Archive for the ‘ DSLR ’ Category

My DIY Spider Dolly!

So, I’m a bit behind on the posting front because I’ve been mired in pre-production for my short film that shoots in July. In fact, “The Lake” is the first film to be featured in the Tarakata Films production blog. You can find out more about the film at the following links:

Find out more and follow our journey from script to film on our production blog:

“Like” our Facebook page for notifications of production updates and screenings:

Check out our IndieGoGo campaign to help us get the film made:

But first, check out my new DIY Spider Dolly! I followed Just Basl‘s video DIY, with a few adjustments, which I will outline below.

Here are the pieces I used for my DIY dolly!

Skateboard: ($20) This is the one I got, but if you can find a cheaper one, so much the better! 🙂

Cheeseplate: ($15) Glidecam calls them weight plates, but they’re cheeseplates.

Carriage Bolts & Wingnuts: (<$1 each) Available at Lowes and Home Depot. I got one set of 3/8″ (#20) and one of 1.4″ (#16), both 2″ long. I recommend taking your skateboard trucks and cheeseplate in to make sure you get a good length for your setup.

Quick Release Plate: ($30) I got a few of these, one for my DIY dolly, one for my tripod, and one for my shoulder mount. This way, I can switch from one mount to another in the blink of an eye!

And here’s how I put mine together:


I bought a skateboard from Target and pulled the trucks off. I needed pliers to get it started, but after that they came off pretty easily.

Skateboard Trucks

I didn't end up needing to get washers, as there was already a pair on the trucks, There were also these great rubber spacers that I worked into the design.


The video calls for carriage bolts and wingnuts to attach the cheeseplate. I got two different sizes, since the holes on the cheeseplate are bigger on one end than the other and I needed to attach them as far out as possible, so the prongs that stick up from the trucks wouldn't interfere with the cheeseplate lying flat. Also, that way the bolt wouldn't wiggle around in the hole.

Carriage Bolts & Wingnuts

I chose 2 inch long carriage bolts, one in 3/8 inch diameter, the other in 1/4 inch diameter. Both Lowes and Home Depot have handy displays that will help you size out your nuts and bolts. Make sure you get either coarse or fine threaded for both!

Trucks Attached to Cheeseplate

I attached the trucks to the cheeseplate with a spacer on either side of the rings on the trucks. The rubber spacers worked so well that I didn't even need to use the washers. They also make it easier to tighten the bolts.

Manfrotto Quick Release Plate

Finally, I attached a Manfrotto 323 quick release plate. The lock on the plate is great, but when I tried to attach it in the center, it kept the plate from sitting flush against the base, so I attached it at the edge with the lock hanging over. The camera still balances perfectly on it.

The Finished Dolly

And here it is all finished! The best thing about this little guy is that you can tilt the wheels in to make a curved path! Just loosen the bolts, adjust, and retighten!

And here are a couple shots I did with my little dolly at a wedding last weekend!

Here’s the dolly with the wheels set for a straight path:

And here it is with the wheels set to follow the curve of the table it was on:


Lessons Learned: 1st All-DSLR Shoot

Here are a few things I learned about running audio on my first all-DSLR shoot.

  1. Run dual system audio and sync it in post. I am so glad we did this. Even my old Zoom H4 picked up amazingly clean audio. An XLR input beats a mini-jack any day of the week.
  2. PluralEyes is your friend. It can save you hours in post by automatically syncing your audio to your video clips.
  3. Even with PluralEyes, you should still slate. If you’re syncing manually, you absolutely HAVE to slate!
  4. PluralEyes (and manual syncing) go more smoothly with a few long clips than a lot of short ones. We were shooting interviews and the B camera was harder to sync, as it had been started and stopped several times during each interview to get different angles. Best practice would be to start the audio recorder first, then the camera(s) and leave the cameras running for as long as possible, even if it means it’s shooting while you change positions for a better shot.
  5. Leave the in camera audio on (and, if possible, use a camera-mount shotgun) to help with the syncing. This is especially helpful if you’re syncing manually.

And here’s the outcome of my 1st all-DSLR shoot! Hope you enjoy it!