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Do-It-Yourself Dolly and Shoulder Rig

Brian Brown
December 16, 2010 by Brian Brown

When you start getting a little more adventurous with your video or filmmaking career, you’re gonna want to start thinking about using accessories that make your shots look like gold. But, you don’t need to throw down all your hard-earned bullion on expensive rigs. You can make things yourself!

This lesson will focus on turning you into the Bob Vila of camera accessories.

How to make a DIY dolly:
When a videographer thinks about dollies, they think about how they can smoothly capture beautiful and graceful shots on a horizontal track. I’m talkin’ about a camera dollies. Vimeo user Knutt Upstadd, shows you how to build your own dolly without tapping into your first-born’s immunization fund. All of the materials can be found at your local hardware store, with the exception of the rollerblade wheels which you can easily order online. This dolly shouldn’t cost more than $45 dollars to make. Allow yourself about an hour or two to build this thing. It’s fun and easy!

The following tutorial will teach you a great and easy way to create dolly shots for smooth camera movements using a household or common item. Not everyone has a dolly, so utilize what’s around you (something with wheels works best: skateboard, roller skates, or like in the video, an office chair!). Don’t forget to keep your arms stabilized to prevent your video from looking bumpy and jittery.  Now get on that skateboard/roller skate/chair and start rolling... and filming!

There are some other great examples here, here, and here for some other methods to creating awesome DIY dollies or sliders.

Making a DIY shoulder rig:
Ingredients for a vintage-style film earthquake: realistic foam boulders and a shoulder rig. Don’t have these two items? Well Vimeo user, emmagination, has got you covered on the shoulder rig front. My greasy hands can never hold onto any type of camera when I’m shaking it about, trying to get that ten-on-the-Richter-scale look. Using a shoulder rig for quick, bold movements will help you keep a hold of the camera and also aid in capturing fluid shots. emmagination provides a list of materials that can be found at your local hardware store, all costing around $20. Be careful when cutting and drilling because that metal can get hot and sharp! You’re now one ingredient away from recreating some seismic activity. Now all you need to do is call Nickelodeon and ask if you can borrow some old Legends of the Hidden Temple props. Shake away! Have fun!

Of course, if you’re already a nasty craftsman like Jonathan Clifford Bergqvist, you can make your own DIY rig out of a solid piece of wood. Check it out!

Need more? Here’s one more example using common hardware store items.

Now that you’ve seen a few examples of what you can make, decide what kind of budget you have, what you’re interested in making, then take a trip to the hardware store!

Ready for a challenge?

Make a DIY dolly or shoulder rig and film a little video of how you made it with a quick example.

Accept this challenge



Great guide too bad my DIY skills aren't up to the task :(

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