Camera Dolly On the Cheap
One of the newest additions to our production arsenal is a camera dolly. You’ll see the shot 8 seconds into the video above. This was during the passion concert we had not too long ago. When we initially looked into the idea, it was ridiculously expensive. Budget is always a constraint for any organization, but with constraints come great opportunities to be creative and figure things out. So we youtube’d A LOT of videos on DIY Camera Dolly Systems. Most of the videos were for amateur videographers making movies in their garages, but surprisingly, they had a lot of well thought out ideas. We just had to the take the best of the ideas and put it on a professional scale.
So for our camera dolly, we constructed a small platform and covered it with similar vinyl that’s on our stage. This hides our cables and our rails. We then fashioned a track out of thick PVC and painted it black. Because the section we picked out for our dolly actually has a curve, we put a few screws into the PVC to give it a curved shape. Then we took a thick piece of MDF board and made what I can only describe as a roller coaster like wheel connection. Meaning wheels hugging two sides of each rail. This gives us an extremely smooth ride. To manage cables as we move, we put in a short rail at the front of the platform. We run the cables over this rail to keep the cables from getting in the way of the track.
All in all, we have an 16 foot camera dolly rig for about $100. Good deal? I think so!
It’s important to note that your sweeping shots will only look as good as your lighting does. It takes A LOT of crowd light for a sweeping dolly shot to look good. Sweeping dolly shots will not do you any good without a lot of crowd light. Specifically for this shot, stage crowd light looks way better than house crowd light. A way you can cheat this a little bit is to look at your front stage light levels. If you run your front lights too bright, your camera has to compensate for that (which decreases the amount of light the camera can let in from the stage). So the darker you can get away with your front lights, the more color will show up in your camera shots. Just food for thought.