Building a Tripod Mounted Dolly

A tripod is the filmmaker's most essential tool for mounting the camera to obtain a steady shot. Steady shots are nice, but nothing says professional video more than the smooth movement of a dolly shot. Professional camera dollies can be expensive to rent and take up a lot of room both on the set and when they are being transported. Thankfully, it is possible to make your own tripod mounted dolly. 

What You'll Need

  • 3 pieces: 1 ½” x 1 ½” x 6’ stainless steel plated angle
  • 4: 4” laundry wheels, with included fork and axle
  • 12: 5/16”-18 x 1” bolts
  • 2: 5/16”-18 x 3” carriage bolts
  • 16: 5/16” split lock washers
  • 10: 5/16” flat washers
  • 14: 5/16”-18 nuts
  • 2 very large washers, thick, approx 1” diameter
  • 1: ¾” plywood, 8 ¾” by 15” (could be larger)
  • 4: #6 x 3/8” wood screws
  • 4: #10 flat washers to fit wood screws
  • electrical tape
  • 2 tripods (or an alternative mount like step ladders)
  • 1 small table top tripod with a fluid head
  • 2: ¼”-20 nuts
  • gaffers tape.

You will also need a hacksaw, sawhorses, a wrench, a knife, a carpenter's hand saw and a tape measure.

Step 1: Assembling the Track

Take one of the steel angle pieces and cut it into six pieces. You want to have two 9" pieces, two 12" pieces and two 15" pieces. Next, take the two 6' pieces and the two 9" pieces. You're going to turn them into a rectangle using four 5/16”-18 x 1” bolts, eight 5/16” split washers, and four 5/16”- 18 nuts. Make sure that everything is squared and then tighten it with your wrench. This is your dolly track.

Apply a strip of electrical tape on each long piece of steel angle. This will reduce the sound of the tripod's wheels rolling across it. Make sure that the tape is tight so that there aren't any bumps when the dolly does it's run.

Step 2: Assembling the Dolly 

Once the track is complete, it is time to move onto the dolly itself. Assemble the remaining pieces of steel angle into a rectangle. The 15" pieces will be perpendicular to the track while the 12" pieces will be parallel. Join the pieces together with four 5/6”-18 x 1” bolts, eight 5/16” split washers, and four 5/16” nuts. After that, cut the plywood so that it can snugly rest on the steel angle rectangle. This is the platform for your tripod.

Now it's time to add the wheels. Add them onto the 15" pieces of steel angle, with four 5/16”-18 x 1” bolts, eight 5/16” flat washers and four 5/16” nuts. They need to be positioned so that they glide on the track.

Step 3: Putting Everything Together 

Use the carriage bolts to install stoppers at each end of the track so you don't end up rolling off it when you're concentrating on your camera moves.

Add the track to your tripods or step ladder. If using the tripods then you can attach the track to the plate with a nut. Next, add the dolly to the track. You can now start shooting.