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DIY Dolly I made with pictures and demo video

Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 9:26am

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BlueSmudge

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Rating: +3

Hey everybody,
This past week I built a dolly for some upcoming shoots and yesterday I got out to do my very first test footage. I only had 10' of track but I still got some interesting stuff. The XH-A1 really shines outside. I was amazed how well it captured the sky. This is an all stock A1 shooting in HDV 24f at a shutter speed of 48 and varying apertures. Depending on your tastes in music you may have to mute your speakers to watch this...

http://www.collisioncinema.com/austin/Site/Dolly%20Video.html

Things I've learned:
1.) Level the track or pick the flattest spot around, especially on grass. Large dips allow the track to bend and create bumps in footage.
2.) Don't operate the tripod (pan/tilt) while dollying unless you have somebody to push you. Too much to think about while moving and trying to frame a shot and you just end up with jerky pans/tilts or bad dolly moves.
3.) Dolly shots are awesome!

The total cost was about $90 including 10' of track. More than I wanted to spend by about $40 but I think its worth it.
I based my dolly off of the one discussed here:
http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?t=32678&highlight=dolly&page=2
Price breakdown:
$18 for the 16 roller skate wheels (.50 cents each plus $10 shipping)
$12 for 3/4" plywood
$12 for angle steel
$15 for hardware (bolts, washers and locknuts)
$5 for paint
$4 for extra wood to raise the angle steel away from the plywood deck
$8 for aluminum trim
$8 for closet rod holders (for tripod legs)
$8 for 2x 10' of 1.5" ABS pipe for track

The amazing thing about this dolly is the wheels. I got them here: http://www.skates.com/Pacer-Childrens-Roller-Skate-Wheels-8-pack-p/pcltwhl-nl.htm but unfortunately they have gone up in price. I got them for $3.99 per 8 pack. They come with ABEC 1 bearings which you would think is terrible. Every place I look everyone recommends ABEC 5 or even 7 for their dollies. But with the insane prices for raw building materials (at least in my area) I tried to cut costs where I could. And it turns out that with 16 wheels ABEC 1's work fine.
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 10:27am

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pdrg

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Excellent show and tell!

With some of your offcuts and leftovers you can make yourself a big assortment of shallow angle wedges, used by grips the world over to help level track smile You might want to get a spirit level to help with track levelling too, you can even use a cheap round bubble one (like you see on decent heads) on a straight stick although proper ones start pretty cheap smile
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 10:59am

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EvilDonut

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looks good!

now the fun part. knowing when to dolly, and when not too. smile

d
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 11:15am

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Xcession

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Now this is a useful post! Nice one. A bit more info on some of your decisions might be nice - like why you opted for skateboard wheels rather than something larger or more suitable for uneven terrain.

Now all we need is a tutorial on building your own tracks.
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 12:17pm

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Mellifluous

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Nice topic. Would be cool to see a shot with the track though?
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 1:22pm

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GeeksGoneBad

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Very nice! I've got nearly the same wheel structure on my dolly and I use PVC pipe for my track smile but I also built mine for curved track (basically put the wheel structures on their own axis and I came up with a new way to connect the track than the other PVC track DIYers
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 2:13pm

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Merrick

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Awesomeness! How do you assemble the PVC track without having bumps at all the connections?
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 2:45pm

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GeeksGoneBad

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now THAT is proprietary information wink

seriously though - I found some composite that was nearly exactly the size of the inner diameter of my pvc and it goes together and stays together very well (hard sometimes to get apart actually)

I will take some pics / video when I get home if you're interested
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 2:57pm

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ben3308

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I just finished building a skateboard wheel dolly just like this, but it doesn't look near as cool, it cost more, and I probably worked harder than I should have on it. biggrin

I got my wheels for 40 bucks, and it was only 8 including bearings. I used angle aluminum (it holds up well enough) and my plywood I had to staple two pieces together to make more steady.

Also, I see you raised the angle/wheel assembly using blocks of wood. Something that worked out well for stapling/drywall screwing two pieces of plywood together was that all I had to do to keep the wheel from rubbing the base was to saw out semicircles of the lower piece of plywood. This made a sort of 'wheel well' for the wheels to move within. It also keeps them tucked away and more discreet overall.

Mine actually broke down like so:

-$40 skateboard wheels
-$10 hardware, really $6, but I made a few mistakes, smile
-$20 plywood, 4x8 high density, and I have a lot left over
-$18 angle aluminum
-$8 cans of black spray paint, sandpaper, and primer

Looks like you, BlueSmudge, picked the right way to build a dolly, haha. biggrin

Where'd you get the aluminum trim? I could use some of that for mine. I think the biggest drawback of mine is the wood-grain-colored edges of my plywood: they really detract from the overall look of the dolly.
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 5:45pm

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EvilDonut

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I saw the cheapest dolly in the world last week.

A car. With camera pointing and resting out the window. I laughed.

But hey it's creative and works when you're in a rush.

d
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 6:22pm

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Merrick

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I dunno, a car isn't that cheap... biggrin
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 6:42pm

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Thrawn

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Evil Donut, there are a few problems with using a car...

1. If you can't drive, then there is no use using a car (obvious I guess...)

2. The shot will turn out pretty shaky..

3. There will be motor sounds in your shot, among other things.

And that's just off of the top of my head..
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 6:51pm

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Serpent

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Thrawn wrote:

Evil Donut, there are a few problems with using a car...

1. If you can't drive, then there is no use using a car (obvious I guess...)

2. The shot will turn out pretty shaky..

3. There will be motor sounds in your shot, among other things.

And that's just off of the top of my head..
If you use a gravity based steadicam hanging out the window, drive slowly, and have your microphone outside your car (or do ADR and sound effects for sound), this is definitely a legitimate quick dolly. It can be used in certain situations. Also, most people can drive and have access to a car. Another fix for motor sounds would be if you had access to an electric vehicle (golf cart, car, hybrid, etc.), and again had the mic external or running outside the car via wireless or cable.
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 8:54pm

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BlueSmudge

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Thanks everybody!
It looks like most questions are about track. I have ideas on how to connect the track together but right now I'm stuck with my 10' section. I can't really spend any more money on this right now. Once I do put a nice track kit together I'll take some pictures and tell you how I end up doing it.

EvilDount, I totally agree with you. The hard part is going to be not using this for every shot. It just looks so cool set up and since my tripod doesn't have any spreaders makes it almost easier than not using it. Hopefully my next movie won't look like I went dolly crazy.

ben3308, sounds like you dolly is great too. I got really lucky with this project having only about a 1'x2" section of plywood and 2 washers as my only extra. The costs could have gone a lot higher if I screwed anything up. The aluminum is cool stuff, I just kind of ran into it in the hardware store. I think its used in between hardwood floors and carpeting. They were about $3.50 for a 8' section. I needed 2 to get all the way around my dolly. Get ready to have some fun making the corners look nice and attaching it. That turned into a 4 hour job real fast.
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 9:53pm

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EvilDonut

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Thrawn wrote:

Evil Donut, there are a few problems with using a car...

1. If you can't drive, then there is no use using a car (obvious I guess...)

2. The shot will turn out pretty shaky..

3. There will be motor sounds in your shot, among other things.

And that's just off of the top of my head..
Yeah, but when you're in a rush...

"2 hours left, 10 shots left, we've been goofing off for 3 hours - crap!!! No time for track, dolly - SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT! GET IN THE CAR SHOOT!"

Options get limited. smile

These camera guys are professionals. They have some unbelievable skills. You'd be shocked.

Plus *everything* can be fixed in post. Motion Stabilization, etc. 10 minutes of work. Also, most of these shots need no sound, or dialogue is added later.

d
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 10:49pm

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Aculag

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ben3308 wrote:

I think the biggest drawback of mine is the wood-grain-colored edges of my plywood: they really detract from the overall look of the dolly.
Yeah, I've heard that if your dolly doesn't have fancy trim to match the paint job, that it won't work as well. If at all.

Seriously, dude... The camera goes on TOP. Who cares what it looks like?
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 11:04pm

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petet2

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The dolly footage is great - very smooth motion, I am impressed.

But ouch! dude the blur-effect body text on your website homepage? smile
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 11:14pm

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BlueSmudge

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Aculag wrote:


Yeah, I've heard that if your dolly doesn't have fancy trim to match the paint job, that it won't work as well. If at all.

Seriously, dude... The camera goes on TOP. Who cares what it looks like?
Hey, after all the work and money we put in to get the wheels working right to have a good stable dolly, I think its worth the extra few $$$ to make it look like a nice piece of equipment. Its the difference between,
"WTF is that thing you just put your camera on?"
and
"Holy sh*t nice dolly!"

If I'm going to build something I get satisfaction making it look like I might have bought it retail, or at least good enough I could show up with it somewhere I'm getting paid. A little paint and trim goes a long ways.

pete2 wrote:


But ouch! dude the blur-effect body text on your website homepage?
It is fugly isn't it... I should probably get around to making things a little more awesome.
Some advice everybody: don't use iWeb for your website! Updating is a fat hassle if you don't have .mac!

Edit:
Forgot about this picture I took. A detail of the eyebolt I put in centered under the tripod. Good for strapping down the tripod and/or tying a rope to it to pull the dolly rather than push it.
Posted: Wed, 2nd Apr 2008, 11:35pm

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pdrg

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EvilDonut wrote:


"2 hours left, 10 shots left, we've been goofing off for 3 hours - crap!!! "
Man, that 1st AD may as well pack up and go home for letting it get so out of hand razz
Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 12:47am

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EvilDonut

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pdrg wrote:

EvilDonut wrote:


"2 hours left, 10 shots left, we've been goofing off for 3 hours - crap!!! "
Man, that 1st AD may as well pack up and go home for letting it get so out of hand razz
lol!

Majority of the shoots for networks, studios are first class.

But with every joe and his mother starting a production company these days - and shooting some complete reality trash for mtv, tlc, showtime, cinemax, spike, bravo, playboy tv, vh1, web, cheesy informercials, whatever...

and with low budget the name of the game - the shoots reflect it.

If you desire class & respect, please folks, I beg you - resist the temptation - avoid this low budget trash industry.

Just say no. smile

d

Last edited Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 7:21am; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 2:17am

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Bryce007

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Any instructions perhaps?
Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 2:19am

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Atom

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Bryce007 wrote:

Any instructions perhaps?
Yeah, Bryce. You do it yourself. smile
Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 2:20am

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Bryce007

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Ha
Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 3:30am

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BlueSmudge

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I think the pictures and parts list are pretty much self explanatory. As complicated as it is, its also relatively simple. Take the basic design and run with it, customize it. For example, I plan on cutting a hole in the center so I can mount the claw ball of my tripod nice and low on the dolly (another reason for the wood risers).

If anyone does build one I would be happy to answer any questions, just post them here or PM me.
Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 5:57am

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CX3

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Nice vid, whats the name of that song? I cant get it outta my head ha. And what state or country are u in? The backgrounds/enviroments were gorgeous.
Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 8:15am

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BlueSmudge

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Thanks CX3!
The song is 11h30 by Danger and anyone who enjoys that is ok in my book. I know too many people who hate it haha. I admit it is a little weird, but yeah, its catchy.

The footage was shot at a park on Lake Washington in... Washington State! Very pretty day, hard to believe it was dumping hale and rain about 20 minutes before that.
Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 8:49am

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CX3

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I'm not gonna lie. I've watched this video close to 25 times just because of the song, environment and movement haha. This song is going straight to my mp3 player. And I am now a fan of Washington, i wanna shoot there ha.
Posted: Thu, 3rd Apr 2008, 6:29pm

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EvilDonut

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Good man. Shooting overcast is way better than shooting in the sun, thus casting hard shadows and pasty skin.

d
Posted: Fri, 4th Apr 2008, 12:57pm

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RodgerDodger

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I'm amazed at the tenacity and ingeniousness of people on this forum. I just have this to offer, from Digital Juice:

http://www.digitaljuice.com/djtv/segment_detail.asp?sid=186
Posted: Mon, 7th Apr 2008, 1:12am

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BlueSmudge

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I actually watched that video before starting the dolly, although I never used it directly as a blueprint. One of the many sources of information that I took in before pretty much designing the dolly at the hardware store.
Posted: Mon, 7th Apr 2008, 2:07am

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FreshMentos

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Very nice dolly! Thanks for showing it off! You got a +1 from me for that. The video was also really cool, and the song was brilliant!

Cheers bro.