DSLR rigs are mostly about a minimal crew working quickly. Corporate videos, wedding videos, music videos and short films – this is where these systems are used the most.
A dolly is heavy and needs extra manpower to rig. But you want to have a dolly/tracking/trolley shot in a confined space. What do you do? You get a slider or table-top dolly.
A slider is a stationary dolly, where only the head moves (slides).
$100 to $300
$300 to $500
$500 to $1,000
The above can take about 7 kg (15 lbs). This is fine for DSLRs, the BMCC, and the prosumer cameras.
For motorized sliding, add an ElektraDrive Oracle system to your slider.
The CineSlider can go up to 5 feet and can take a load of 36.3kg (80 lbs). And it only weighs about 5 kg. If you want to go even higher in weight, this can take up to 90 kg (200 lbs):
Here’s a video with more info:
Be careful of cheap sliders. If not machined well, they’ll have tiny bumps that will show up such on your cherished footage. Cheap knock-offs also use poorly made alloys, and are usually thinner as well. These deform easily.
There is one potentially serious disadvantage to sliders – you might need two tripods to support a slider at both ends. If you’re working off a flat surface, like a table, then this might not be a problem.
For quick movements in places you otherwise can’t reach, a table-top dolly might be useful. The disadvantage is that you have no control over the level – you are entirely dependent on the surface you are moving on. Furthermore, your range and speed of movement is limited by ergonomics.
They’re cheap. Do I recommend them? Hell, no. If I’m moving the camera, I want absolute control over it. Anything less is unacceptable.
Studio dollies usually have to support an operator, focus puller, etc., in addition to the camera system/rig.
There is the ‘tripods on tracks’ solution, but I find that useless now that sliders are here. Like I said, without full control dollies are more trouble than they are worth.
If you have no money, then nothing beats a wheelchair:
If you’re embarrassed to use a wheelchair or want more control, you can build your own dolly. Here’s a video that helped me build one a few years ago:
I used two layers of plywood with aluminum V-frames/grooves and skateboard wheels. For tracks I experimented with PVC, aluminum and steel rods. I found that both steel and aluminum work well, with steel being the best. This dolly could support two individuals and a full tripod rig, easy. Here’s a production still:
If you need total control, you’ll appreciate a professional camera dolly. Professional film studio dollies usually have a hydraulic arm that raises or lowers the camera on the vertical axis. These dollies can also be rigged to operate on wheels instead of tracks. The dollies are controlled by wheels, usually geared.
The key word for dollies is: Smooth. If it’s not smooth then why use it over a steadicam or stabilization system?
As you can see, it takes a whole lot of engineering expertise to move a camera rig smoothly over three axes.
Next, we’ll look at Jibs and Cranes, and finish our round-up of tripod rigs.