UPDATE: 7-03-11: New, updated design for slider dolly. Check it out here: vimeo.com/25937230
This video is not at all obsolete. Still a good resource for DIY. Other video has a look and the new design, plus a materials list.
Inspired by the DIY photo gear building sites (my favorite of which is CheesyCam.com—so many ideas for projects buried in there. Oh man), anyway, I set out to put together a cheaper alternative to my linear motion-based camera slider. While I like it (the "real" slider, that is), it’s a little complex, and by the time you get it to work properly you’re in it for at least $100. The motion system alone will cost you at least $80, then you need something to mount it on, and some way to mount your camera on it. Do it right, however, and you’re rewarded with exceptionally smooth moves.
But the kind of stuff that make my pants tight is when you can get 98% of the effectiveness for 28% of the cost (or even less if you shop well and improvise a little), and that’s where this rig comes in.
It uses a small trolley built from angled aluminum (or steel, or some other metal) and held together with threaded rod so you can adjust the track width for different track surfaces. Wheels are mounted at perpendicular angles to each other to lock the carriage on the track side to side and create a smooth rolling platform.
We used skateboard wheels for our rollers, mounted on 5/16-in. bolts with short pieces of bushing material spacing them out for proper clearance. A piece of scrap plastic purchased from a marine salvage yard serves as the deck, and attaches to the threaded rod crosspieces with zip ties. Enough room was left for the width to be adjusted to accommodate a variety of “tracks.”
Our “track” consists of a Harbor Freight brand adjustable sawhorse. The top is a nice, wide and square steel channel that makes a smooth and sturdy base for the roller. The legs are even adjustable individually, and it folds completely flat for use right on the ground.
The entire assembly, including the sawhorse (which is currently on sale for $22) would probably cost under $50 to duplicate if you were a truly awful shopper and had absolutely nothing to start with. Ours is made almost entirely from scrap from around the garage, and if you do any light fabrication, you probably have at least a few items laying around to save you some money.
FYI, here’s some links to the stuff we actually bought, or at least similar stuff, since some of it has been around for a while:
Ball head mount: http://cgi.ebay.com/1-Hot-shoe-1-4-3-8-Swivel-Umbrella-Holder-Mount-Tripod-/370405895178?pt=Digital_Camera_Accessories&hash=item563de96c0a
Skateboard wheels and bearing sets: http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_nkw=skateboard+wheels+bearings+&_cqr=true&_nkwusc=skateboard+wheels+bearnings&_rdc=1
Here’s the marine surplus place I get a lot of bits and pieces. They list inventory on their website, but there’s nothing like going out back to pick through the true surplus and wonder what to build next: http://www.surplusunlimited.com
Talking head stuff shot on a Canon HF S100 with a Rode Videomic. Slider stuff shot with a Canon T2i with a 50mm f/1.8. Various LED lights gave me the healthy, almost Nordic pallor.
About a year ago, I posted a down & dirty DIY camera roller video that was pretty popular in the DIY gear community. Ov course, using something for a year you naturally make modifications, so here's the current iteration of the adjustable slider. The thing I love about it is the versatility. It can roll on any manner of improvised "track," or just flip it over and run it trackless on the floor or a table.
There's a materials list in the video, or if you aren't comfortable around a chop saw, I'd be happy to build you one. The "production" version is $80 + shipping and is well finished. It looks like something you'd buy in a store, not something a weird guy built in his garage. Even comes with a knob to mount your camera plate, and the 1/4" to 3/8" adapter to mount most fluid heads.
Thanks to the whole DIY community for providing awesome feedback.
I've had a LOT of interest in these, so I've been busily collecting pieces for a couple of runs. I've also set up a dedicated email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lots of orders going out tomorrow or Saturday, and a list of folks after those will be seeing dollies late next week. I'm tracking down some different suppliers to see if I can keep supplies coming more steadily and less in spurts. But if you want one, I can build you one, and the wait time looks to only be a week or so at this point.
Lots of these out in the wild now, and building is still going fast and furious. Right now I'm backordered until about Tuesday, when I'm expecting a shipment of bearings that will complete a whole mess of units. Also, interest has been so high I'm getting ready to announce a fun contest in the next couple of weeks.
You may have noticed that the dedicated email address changed. That's because I went ahead and bought a domain to keep track of all this stuff. New email is email@example.com, but the old one will still work fine. A bunch of units will ship Wednesday, and I'm going out to the garage right now to make a video announcing the contest. Stay tuned.
I built a quadcopter to learn about DIY solutions for aerial video and stills. This is from the first flight with a camera. A little shaky until I get a gimbal but I am thrilled with the possibilities. Imagining so many different "crane/jib" and "dolly/steady cam" type shots gliding through the air.