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.
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.
-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.