Camera Tube Dolly: Step by Step




Introduction: Camera Tube Dolly: Step by Step

We chose this design for its easy to find materials and practical transport possibilities. Moreover, many dollies need you to find a tripod head, for which we didn’t have the budget.

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Step 1: Materials

Total for a Vinten ProTouch 3809-8 tripod with a track of 6m, check below for details on how to adjust the tubes to your tripod and track distance.

• 18m x 50mm diameter hard PVC tubes
• 2 x T-section tubes, 50mm diameter
• 8 wheels, ideally rollerblade wheels with screws, bolts and washers
• 3m of plywood
• Some sort of shock absorbing material: foam, yoga mats or springs.

Optional (for dolly track rails)
• 6m of plywood
• 2m of 2x4 wood

• Saw
• Drill
• Strong glue

Tip: Ask your local hardware or furniture store for their wood leftovers.

Step 2: Tube Lenght: Step 1

We bought 18m of tubes based on our tripod and track needs. This is how we measured. If you’re using the same length as we did, you can skip this part.

Decide on how long you need your track to be for the shots you need. Double that amount.

Example: I need a dolly of 6m: I need 12m of tube.

Tip: You can always make the track longer afterwards.

Step 3: Tube Lenght: Step 2

Decide on the length of the separate pieces of the track. For transport, you’d probably want them to be 1m or 1m50. How many individual tubes will you have? Multiply this number by 30 cm and add to the first number. These will be the joints locking the tubes together.

Example: 12m of tube divided by 1m50 pieces, is 8. 8 x 30 cm= 2m40

Tip: Make your joints long, but not too long that they make your life harder in transport.

Step 4: Tube Lenght: Step 3

Measure the distance between the legs of the tripod. Round up and add.

 a = 75cm, rounded up to 80cm
 b = 66cm, rounded up to 70cm
 Total: 1m50

Tip: Rounding up will give you more flexibility for the use of other tripods. Round numbers are easier to work with.

Step 5: Tube Lenght: Final Step

Add everything up and add a bit for testing purposes.

Example: 12m + 2m40 + 1m50 = 15m90 + a bit of extra: 18m

Tip: Keep a good relationship with your shopkeeper. Our tubes were sold in lengths of 3m, so we bought 6 so he wouldn’t have to cut one.

Step 6: Sawing and Measuring: Step 1

Look at your tubes.

Ours had one thick and one smaller ending, so we had to adapt ourselves. If your tubes have both endings the same, some steps will be much easier for you. Some hardware stores might sell tubes with two small ends, but our stores in Venezuela only sold these.

Same applies to your T-sections: ours had to connect on two sides to the small end and on one end to the big tube end, which made a difference in the sawing and measuring.

Put two tubes aside. Cut the other larger tubes in the lengths you want for your track part.

Example: 4 tubes of 3m, cut in pieces of 1m50 = 8 track parts

Tip: Mark these as being your tracks, not to use them accidentally for something else.

Step 7: Sawing and Measuring: Step 2

Take the two tubes you put aside earlier. Take one and saw off a piece with a big end, equal to the top of the T of your dolly. Take the other tube, and saw off a piece of about 30cm with a big end. This will be the lower part of your dolly cart.

You should have two tubes, each with a big end and a small end. Now, saw those two in half, mark them as dolly cart parts and put them aside.

Take what’s left of the two tubes. Saw off the centerpiece of the cart with two small endings. Mark it and put it aside with the other dolly parts.

Example: Our tripod measured, rounded up, 70cm in between. That’s the length of the centerpiece.

Step 8: Sawing and Measuring: Step 3

Take what’s left and cut off tracks parts of the same length as the other parts. Mark and put aside with the other tracks parts.

Step 9: Sawing and Measuring: Step 4

You should have a few bits left. Cut them in pieces. Put these aside for the joints (amount of track parts minus 2). 8. Take all of the joints and saw open from one end to the other.

The rest will be used for testing. Mark and put aside.

Example: 8 track parts, require 6 joints of about 20cm. We should have 60cm of tubing left for tests.

Tip: Weigh for yourself how long you want your joints to be: longer will be more stable, but will also be more difficult in transport.

Step 10: Sawing and Measuring: Final Step

Take your plywood and choose a platform size for your dolly cart. This is where the tripod will actually stand on. Saw the pieces, mark them and put them aside.

Step 11: Wheels: Step 1

Take your test tube and two wheels with their bolts, screws and washers. Choose a drill head corresponding to the size of the screw. Take a track tube from the pile.

Before you start drilling for the wheels, keep in mind:
a. Put them a few cm’s away from the tube opening. It’ll be easier to handle.
b. Don’t drill the holes opposite to each other. Leave some space, so the screws won’t touch each other in the tubes.
c. Both of your wheels need to touch the track underneath, while keeping a good contact surface with the dolly cart tube.

Step 12: Wheels: Step 2

When you’re happy with how your wheels roll, draw a straight line across the tube crossing through the good holes on your test tube. Take the pieces of your dolly that require wheels and place them next to the test tube. Draw the first line over the complete length of your dolly cart tube. Keep the lines aligned, and draw the second line

Do this for all the 4 dolly cart tubes.

Step 13: Wheels: Final Step

Draw drill marks on this line a few cm’s from the (small!) opening. Drill on this mark and add the wheels.

Step 14: Gluing: Step 1

Take the tube parts of the dolly cart, the 2 T-section tubes and two dolly track parts. Put your dolly cart together.

Align the wheel lines you made earlier with each other, over the T-sections.

Test on the tracks with your tripod, until you’re satisfied that all the wheels touch the tracks and roll as intended.

Step 15: Gluing: Step 2

Glue the tubes together. Give the whole some time to dry to make sure they’re fixed.

Step 16: Gluing: Step 3

Put your cart aside and take the dolly track parts and the joints. Mark the middle of the joint, and put one line of glue on the opposite side of the opening, from the rim to the center you just marked. Place this half inside the tube. Repeat this for the other track parts until you’re out of joints. You might have two tubes without joints, which is fine. Put the tracks aside.

Tip: To create extra joints, make some of the test tube which you won’t use anymore.

Step 17: Gluing: Step 4

Take your plywood and make the platform. Put it aside.

Example: We taped two pieces of 80cm to each other in a T-shape.

Step 18: Gluing: Step 5

From the rest of the plywood, make a narrow T-shape fitting the shape of the dolly. Line it with foam or some other soft material to serve as shock absorber.

Example: We used a yoga mat.

Tip: The original designs uses springs as shock absorbers. However, we tested and didn’t manage to fit the springs correctly. Our test results were too bouncy.

Glue the plywood platform on top of the shock absorbing material.

Step 19: Gluing: Final Step

Test and make adjustments if needed, before the whole dries up completely. Your dolly is ready, and you can now think of a cool way of painting it. We chose not to paint, so none would attempt at stealing our equipment.

Step 20: Optional Rails: Step 1

Rails will give the dolly track more stability and keep the tracks more evenly aligned. Think about building these when filming on uneven streets or in nature.

Firstly, decide on how many rails you can make.

Example: We decided on 6 rails, because that was the amount of useful wood we received for free.

Step 21: Optional Rails: Step 2

Saw off pieces wood of 2x4 of about 10cm each. These will keep the dolly track tubes in place on the plywood.

Step 22: Optional Rails: Step 3

Place the tracks and the dolly cart in position. Put the pieces of plywood and 2x4 under the track, where you want them to be. The tubes should be tightly nestled in between the 2x4 bits, but you should still be able to take the tracks easily.

Don't glue just yet. Use tape to temporary keep the pieces of 2x4 in place, or ask a friend for help. Drive your dolly cart of the tracks and check if the wheels aren’t touching the wood. Adjust until they fit.

Step 23: Optional Rails: Final Step

Glue the 2x4 on the plywood. Your rails are ready.

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    9 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Mine was just a suggestion, I am not a photographer. Why you think you should raise the camera position by replacing the wheels by those little carts?

    Almost Midnight
    Almost Midnight

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for the suggestion - I always like to improve.

    At the moment the wheels are drilled on the sides of the dolly cart tube itself, with only a minimal distance between the track and the cart. I believe the parts you suggested would place the wheels in between / under the cart, creating a space of a few cm's between the cart and the track.

    There's two reasons that in our movie project we like to keep the distance between the tracks and the cart to an absolute minimal. Firstly, safety is crucial. With more contact surface between the track and the cart, we might have less chances at accidents. We're using this dolly for action packed scenes on the street, so at times it gets rough.
    Secondly, at times we like to make shots very close to the ground, in frog perspective. Often a cm or two does a lot to a take.
    Considering our budget, we were also forced to opt for the cheapest solution.

    For other photographers these spare parts would be an awesome solution: my guess is that they're easier in assembly and more solidly built than our wheels.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, now I understand. "Never missing an Eskimo willing to teach an African to combat a heat wave", forgive me.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very detailed Instructable, I know someone who might use this, thanks!

    Almost Midnight
    Almost Midnight

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! I'm very interested to hear if they're as happy with this design as we are.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    These wheels look like the runners used in common internal cavity slider doors. They're generally only 30mm wheels but if you could find a larger version they'd work great!

    Almost Midnight
    Almost Midnight

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! With some more budget, they would definately make the assembly easier. I'm not sure what they're called in English either.

    A concern could be that you would loose contact surface between the dolly cart and the dolly track. I used this dolly for some shots of a man running through the street, and in order to follow him the cameraman had to run the cart over the track at equal speed. I'm afraid that if I put the cart higher up, and consequently the tripod and the camera as well, I might loose on safety.

    If you try it out though, I would be very interested in hearing how it wen


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Mine was just a suggestion, I am not a photographer. Why you think you should raise the camera position by replacing the wheels by those little carts?