DIY Camera Dolly Costs More Time Than Money

A camera dolly can be fantastic filmmaking tool, and [Cornelius] was determined to create his own version: the “Dope” DIY Dolly. The result not only upped his production quality, but was also entirely in line with his DIY approach to filmmaking in general.

A basic dolly design is straightforward enough: a flat platform with wheels, and some aluminum tubing upon which to roll. But while dolly assemblies are easy to purchase or rent, [Cornelius] found that his DIY version — which used easily sourced parts and about 80 hours worth of 3D printing — provided perfectly acceptable results, while opening the door to remixing and sharing with like-minded filmmakers.

Interested? Download the STL files to get started on your own version. As for the track, smooth metal pipe is best, but sometimes track made from PVC can do the job. [Cornelius] has a few additional STL files for those planning to make a base from 1″ PVC pipe, and those are on a separate download link near the bottom of the project page (here’s that link again.) Watch the Dope Dolly in action in the brief video embedded below.

On the other hand, if you prefer your DIY camera equipment to be on the smaller and more complicated end of the spectrum, be sure to check out this multi-axis camera slider.

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A Camera Slider With A Twist

“Scope creep” is often derided as an obstacle between your idea and the delivery of a finished project. That may be, but sometimes the creep is the whole point. It’s how we end up with wonderful builds like this multi-axis differential camera slider.

We mention scope creep because that’s what [Jan Derogee] blames for this slider’s protracted development time, as well as its final form. The design is a bit unconventional in that it not only dollies the camera left and right but also works in pan and tilt axes, and it does this without putting any motors on the carriage. Instead, the motors, which are located near the end of the slider rails, transmit power to the carriage via loops of 217timing belt. It’s a little like the CoreXY mechanism; rotating the motors in the same direction and speed slides the carriage, while moving them in opposite directions pans the camera. A Sparkfun Pro Micro in the controller coordinates the motors for smooth multi-axis motion, and the three steppers — there’s a separate motor for the tilt axis — sound really cool all working at the same time. Check out the video below for the full story.

We’ve seen a few fun projects from [Jan] before. Check out his linear clock, the persistence of phosphorescence display, or his touchpad for retrocomputers.

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Simple Camera Slider Adds A Dimension Or Two To Your Shots

Camera sliders are a popular build, and properly executed they can make for impressive shots for both time-lapse sequences or real-time action. But they seem best suited for long shots, as dollying a camera in a straight line just moves subjects close to the camera through the frame.

This slider with both pan and tilt axes can make moving close-ups a lot easier. With his extremely detailed build log, [Dejan Nedalkovski] shows how he went about building his with only the simplest of materials and tools. The linear rail is simply a couple of pieces of copper pipe supported by an MDF frame. The camera trolley rides the rails on common skateboard bearings and is driven by a NEMA-17 stepper, as are the pan and tilt axes. [Dejan] also provided a barn-door style pivot to tilt the camera relative to the rails, allowing the camera to slide up and down an inclined plane for really interesting shots. The controller uses an Arduino and a joystick to drive the camera manually, or the rig can be programmed to move smoothly between preset points.

This is a step beyond a simple slider and feels a little more like full-blown motion control. We’ve got a feeling some pretty dramatic shots would be possible with such a rig, and the fact that it’s a simple build is just icing on the cake.

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Pipes, Tees, And Gears Result In Smooth Video Shots

It’s depressingly easy to make bad videos, but it only takes a little care to turn that around. After ample lighting and decent audio — and not shooting in portrait — perhaps the biggest improvements come from stabilizing the camera while it’s moving. Giving your viewers motion sickness is bad form, after all, and to smooth out those beauty shots, a camera slider can be a big help.

Not all camera sliders are built alike, though, and we must admit to being baffled while first watching [Rulof Maker]’s build of a smooth, synchronized pan and slide camera rig. We just couldn’t figure out how those gears were going to be put to use, but as the video below progresses, it becomes clear that this is an adjustable pantograph rig, and that [Rulof]’s eBay gears are intended to link the two sets of pantograph arms together. The arms are formed from threaded pipe and tee fittings with bearings pressed into them, which is a pretty clever construction technique that seems highly dependent on having the good fortune to find bearings with an interference fit into the threads. But still, [Rulof] makes it work, and with a little epoxy and a fair amount of finagling, he ends up with a complex linkage that yields the desired effects. And bonus points for being able to configure the motion with small adjustments to the camera bracket pivot points.

We saw a similar pantograph slider a few months back. That one was 3D-printed and linked with timing belts, but the principles are the same and the shots from both look great.

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Hello 3D Printed Dolly

[Ivan] likes to take time lapse videos. Using his 3D printer and a stepper motor he fashioned a rig that allows him to control the camera moving any direction on a smooth floor.

The dolly has a tripod-compatible mounting plate and scooter wheels. An Arduino runs the thing and a cell phone battery provides power. A pot sets the speed and [Ivan] provides code for both a linear pot, which he suggests, and for a logarithmic pot, which he had on hand. You can see a video of the results below.

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Plywood Camera Dolly

DIY Plywood Camera Dolly Looks Professional

While [Ted] was poking around the ‘net, he came across a neat little product called a camera dolly. These are used to add an artistic flair to filming. They are similar to a camera slider but can roll around on the floor or a table and do not need to follow a track. [Ted] wanted a camera dolly but the cost of a professional product seemed too expensive for what he’d actually be getting, so he set off to make his own.

[Ted] first designed the dolly in a CAD software and printed out templates for the parts. Those templates were then transferred to plywood and cut out with a jig saw. Three inline skate wheels support the frame and allow the unit to roll around. Mounted in the center of the frame is a pan and tilt camera mount.

The extraordinary part of the build is that the angle of each wheel can be adjusted independently.  This allows the dolly to do anything from rolling in a straight line to gradually traveling around a curve or even just spinning the camera in place. Each wheel mount has degree indications so that they can be adjusted very precisely as well as be returned to a previously recorded position.

Bending And Printing A Curved Camera Dolly Track

How lucky is [Transistor Man] that he found the materials for the tracks of this curved camera dolly just lying around the shop? The three rails making up the system are quarter-inch diameter and he was able to bend them by hand with the help of a 55 gallon drum. But to hold them in place so that the camera dolly would run smoothly he had to find a way to precisely space the tracks.

The robot arm you see in the picture above is a 3D printer which ended up being the easiest solution to the problem. With a bit of trial and error he found a design that holds the tracks in place without interfering with the camera sled’s progress. From there he devised a mounting system which uses three camera tripods to hold the track. You can see a test video shot from the dolly track embedded after the jump. It’s the opposite of the bullet time rigs [Caleb’s] been working on lately.

We figure the spacers would work for any track shape, but if you’re going for a complicated route you need some type of pipe bender to help out.

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