Dolly moves make a scenic shot and
any shot without action much more interesting. Zooms and pans look amateur.
Making dolly moves in the field can be easy if you build some fairly simple
dollies. For many situations the camera alone can be on the dolly. Set up the
shot by eye and shoot it blind.
Skate wheel dollies evolved from ball bearing dollies and made shooting sound
possible. It is amazing the number of people who are the "original designers"
of these dollies. I stole the bearing dolly idea from RKO Fox effects cameramen,
Jim Gordon and Cecil Love in about 1964 for my first field model. Some have
been made to take Fisher and Chapman dollies with 8 wheel trucks on 4 corners.
The best will swivel around bends and are strong enough so that pressure is
equal on every wheel. Losmandy makes a great medium weight model. Some "suitcase"
models are pricey. The simpler ones with 2 and 4 wheel trucks are easy to make.
Stagger the wheels on each side on 4 wheel trucks so that bumps at track joints
are reduced because two wheels don't hit the joint at the same time.
Example Skate Wheel Dollies
To make 5 trucks, you need a piece
of 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" x 1/4" aluminum angle at least 25 inches long. Don't cut
until all layout, drilling and taping is done. Stagger the wheel holes on the
other side by 1/4" wider. This helps reduce bumps. You have to file a flat on
the 90 degree area where the 3/8" x 16 taped hole goes that attaches the truck
to the dolly. .
Lubrication can be spray starch?
for noisy wheels. The most common cause for noise is a wheel not traveling exactly
straight on the track and wheels deformed because of overloading a wheel or
wheels that are too soft. Using the correct spacers between the bearings in
the wheels is very important. Cheap bearings are also a cause for noise.
Skateboard wheels are designed to
ride on a flat surface and we are limiting their contact to a curved surface
with round track. I haven't tried roller blade wheels that are harder.
Skate wheel trucks can be used to
make dolly moves on extension ladder sections, hand railings, railroad tracks
and architectural shapes. Speed Rail (c) can help rig these applications. A
single wheel or one truck can work if there are two trucks on a pipe or a square
shape on the other side. Removing two wheels can modify trucks for flat floors
1-1/4 Speed Rail Skate Wheel
Dolly on pipe
Consider two captive dollies with
a cable between and pulley in the middle on two sections of an extension ladder
that has been separated and rejoined at the top. Set it up in a stepladder position
and on a dolly if needed. This will work with a remote head and fit in a very
limited space where a crane arm wouldnt fit. On curved track it could
be faced toward the center radius of the track making the moves easier for the
operator. Use a ladder clean of paint and plaster for smooth surfaces. Prototype
with weights before attaching cameras to avoid expensive mistakes.
We recently built the "elevator".
Two captive dollies that ride up and down on 4 ea. 2"IPS aluminum pipe with
two pulleys and a cable between the dollies. One dolly supports the camera and
tripod head and the other is the weight box.
Dollies can be motorized with DC gear motors and portable electric drills. The
new Makita 14-volt drill has excellent speed control. All you have to do is
mount a skate wheel on a shaft, chuck it up and make a device to hold the trigger
down at different speeds. It can be started and stopped by inserting the battery.
Makita and Drive Wheel (you supply structure)
Another motorized model is with a
small DC gearhead motor with about a 100-RPM speed. You can vary the speed with
battery voltage or a rheostat. The track ends can be shipped and you can buy
EMT conduit on location. The ends could be made all wood on a table saw. Make
sure the tracks are parallel, if not the camera tilt will change in the shot.
100 rpm DC Gear Motor Dolly
on 3/4" EMT Electrical Conduit Track
Here is a back packable dolly for
DV cameras. One leg of a Bogan Manfrotto tripod is removed and the bipod becomes
the second support. The tripod you already carry supports the other end of the
track. The bearings are skate wheel bearings. The head adjusts pan and tilt
and accepts the Bogan quick release shoe. You don't want to have to adjust the
legs to align the camera. Make the track joiner on a table saw out of hard wood
or plastic to fit tight. (See Rig Materials
for ideas about leveling heads.) Don't use leveling heads that are too lightweight.
Modified Bogan Tripod and
1" Square Break Down Track
Here is a larger version that will
go almost all the way to the ground. A larger version could be made for 35-mm
cameras that two people could handle. The legs are old tripod legs.