820 Thompson Ave. #26
Glendale, CA 91201
The Dolly Shot
Every videographer knows the value of a steady truck or dolly shot. But not every videographer has the budget to obtain the expensive moving equipment. And if you're anything like me, effectively achieving these professional shots without the aide of professional equipment, a.k.a. handholding, is next to impossible. The new Universal Dolly, Curved Track Kit from Indie-Dolly Systems was designed to be a high quality, cost effective solution..
Opening up the durable custom carrying case reveals the dolly platform, three heavy duty dolly arms and three wheel clusters containing six polyurethane skateboard wheels, (95a durometer rating,) in each cluster. Also included is a steel seat, a stainless steel seat post which attaches to one of four different locations on the dolly, and a stainless steel push bar.
Assembling the Universal Dolly, which weighs in at a pretty reasonable 45 lbs., is quick and simple requiring no tools and taking only about 10 minutes. The platform accepts almost any tripod but works best with those using dual-spiked feet. Mounting to both curved and straight track and adjusting to any track width from 16" to 34", the versatility and value of this dolly system quickly become apparent. We were impressed by the heavy duty, yet portable design that allows usability by as little as one single videographer.
The four 3-foot sections of curved track included in this kit come in their own custom carrying case. Crafted of anodized aircraft aluminum, the lightweight yet sturdy 1-inch track easily connects together using the supplied 2-inch nylon dowels. Velcro straps, also included in the kit, wrap around the cross members of each track section, keeping the track taut during use.
The dolly attaches to the track simply by placing the wheel clusters on the track, and sliding the platform onto a four-inch stainless steel pin connected to each wheel cluster. The pin not only serves as the connecting point for the dolly platform seat, but is also a pivot point, allowing the wheel clusters to move freely. This is a requirement for use on the curved track. The wheel configuration, two wheels on top and two wheels on each side of each of the tracks, ensured a very secure fit with virtually no significant movement or wobble noted..
After the setup was complete and a few practice runs, We were ready for the shot. The first setup took place indoors on a smooth, even surface. Placing the subject 4 feet away, we moved the camera along the 12' section of track, making a 90 angle. We found the movement of the dolly to be remarkably smooth and quiet. Almost no effort was required to move the dolly, unlike other similarly priced systems that use PVC pipe. The transition between each section of track was seamless thanks to the extremely high manufacturing standards (tolerance within +/- .001") used by Indie-Dolly.
Next, we sat on the seat to ride the dolly and operate the camera, and again found the movement to be quite smooth. The added weight introduced a minor, but noticeable squeak in the wheels as well as a slight variation in the track, which was corrected using the nylon supports included in the kit. We applied powder to the track, which fixed the squeak. After talking with the manufacturer, we learned that they corrected this minor problem in current models by using harder rubber on the wheels.
We noticed the videographer's weight gave a slight wobble to one of the wheel clusters, but the manufacturer tells us that current models use an even more efficient configuration, which mounts the seat to the main platform, thereby evenly distributing the weight of the camera operator over the entire dolly platform.
Finally, we moved the setup outdoors to uneven terrain. When we used wooden 2X4 blocks to even out the elevation, and shims (also available from Indie-Dolly) to level the track, the operation and movement remained optimal..
Having used other affordable dolly systems in the past, we were quickly impressed at not only the portable and rugged design, but also the high quality you get for the comparably low cost. Whether you're producing training videos, conducting interviews, or making your first independent film, the high quality and affordable price make the Universal Dolly from Indie-Dolly Systems a worthy investment if not a necessity. Let's just hope the future demand won't inflate the price tag.
Track: 4 three-foot sections of curved track (90 angle)
Carrying Case: Custom canvas carrying bag
Accessory: 1 seat, 1 seat post, 1 pushbar, nylon supports, nylon dowels, 3 velcro straps
Weight: 78 lbs. (platform & track)
- Very smooth movement
- Easy setup
- Not compatible with all tripod feet
The high quality and durability mixed with affordability make the Universal Dolly a great investment.
Brent Holland is a wedding/event video producer, and owns a production company.