DIY Track Dolly for Under $50

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Intro: DIY Track Dolly for Under $50

Many professional track dollys for the aid of fluidly rolling cameras cost in excess of $2,000, even for as little as 10 feet of track.  In this tutorial we will construct a track dolly using basic and cheap components available at a hardware store as well as some parts easily found at thrift stores.

Step 1:

For a basic light-weight camera track dolly capable of holding small to medium tripods, you will need the following materials:

Bill of Materials:
(2) 1"x5'-0" Schedule 40 PVC pipe (for track)
(1) Pair of roller blades (for a total of eight wheels)
(16) Hex bolts for mounting wheels to wheels to platform and brackets w/matching nuts
(8) Spacers to allow for wheel offsets
(1) L-Bracket with mounting holes for wheels
(1) 3/8" plywood or MDF board for platform
(1) 1/2" dowel for spacing

Tools that will come in handy:
-A drill press or electric drill & bits.
-Nailgun or brad nailer
-Hex wrenches/socket wrenches
-Circular hand saw or table saw
-T-square / ruler

Step 2: Mount Roller Blade Wheels to L-Bracket

At a local thrift store, I purchased a cheap pair of roller blades to salvage 8 wheels (minimum).  Using hex bolts and spacers, I mounted the wheels to the L-bracket to form a 90° angle.  These are what will roll along the 1" PVC pipes that form our track.  You will want to make at least four sets of wheels.

Build notes & options:
To add stability you can add more wheels per "set" and by staggering these wheels from each other along the track axis.  Staggered wheels will allow you to roll over seams in a track easily so that no wheel hits a seam at the same time as another wheel.  Since I did not plan on using more than 5 feet of track, I chose not to stagger or add extra wheels.

Step 3: Mount Wheels to Dolly Platform

To prevent wheel rub against dolly platform, using 1/2" square dowels to create a riser for the L-bracket wheel assembly.   Every set of wheels required this as my wheels were taller than my L-bracket's vertical dimensions.  Depending on your L-bracket you may or may not need this.

Using two long hex bolts and washers, we secured the L-brackets in two places per wheel to prevent slip and yaw of the wheel.  Take extra care when drilling pilot holes and tightening to avoid bending the L-bracket and creating an uneven surface.

Step 4: Lining Up Track Wheels.

It is essential that you spend time with your ruler or T-square to measure distances and make sure that your wheels and PVC track will be parallel to each other when you go to use your dolly.

Step 5: Finished Track Dolly.

The finished track dolly should run easily and smoothly along the PVC pipes.

Optional upgrades:
-Provide holes to mount tripod into the platform base to secure the camera down and prevent the trip-pod from tipping over.
-Add horizontal stabilizers between PVC track (especially for longer PVC track runs) to maintain parallel tracks.

Step 6: Example Video

In the following video, I shot multiple scenes using the exact track dolly built in this tutorial.

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    22 Discussions

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    tcallaghan

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks Chris. I've just made my own based on your work. It's much appreciated.

    I affixed two pieced of 18mm MDF together, and use a 40 mm hole saw on the top sheet to create recesses for the tripod legs at three different heights.

    I also added a metal cleat tie and knotted a ratchet strap around it, so I can apply some downforce and stability to the mid level spreader on my tripod.

    The roller blade wheels are an inspired idea. I can't believe how buttery smooth the whole things is. I couldn't find the nylon spacer, so I've just gone with triple nuts and eight washers a wheel.

    All in all, I think this has cost me about £60 instead of £300+.

    Thanks again.

    Tim

    diy_dolly01.jpgdiy_dolly02.jpgdolly_on_track.jpg
    1 reply
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    MylesE1

    1 year ago

    Great tutorial. I grabbed some ideas from this and built my own track. I put together a tutorial as well: http://stratospheredigital.ca/diy-dana-dolly-style-track-system-for-video/

    DIY Dolly Track Mounted on Tripods.jpgDIY Dolly Track System - Dana Dolly.jpg

    Would it be possible to cut the pvc used for the track in half down the middle, creating a flat edge on the bottom? Not only would this prevent rolling, but you could lengthen the track without having to buy more pvc.
    Right?

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    Cinegear

    4 years ago on Introduction

    Check out this DIY camera dolly kit on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cinegear/cinegear-camera-dolly-kit

    2014-07-01 17.02.12.jpg
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    dkimbril

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I love it. I suggest a couple additions for those wanting to build this. Plastic spacers inside the L bracket to maintain 45 degree integrity of the wheels. Flip the bolts holding the L bracket to base to create a smooth top and less hazardous. Btw way I'm making a similar version of this but with a motor so the dolly can move slowly inch forward or backward

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    gabe4g

    4 years ago on Introduction

    Okay, so I'm not a handyman at all and am attempting to build this. However, I cannot find any brackets like the ones used in the wheel assembly for this project. Can someone please explain what I need or where I can find them? At this point, it's looking like I may have to make them myself.

    1 reply
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    mwong22gabe4g

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Not sure if you figured this out yet, but the brackets he used are actually just zinc-plated slotted angle that he likely bought at home depot.

    http://www.homedepot.com/p/Crown-Bolt-1-1-2-in-x-14-Gauge-x-72-in-Zinc-Plated-Slotted-Angle-18250/202183467?N=5yc1vZc2b9

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    sensoryhouseflio191

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry man, I didn't even think this was possible. I didn't mean to hijack your page. If I can't figure out how to turn it off then I will delete the comment.

    Built this one day, and used it in a shoot the next day. For £30 total cost, I can't believe how easy it was & how great it is to use. Will be getting more PVC now to extend the track. And might also build a 2nd bigger dolly to fit both the camera (+ stand) and me (+ seat).

    2 replies

    I see this was posted awhile back. In case it is still valuable you may want to consider using steel conduit or even steel pipe instead of the PVC if you plan to hold much weight. $.02

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    PVC works well if you choose the right size. Shot a feature last year and built pvc track and it held RED ONE with Matte Box, Tripod Heavy Duty, Operator, ect. Not as heavy as steel pipe and allows for fast setup as well. Steel would be awesome for some kind of permenant rig.

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    filmnuts

    8 years ago on Introduction

    That's a nice simple design.  Some modifications to consider would be a push bar on the back of the dolly, a loop in the center of the platform to tie the tripod and camera down to the dolly and rotating bases for the wheels to make it easier to take turns on curved track.  From a safety standpoint, you might also want something to cover the bolts sticking up.

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    awawawaw

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent idea!!! The simple L bracket design with rollerblade wheels can be used for a lot of other projects. Quality instructable: straightforward, detailed, and clean.

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    RedMeanie

    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great setup! Ive been working on a gate and this would make a great setup for a gate just add a drive wheel on the side.
    Thanks you saved me allot of WORK!