30 Second Table Top Dolly





Introduction: 30 Second Table Top Dolly

About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Mart...

If you're shooting a small-scale table top video, and want a cheap 'n easy* way to track horizontal movement, this 30 second table top dolly idea is a quick and (just a little bit) dirty way to get smooth tracking shots using things you probably already have in your kitchen.

(Thanks to my co-brain behind this MacGyver fix, Mr. Jon Brown and our model Mikeasaurus)

*Camera equipment can be pretty expensive / cost prohibitive, so this offers a no cost way of getting professional results that will help you make do until you're ready to invest in some profesh equipment.

Step 1: What You Need

1. A book (or books) to raise the camera to the height needed to frame the shot.

2. A very fine powder that will act as the dolly's 'wheels'. Any of the following will work:

  • corn starch
  • powdered sugar
  • cream of tartar
  • pastry flour
  • baking soda / powder

Step 2: The How

Decide where the camera needs to be to get the shot you want.

Sprinkle about 1 tbsp of powder along the path of the shot to be tracked.

Spread it out with your hand.

Place your book(s) at the start of the shot track.

Position camera on the book(s).

NOTE: I got the smoothest results from pulling to follow the shot vs. pushing. So if possible have the action of the shot go in the direction that will allow for that. Pushing is still effective, it just takes a bit more muscle control and practice.

Step 3: ACTION!

Hit record and go!

Happy budget video making everyone. :)



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    24 Discussions

    Thanks for the idea. Very simple and effective.

    If it´s stupid and it works, it´s not stupid. Great job mate :)


    3 years ago

    This won't do with a longer lens though. :/

    2 replies

    Well, it's actually a valid point and I've done that earlier, guess I was too fixated on this tiny issue and forgetting the great tip of the 'ible.

    i must say, that this is a great instructable idea. i will admit that i have used, in house equipment and furniture for producing my videos. these types of ideas a re great for those anyone on a budget; loking for equipment that can be used and restored frequently. to say the least, i have used, books, storage containers, bar stools, milk crates and more. i have also used a book for a dolly, minus the white powdery substance. i was blessed to have countertops and surfaces that made the track pattern very easy. i cannot click the i made it button, so i left the comment........luv yall

    If you know someone in a Chemistry Lab try using a pinch of ion exchange resin. Most ion exchange resins are tiny uniform spheres. I have seen replaced lab equipment spontaneously roll off the bench after someone spilt some of this resin.

    Put the book and the camera on the table. Attach a string to the book at the middle of the edge towards which you will be pulling.

    Now create a tiny winder - nothing fancy, a bottle cork and some stronger metallic wire should do (depending on the speed at which you want to move the camera). Hook it to the edge of the table towards which you'll be pulling - shouldn't be complicated at all, if you use metal wire to build it. Attach the string to the cork.

    Pull a few inches/rotate the crank a few times - the book will rotate slightly, since you can't attach the wire perfectly centered. Reposition the camera, accounting for the book's rotation.

    Now rotate the crank of the winder at constant speed, to move the book at constant speed. That's it. It's IME easier to rotate a crank at constant speed than to move an object with no guidance at constant speed, regardless of whether you pull or push it.

    You can quickly improvise a winder if you have a manual spice or coffee mill or something alike in your kitchen - just fixate it on the tabletop and attach the wire to its shaft, maybe screw a cork onto the shaft if the shaft alone is too thin.

    Want some really smooth motion?

    Pull your book or base along with a really big rubber band, or a string of rubber bands.

    The rubber bands smooth out the motion and jitter from your hands and arms. It will also make a perfect ease to a stop.

    It takes a little practice, but it can create a buttery smooth motion.

    1 reply

    I'd suggest taping a long loop of string from one edge of the book to the next. when you pull it will naturally center and keep constant control.

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    The best way is just use a toy car.

    I've found that a soft fabric such as a T-shirt makes a perfectly acceptable slider for a smooth surface. Much less messy for your choice of camera support.