going to show you guys how you can build your own professional dolly
that cost you as cheap as $120... give and take - depending where you live and
how much you’ll pay for the materials. So, here’s a regular dolly that you can
get in most hardware stores. It’s... like a moving dolly.
I’m showing you this so that you know what not to do when you’re trying to build
a camera dolly. This is actually my first attempt.
I thought I would save myself some money by buying a ready dolly for $40, I think it cost.
And then converting the tops so it fits my tripod.
Unfortunately, the problem with this dolly is that the wheels wobble a little bit.
It’s too small to fit both the camera and the camera operator.
And also it only works on smooth floors. The second you take this dolly outside, for example,
and use it on a regular sidewalk or asphalt,
it shakes so much that you’re shots are pretty much useless.
So, here’s what I did next. I made a dolly platform from some pieces of
wood that I nailed together and painted black. Or you can just buy a piece of plywood for $10.
I made mine four feet long by two and a half feet wide.
And to that I attached sixteen skateboard wheels.
These you can buy ready online for around $150, maybe $200, for a set of four.
Each has four wheels that rotate. Now, if you want save yourself some money,
then you can make it for about $50. Basically, you buy regular skateboard wheels,
and attach them to metal corners, so that they’re ninety degrees to each other.
If you want to save even more money, then you can just buy eight wheels.
So, you have two at each corner. And attach those to one long metal corner
like I did here. It also works, but I noticed that if you want
to be able to hold up the weight of both the camera and the camera operator, and maybe, for example,
you want somebody to ride along with you to pull the focus,
then it’s best to install sixteen wheels. It’s just more stable. It holds up the weight better.
Also, if you make them rotatable, like these ones,
then your dolly will work great
even if your track is not perfectly straight. Or if you use the dolly on a curved track,
for example. But again, that’s all up to you.
Like I said, you can do it for $50, but if you want to save yourself all the work and hassle,
then for another $100 you can buy
great dolly wheels that are pre-made. You can get them from various online stores
and you can find them on eBay. And then, all you really have to do is
to attach them to your dolly platform using a few screws. After that, I bought a $25 adjustable seat
that’s used in car garages. It comes with wheels at the bottom,
which I removed. And in place of those I put in a few screws
and I attached that to the platform. Again, this seat is not a necessity.
Your dolly will work fine with out it. But if you want to be able to sit comfortably
while you operate the camera, then it’s great to have it.
You can also install any other chair, pretty much, that will fit on a dolly.
I like this particular one because you can adjust its height fairly easily.
Next thing that you need to make your dolly work are the tracks.
I made mine from a plastic PVC pipe that is about one and a half inch thick.
I found that anywhere between one and two inches in diameter works.
Most hardware and construction stores will have them.
They’re about $10 for six feet. But since you need two of those,
it’s about $20 for six feet of track. If you need a longer track, just buy more,
like I did. To join them, simply put inside a smaller PVC pipe,
glue that to one side and... on the other side that sticks out,
just rough it up a bit with a knife or sanding paper,
so it doesn’t go in or out as easily.
Then, insert that into another PVC pipe and there you have a longer track.
Another thing that’s good to have if you want to set up your tracks on an uneven terrain
are track supports. Sort of like what you can find in any train tracks.
I made mine from scrap pieces of wood and
on each side I attached two smaller piece of wood.
You can also just put a nail that sticks out a little bit.
Basically, something that creates a small groove for the PVC pipes to rest in.
This just helps to keep the track together when you’re working on a bumpy ground.
If you’re shooting on a relatively straight terrain, like most streets, sidewalks or indoors,
then you don’t really need that. Just the PVC pipes alone will work.
You also need to buy a piece of wood, about five feet long.
Or you can use a plastic tube, like I did. At one end, just use some tape to make
this T-shaped kind of a handle. And on the other end, drill a small hole,
just big enough for a screw to go in. You will use this to attach it
to your dolly platform. Just put the screw it. It kind of swivels.
This works great as a handle. You can have someone push or pull you
while you sit on the dolly and operate the camera. It’s very comfortable and really the only way
to make sure you have the complete pan, tilt and focus control over your camera
while moving at the same time. Many times I see people build a camera dolly
that supports only the camera and it won’t really allow an operator to ride along with it.
That, in my opinion, is very limiting.
Usually, I find that the only way to get good shots is if you can ride along with the camera and
have someone else push you. The last thing I did is, I installed
this little metal hook - it cost about $5 - in the middle of the platform.
This I use to secure the camera tripod to the dolly,
by stretching two rubber cords around the tripod head and then
hooking it up to the platform using the metal hook.
It just helps keep the tripod from wobbling and moving around while the dolly is moving
back and forth. Well, here it is. Here’s how the finished
dolly works. In my opinion, a dolly is a great way to add
some production value to your shots. And also, it’s a necessity, pretty much,
when you’re making a film. I will actually make a tutorial in the future
that talks about all the different camera moves that you can perform with the dolly,
such as this. And how they can, not only visually, but also
emotionally impact your film. You know, the meaning behind them and
the most common use for camera movement. So, subscribe. Stay tuned for that.
And I’ll see you later.