Videomaker – Learn video production and editing, camera reviews › Forums › General › Open Forum › Introducing myself! › Hi pixlbrain,
Just got back from a vacation in California.
Motion slider dollies are definitely the way to go if you want to do some nice motion timelapse work. If you're looking for a regular slider dolly, I would recommend the Edelkrone SliderPLUS Medium doll: http://www.edelkrone.com/slider-plus. This dolly is amazing because it is only 15 inches long, yet it can travel 2 feet in distance which is about as much as anyone would typically need for a nice dolly move. In addition, the dolly is made of very lightweight material so it is easy to carry around. It debuted at NAB this year with some pretty high accolades. If you look at the video examples, the dolly also seems incredibly smooth which is absolutely essential for any slider dolly.
As for motion timelapse dollies, I would recommend the dolly I use – the Dynamic Perception Stage One Motorized Bundle: http://www.dynamicperception.com/products/stage-one-complete-motorized-slider-bundle. It has 4 feet of dolly movement, a motion timelapse controller that lasts for hours and hours, a long-lasting battery, a timelapse cable that fits into your camera and the ability to expand your track if you need more distance. The website even has a number of helpful training videos to get you started. Overall, it's been a solid performer for the kind of documentary productions and nature cinematography that I do, so you may want to check it out.
In addition, I've been rather impressed with the videos that have been made on Kessler's sliders and motion control systems. Though they're much more expensive than Dynamic Perception and are almost the same product, there are many Kessler fans out there who would vouch for the credibility of a Kessler Elektra Drive and Pocket Dolly system: http://www.kesslercrane.com/category-s/125.htm. I've used a Pocket Dolly before and there's no doubt in my mind that their build quality is excellent. They are also constantly innovating and improving their designs which is always a good sign in a company. If you have a little extra money, this may be the system for you.
Unfortunately, I don't know much about the best and most efficient jib arms on the market today. I personally don't use a jib arm very often since slider dollies, timelapses, and Steadicams seem to be all the movement that I typically need. When it comes right down to it, hauling around a heavy peice of equipment for the possibility of one or two shots is not really worth it in my experience. However, if you have easy access to a location and an experienced crew, a jib can definitely be a nice addition to your shooting repertoire. As such, I would recommend something simple.
I wouldn't pick up a jib of more than 8 feet since it will force you to carry a ton of weights to counterbalance the camera and the main arm (which will be tiring on your arms). Believe me, weights are never fun to carry around! Also, I would try to grab a jib that can easily be setup and broken down on the road like the Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler ($599.99): http://www.kesslercrane.com/product-p/pocket_jib_traveler.htm. This jib arm can collapse down to 27 inches with a distance of 72 inches when fully extended making it easy to use for run and gun style shooting. You can even get a soft case for it for another $60. It might be worth checking out for you.
I also like your idea of building one of your own. I've built a number of rigs back when I first started so, it's near and dear to my heart. However, it's not the easiest thing to do if you don't have a lot of building experience. Thankfully, there are plenty of websites out there with very detailed plans showing you how they are made. My favorite has always been the Killer Camera Rigs That You Can Build book: http://www.amazon.com/Killer-Camera-Rigs-That-Build/dp/0240813375/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374533654&sr=1-1&keywords=killer+camera+rigs+that+you+can+build, however there are plenty of other designs that could honestly be even easier to make than that. A quick Google search will yield quite a few results!