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.