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DIY Dolly


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#1 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 01:24 AM

Hy guys, just thought I'd show you the prototype dolly I made tonight. It started out as a quick fix for a shot I want in a shoot tomorrow, and it ended up inspiring me to make a better one out of PVC.

The dolly itself is tiney, maybe a foot long and 4 inches wide. The track is two six foot pieces of copper plumbing pipe. The "wheels" are jsut some thick felt placed right on the dolly. Belive it or not, it works verry well! I am not worried about getting the shot anymore :D !! It still needs a few tweeks, but i am happy with it. Plus, i payed exactly 0 dollars and 0 cents for it. That is something all budget filmmakers love:D! I'll get soem footage up tomorrow.


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Edited by Dory Breaux DP, 27 January 2008 - 01:25 AM.

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#2 Amin Khan

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 03:54 PM

neat. id love to see the resulting shot from this dolly. Im trying to improvise a dolly and the best i can come up with at the moment is a shopping trolly. :lol:
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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 07:58 PM

That's really neat! As far as improvised dollies go, don't forget the old wheelchair dolly technique. It been around for years and somebody recently won a technical achievement award using one! NEVER discount the power of a simple solution to a difficult or expensive problem :D
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 08:03 PM

Years ago, I built a 3'x4' wooden dolly (plywood with a metal pipe push bar) and four hard rubber cart wheels like the type I was used to from working at the UCLA library pushing book carts around. I decided to only use wheels that went in one direction rather than deal with any turns, so I could just push in and out on two 12' wooden planks I bought. It produced really smooth moves for my Super-8 movies and I could get those Spielbergian push-ins to dramatic close-ups.
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#5 Chris Keth

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 08:20 PM

I love elegant solutions to problems. I did a little pull out on a bar that I just used a skateboard and a few sandbags for. it gave the camera a narrow enough profile to be able to pull out from between two people, on either side of the bar, that were leaned in pretty close without looking awkward or having them lean into it. It was fun and I still like that shot.
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#6 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 04:37 PM

And the goods:

Dolly
Cablecam

DollyPic1
DollyPic2
DollyPic2

Let me knwo what yall think.
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#7 John Sprung

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 05:12 PM

Nice solution -- the one thing I'd recommend is making the length in contact with the rails longer than the distance between the rails -- like 1.5x. With a really short contact length, or ratio, the potential problem is that the dolly could get at an angle to the track and bind up. You might also want to put cross ties between the rails to keep the distance constant.

Is that a Delta Unisaw with a Biesemeyer fence in the pictures?



-- J.S.
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#8 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 07:24 PM

Nice solution -- the one thing I'd recommend is making the length in contact with the rails longer than the distance between the rails -- like 1.5x. With a really short contact length, or ratio, the potential problem is that the dolly could get at an angle to the track and bind up. You might also want to put cross ties between the rails to keep the distance constant.

Is that a Delta Unisaw with a Biesemeyer fence in the pictures?



-- J.S.


I see what you mean. Problem is, i have a total of 6ft of track. Its such a simple setup though that I thint think that problem will happen. Thanks for the tips tho ;-).
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#9 Buddy Greenfield

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 10:49 PM

I just used my array of zero cash (Recycled junk) DIY "Gear" (Snoots, Dolly and Track, Jib, Lighting booms, Defusion stand, Pan and Tilt head, Camera stabilizer) and it all worked really really well.

Glad to know there are others in the same boat making it work.

-Buddy-
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#10 John Sprung

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 01:52 PM

Another thought -- If the bottom of the dolly had a "U" shape that fit over one rail, and just a flat bottom sitting on top of the other, that would prevent the possible binding problem. You'd want to push it near the side with the "U".



-- J.S.
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#11 Buddy Greenfield

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 03:35 PM

Here is a saw horse version made with conduit, garage door rollers and a block of wood.

I basically made a splint from paint stirring sticks and electrical tape to hold the conduit together, drilled a few holes, put a bolts through, then drilled 4 holes in a block of wood that used to hold kitchen knives and pounded the rollers into it.

After I saw that it worked with a 40 pound Pan/Tilt assembly atop it, I just made a bigger base and used 6 rollers and a kitchen table top with hinged leaves, so I can place a chair and ride on it or just put my tripod on it.

It seems you can go round and round with ways to do it (And I have, starting from a video camera taped to a 2x4 that See Sawed and rolled on soup cans) and in the end you will arrive back at the skate wheel type dolly as possibly the best solution due to the low noise it creates, but on the cheap (And MOS) if there is a garage door installation place near you, I?d bet they have more old rollers laying around than they know what to do with.

-Buddy-
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#12 Jason Sikorski

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 05:03 AM

Some very creative solutions here (all of them) - thanks for sharing.

Since we're sort of on the subject already - why do you suppose this sort of thing is even necessary? In other words, if it's possible to build something yourself from inexpensive materials, it's almost always possible to mass produce something better for less than you spent improvising. That's why you typically don't see people buying crowbars and shaving them down into flathead screwdrivers, or bolting two kitchen knives together to make a pair of scissors.

I guess I'm just wondering why film equipment like this (e.g., dollies, basic cranes, jib arms) always seem so overly expensive, without any cheaper/lower-quality alternatives. Does it have to do with the relatively small target market (i.e., mass production doesn't make sense)? Or is it more like wedding-related products, where they just jack up the price because of what the product is being used for?
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#13 John Sprung

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 01:04 PM

Does it have to do with the relatively small target market (i.e., mass production doesn't make sense)?

Yup, that's it. Talk to Tobin, the motor guy, about it.



-- J.S.
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#14 JD Hartman

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 12:40 PM

Why do some filmmakers feel the need to own everything they use? Even if a Matthews or American style dolly was mass produced and mass marketed, why own something that isn't going to used every day? Consider the space it takes up, the weight and then there is the track...you arent going to support a 16mm camera and operator on track made from 1/2" EMT. Rent it, use it, return it.
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#15 Hal Smith

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 02:57 PM

Why do some filmmakers feel the need to own everything they use? Even if a Matthews or American style dolly was mass produced and mass marketed, why own something that isn't going to used every day? Consider the space it takes up, the weight and then there is the track...you arent going to support a 16mm camera and operator on track made from 1/2" EMT. Rent it, use it, return it.

I looked at Yahoo Maps. I figure in off-rush hours you're about a 20 minute drive from 5-10 rental houses. I live in the north Oklahoma City area. The nearest rental places are in Dallas, a 230 mile roundtrip from me. And it's Dallas where there isn't a lot of rental to start with - don't expect a bargain on the BL-3 you'd like for a no budget project.

Now do you understand why I buy and build gear for myself?

We've all seen the cute map of the US looking west from the viewpoint of a New Yorker where NYC is 90% of the country. Next time I see one I'm going to check and see if Edison, NJ is included in the 90%.
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#16 Jason Sikorski

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 03:21 PM

Why do some filmmakers feel the need to own everything they use? Even if a Matthews or American style dolly was mass produced and mass marketed, why own something that isn't going to used every day? Consider the space it takes up, the weight and then there is the track...you arent going to support a 16mm camera and operator on track made from 1/2" EMT. Rent it, use it, return it.

Because something like this can be built for less than the cost of renting for one day.

Even if that wasn't the case, all it takes is some simple math to figure out if you benefit more from renting or buying. If buying something turns out to be cheaper in the long run, I'd say that's a good reason for buying it.
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#17 Amin Khan

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Posted 01 February 2008 - 03:42 PM

I think its a good habit to get into - that is to build and generally take an interest in the mechanics of ones equipment. Many of the innovations in cameras were invented by camera men themselves in order to overcome practical hurdles in obtaining a shot.
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#18 John Allen

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Posted 02 February 2008 - 10:18 AM

That's really neat! I'll have to try something like that.
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#19 Dory Breaux DP

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 01:10 AM

Why do some filmmakers feel the need to own everything they use? Even if a Matthews or American style dolly was mass produced and mass marketed, why own something that isn't going to used every day? Consider the space it takes up, the weight and then there is the track...you arent going to support a 16mm camera and operator on track made from 1/2" EMT. Rent it, use it, return it.


Note that i payed zero dollars for this rig.
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#20 JD Hartman

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 04:37 PM

I looked at Yahoo Maps. I figure in off-rush hours you're about a 20 minute drive from 5-10 rental houses. I live in the north Oklahoma City area. The nearest rental places are in Dallas, a 230 mile roundtrip from me. And it's Dallas where there isn't a lot of rental to start with - don't expect a bargain on the BL-3 you'd like for a no budget project.

Now do you understand why I buy and build gear for myself?

We've all seen the cute map of the US looking west from the viewpoint of a New Yorker where NYC is 90% of the country. Next time I see one I'm going to check and see if Edison, NJ is included in the 90%.


Hal, I can see your point. But a dolly, a camera slider, or a jib arm built for more than just "experimental" filmmaking, won't be made from EMT and a discarded knife block. I'm sure the equipment you have built for youself reflects proper design and materials choices.

Yes, I am within an hour of many rental houses in NYC and even closer to those in New Jersey. But a rental house would have to be much farther away before it would become more economical to build a doorway dolly instead of renting one for $100 per day. Those that wish to argue that point, probably don't realize the cost of the tubular steel for the frame, the wheels, bearings, steering tie rods, plywood, fasteners, etc. Not to mention the fabrication and welding skill and equipment needed.
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