You know that special blog we were teasing you about? WELL THIS IS IT!
How to build a track and dolly
D.I.Y film-making at its best.
A track and dolly is an invaluable piece of equipment for an indie film-maker it can take some of your static shots from dull to enticing and is one of the best tools for making a small feature seem cinematic. The problem with this is getting hold of one which is A. Compatible with your tripod and B. not costing you the earth as lets face it Indie film is about doing things DIY and cutting the cost of your production. So having taken it upon myself to build a track and dolly I thought I should expunge my knowledge to you all. I made it as cheaply as i could, I used tools which most common house holds will have, and hope it will help some of you in building your own!
What you will need:
6x25mm Bolts – 12
6mm nuts – 10
6mm washers – 20
Wood 18mm ply-board Two lengths or one large length ( size to be determined when you measure your tripod)
Dexion Slotted Angle metal (sounds complex but if you ask at your hardware store they will know exactly what it is, also type it into google for an image if your curious)
Plumbing cups ( see below for explanation)
Screws – 3
2m pipe x40mm – pipe – 6 lengths
Skate wheels with bearings at least six
8x50mm bolts 8mm nuts at least six (depends how many wheels you use)
The Tools you will need.
Drill with appropriate drill bits
Chalk – for marking your wood and Dexion
1. So first up your going to need to form your base, This is a T shape of wood which will be your dolly, OK so first you need to grab the tripod you will want on your dolly, extend the tripod to its full extension and you need to measure the triangle between the legs, now the length of one side of the triangle is the approximate length of what your two lengths of wood will need to be, your length of wood will need to be at least 140mm wide to be able to accommodate your wheels as you can see below.
Ok so grab your wood ( easy now) measure it up and cut the wood to size, drill through centre of the T twice and it doesn’t matter what size bolt etc you use for this section as it is simply to secure the T, if you wanted you could nail it or glue it together in this section, though if you use bolts and do some crafty positioning of them you can create a dolly you can fold in half for easier storage because when your remove the back bolt the T will be able to swing round and fold away.
So now with an established T shape you need to sort your wheels
2. Now your wheels can be claimed from anywhere but you want Skateboard wheels, they have a nice flat base and work well but not just skateboard wheels you need wheels with bearings in order for this to you know work. I bought two of those mini skateboards you see idiots buying and attempting to ride,took the wheels of the board and re-used the wheels and bolts for my track and dolly.
To attach the wheels to the T you need a wheel base, this can get a little complex so pay attention.
The base is made from the metal you bought called Dexion which needs to be cut into lengths for your wheels, Each base is made from three pieces of Dexion it’s up to your long the lengths are just as long as they accommodate your wheels. If you look at the images below you can get some idea of what i’m talking about remember to measure it out and mark where your going to cut. I advise using a Vice and Hacksaw so you dont injure yourself you know be careful.
The reason were using dexion is it positions into them a perfect 90 degrees which is needed to move them along the track, It’s kinda invaluable for the whole you know track and dolly thing. Now you’ll need to modify two of the dexion plates for each of the bases, your going to need your vice and a hammer.You need to hammer the dexion to a suitable angle to attach to the piece which is will be attached to your wheels and then to the board this can be done with a hammer and a vice it’s just how I did it, it just takes some energy and effort. Best method is to tap the metal to a new angle and then check it against a the baord and wheel piece and if its wrong tap it again until you find the angle you need. for better understanding of this see the images below.
Then assemble your dexion and wheels this is where your spanner, nuts, bolts etc come into play you want to use your 8mm bolts through the wheels, but i will warn different skate wheels have different diameters inside so you may want to take your wheels to the hardware store with you to test the bolts through the wheels before buying. Also you may want to pick up some extra bolts so the wheels don’t touch the metal when they run to put between the wheeland the dexion as you can see above.
3.Now if you place the wheels brackets you’ve made on the board at the end of the T on what you consider the underside of your dolly you can mark out where you need to drill to bolt it to the board. Remember again mark your holes, check them and then mark them again then drill, marking and checking twice means less mistakes when you drill. The 6mm bolts are are suitable for 18mm board so if you get a thicker board your going to need longer bolts.
Everyone’s tripod is different I used just a simple minolta photography tripod which if you have a bigger camera than mine I wouldn’t recogmend. But if your using a Z1 an XL1 a dslr you can get away with a photography tripod or at least I have.
But to keep your tripod in place on the dolly you have stylishly built, you have a few options I chose to buy some caps ( those plumbing caps i talked about) which are commonly used in plumbing and screwed them to the T shape in the correct places for my tripod to stand within and I intend to add two more sets allowing me to have the tripod at different levels easily.
Now for what could be the easiest part of this whole assembly, the tubing or track as it’s called. Now the tubing you can buy lengths of from your local DI Y story so you just keep adding lengths until your happy with how long your track is and mine cost me £2 a length so really your limits are endless. To attach them to each other take a piece of the same sized pipe about a foot in length ( you could always trim this from the lengths of your track then cutting length ways along the piece remove 20mm out of the centre which means you can squeeze the foot long piece into the inside of another length of pipe and atttach another length of pipe on the other side of it.
Simple no? haha i know it can be a little complex if your not particularly handy but it’s important to experiment and to make it your own, below I have included a video tutorial as well which you can always watch if you prefer to take things in visually rather than in text, you can feel free to message me to ask about this as well. The video also includes some footage from the very first test with this track and dolly which shows how easy it is to use and how quickly you can get the hang of using it.
So all I can say is good luck and I hope this guide helps, I looked alot online before building this but found that allot of tutorials lacked detail or were misleading, allot didn’t explain how to attach wheels to the board they just wanted to show of their track and dolly! which is where jealousy ensues. But dont worry ;dont panic just keep practicing keep working and it will come together, hope to hear some of you guys have tried this and to hear how it goes, maybe you can modify it make it better!
And just because I’m freindly heres a few links to the products.
6mm bolts http://www.wickes.co.uk/invt/510730
ply board http://www.wickes.co.uk/exterior-wbp-plywood/invt/111736/