6 Affordable Ways to Capture Great Dolly Shots
Don’t blow your entire budget on pro equipment for a dolly shot. From cheaper options to the DIY approach, here’s how to get the most bang for your buck.
The dolly shot is a filmmaking staple that will simply never go out of style. The iconic camera movement carries weight and meaning. Whether the shot takes the audience on a ride with your characters or presents an omniscient viewpoint, there are a plethora of ways to employ the shot.
That being said, pulling off a smooth, professional, and essentially invisible dolly shot takes some gear. So, let’s take a look at what gear works for your film and — more importantly — for your budget.
1. Camera Sliders
Camera sliders are perfect for capturing short dolly shots. Many of these professional sliders can be expensive, but there’s a reason — they work. While a slider isn’t the most affordable of all the options here, it’s cost effective compared to buying an actual dolly system, which can easily run $1,500-$2,000. If you’re working out your budget for a big shoot or looking into investing in one of these products, consider the type of camera you’ll be using most and the amount of weight you’ll be putting on the device.
- Glidecam VistaTrack — $799
- Manfrotto Camera Slider — $538
- Edelkrone SliderPLUS Compact — $499
- Benro MoveOver8B — $259.95
2. Table Dolly
If you need a tighter, more manageable dolly shot, and you’re using a DSLR, look into a small tabletop dolly. These lightweight solutions are great in a pinch, and many can support quite a bit of weight, which can help even if you’re using a smaller cinema cameras, like an URSA or C200. Since it’s easy to use, you can capture multiple angles in a matter of minutes.
- Cinetics CineSkates Pro — $150
- CineMoco Dolly — $499
- Pico Dolly — $49.95
- Digital Juice Orbit — $1495.95
3. Tripod Dolly
If you can’t afford a slider, and you don’t have a smooth surface for a tabletop dolly, then the tripod dolly shot is your best option. This simple tripod add-on needs a smooth surface for best results. However, if that’s not possible, there are fairly inexpensive track options for this type of dolly.
4. DIY Dolly Track ($10-$20)
DIY builds are the way to go. Even if you’ve got a substantial budget, they can save you money and time. So, let’s check out how to make a dolly track from items you can find at a store near you.
For this tutorial, the SGNL group from Sony shows us how to use PVC pipe, in-line skate wheels, and a few nuts and bolts to build a dolly system.
For the dolly itself, check out our tutorial for a simple, affordable way to build a reliable system.
5. DIY Camera Slider ($10)
If you want something smaller, you can build an inexpensive slider with a few items from the hardware store. Film Riot has a great demo. Ryan Connolly and crew show us how to build one for a whopping $10.
6. DIY Tabletop Dolly ($20-$30)
If you want to use a tabletop dolly, TheAussieInLA shows you how to use a metal plate, skateboard trucks, and some wheels to create a heavy-duty tabletop dolly on the cheap.
Building a table dolly is pretty simple. Here’s a good breakdown of the fundamental mechanics of the rig.
Cover Image via Disney.
Looking for more DIY articles? Check these out.
- Tips for Recording ADR on Your Own — on a Budget
- How to Build A Super-Bright DIY LED Balloon Light
- The Right In-Air Diffusion for Your Project: Haze vs. Fog vs. Smoke
- Drawing the Audience’s Eye by Shaping and Cutting Light
- Building A Low Budget Handheld Rig For The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K