Introduction: DIY Time-lapse Dolly
A little over a year ago, I was approached by my friend Josh Van Patter to build him a dolly for shooting time-lapse video. This is now the second version of the original time-lapse dolly. The overall concept is more or less the same. The main difference is that the new design is propelled using a winch instead of a high-friction foam wheel.
The downside to the old design was that the pipe tracks had to be almost perfectly level or the foam wheel would tend to slip under its own weight. The winch corrects this problem and, as an added bonus, gives the dolly the ability to climb.
I designed the winch to be removable so that it could be interchanged between multiple dollies, each designed for different applications.
I have four different gear motors that we use with this dolly for controlling the speed. For time-lapse, we use both a 1rpm and 2rpm gear motor. For long track shots and filming in real time, I also have a 4rpm, 6rpm and 10rpm. All the motors are geared with a 24-tooth, 48-pitch brass pinion gear. The larger aluminum gear that is mounted directly to the hub of the winch has 203 teeth.
In addition to the new and improved version of the original time-lapse dolly, I also created a compact travel-size dolly. Both systems utilize the same electronic wench, which can be interchanged to reduce cost.
The compact dolly is really simple; it’s essentially just a drawer box. The drawer slides I use are under mount, full extension ball bearing slides with soft close. They are the same drawer slides I use in high-end kitchens. When the slides are fully extended, the winch pulls the drawer closed giving you roughly 22 inches of movement.
The next phase of this project is making the dolly programmable. This will allow us to shoot multi-day time-lapses and also give us the ability to throttle the speed. Peter Kirwin is the brains behind this add-on. We will be coming out with a post on this as soon as it’s ready. If you want to stay in the loop, subscribe to my blog or hit me up on Twitter.