5 Useful Video Dolly Tips
A video dolly is a great tool to have in your filmmaking arsenal. But, if you don't know how to properly use it, then you're not going to get the smooth tracking shots you want your video to have. Here are five useful tips to help you get the best work out of your dolly.
1. Work on a Flat and Level Surface
Dolly moves are supposed to smooth, and if you're pushing the dolly on a bumpy and unlevel surface, then the camera is going to pick that up and the shot will be unusable. There are three ways to get around this. You can either choose to place the dolly in a place that is level, although that isn't always right for the shot. Convenience isn't a stand alone legit reason for choosing a shot. In fact, it's pretty lazy. You should only place the camera in a place that gets the best shot and then work your way around that. That's where dolly track comes in. If you're using the dolly in a place that has a rough and uneven surface, then use dolly track or build a bridge out of plywood.
2. Level Your Track
Always level the dolly track and make sure that it is adequately supported. You don't want any gaps under the track because the weight of the dolly will cause it to dip. This will result in the shot not being smooth, and it will also damage the track over time.
3. Move the Dolly at a Consistent Speed
Dolly shots can separate amateur from professional videos. But, that's only if the dolly moves at a consistent speed. Videos that have a dolly moving fast, then slow, then fast look horrible and that is not smooth movement.
4. Feather In and Out of the Dolly Moves
Sometimes, a shot requires the dolly to move and stop within the take. You should always feather the dolly into a start and feather it into a stop. Very graceful and gradual movements are needed to pull this off. You can't start and stop abruptly because that will cause the camera to shake and that will make the take no good.
If you're fortunate enough to have your own dolly, then practice with it. Operating a dolly is a craft, and the only way you're going to get good at it is if you practice. One method for practicing it to place a bottle of water on the dolly. Perform your moves while trying to keep the water inside still. It's how you will get better.