Since the inception of cinema, dollies have been an inseparable part of filming paraphernalia. It is one of the best cinematic tools to depict smooth and controlled movement on screen.
The catch is professional level dollies are expensive. Most of the top-end dolly brands like JL Fisher, Panther or Chapman are well beyond the means of the average filmmaker. So, most of us have to either resort to sliders (too small and not as versatile for multiple crews) or build our own dollies. In this article we’ll show you a few tutorials which will explain ways and means to construct your own DIY dolly: we focus on practical designs that actually work.
1) The Frugal Filmmaker: This YouTube channel is dedicated towards DIY film equipment and techniques. Here’s a handy video showing how to make your own DIY dolly along with creating your own tracks for it using PVC pipes. One of this construct’s biggest advantages is that it works with a tripod, allowing you greater shooting flexibility.
2) Just Basl Productions: This ingenious design is sort of a hybrid between a dolly and a slider, what they call the Spider Trax Dolly. This dolly helps to take shots at a very low floor height as well as mid level tracking shots, giving ample opportunities for creative filming.
3) RigWheels: RigWheels are well-known for their portable dolly systems which can be assembled and taken apart in a jiffy. DIY is their USP and in this video they show how to qucikly assemble one of their dolly systems using their proprietary RigWheels and $15 worth of parts from your local hardware store. If you don’t want to build your own, but still need the DIY touch, this is probably the safest bet.
4) Brandon Setter: Brandon shows us how to make a pro grade Doorway dolly a la Matthews and looks just like the real deal. Made entirely by parts purchased from Home Depot, Brandon gives a blow by blow account of how to make this brilliant low-cost professional dolly imitation by yourself. He even has the whole list parts used and the schematic for the device on his blog.
5) Zoltan522 shows us how to choose the right parts of your dolly. I used a similar design from an older Youtube video (which I can’t find anymore) back in 2008, and I recommend more wheels if you want more than one person to stand on the dolly. Also, I put two pieces of ply for additional stability. Heavy as hell, smooth as butter:
Although DIY dollies are not the real deal, and lack the fine mechanics and durability that a JL Fisher or Chapman may offer, it still creates nifty dolly movements that you can use with impunity for your independent production. Even if you could use a skateboard or a wheelchair to mimic a dolly, I would still opt for a more durable and reliable dolly system.
I hope these videos are helpful to you in your productions. Do let us know your experiences building your own DIY dolly.