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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.

Professional Options

1. Camera Sliders

6 Affordable Ways to Capture Great Dolly Shots - Glidecam VistaTrack

Image via Glidecam.

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.

2. Table Dolly

6 Affordable Ways to Capture Great Dolly Shots - Table Dolly

Image via Fancier Studio

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.

3. Tripod Dolly

6 Affordable Ways to Capture Great Dolly Shots - 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.

DIY Options

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)

6 Affordable Ways to Capture Great Dolly Shots - DIY Camera Slider

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)

6 Affordable Ways to Capture Great Dolly Shots - DIY Table Top Dolly

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.

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