The “Dope” DIY Camera Dolly 3D Printable

Since August 2020, I’ve worked every so often on this dolly, but dragged my feet on writing the blog post. If you’ve ever used a Dana dolly, Kessler Shuttle Dolly, Matthews Dutti Dolly or a Doug dolly (the eBay alternative to the Dana dolly), you’ll notice that they have the same basic design. Wheels that roll on aluminum tubing and a base / plate to mount a camera to.

In most case you might rent one of these opposed to owning one. Budget it into your production and not give it a second thought, but since I grew / learned from a DIY approach to filmmaking, I wanted to make something anyone could afford, and with a little passion — could remix afind nd help develop the next generation design for other filmmakers to use.

TL/DR: It’s cheap, takes about 80 hours of printing, and all the .STL links are at the bottom of this page.

This promo video is from the first time I used this completed dolly. The dance video was made in collaboration w/ slowdanger.

Pros/Cons:

One of the major benefits of the Dana dolly is that they promise “precision wheels” for smooth rolling. I can’t say that your off-the-shelf skateboard wheels will roll as smooth as the Dana dolly, but as long as your track is clean, and you chose a slightly harder durometer of a wheel, you should have a smooth rolling dolly.

Kessler and Dana use a rigid metal plate for their base that supports heavier camera packages. The Doug dolly looks like it uses a furniture grade plywood. In this design, you can use whatever you want, but be aware if you use something too warped or flimsy, you might have a sinking / bouncing camera when you move it around. The same applies to the Track Ends you build/buy/design. — This is where I cheated a little. I have a DIY track end I’ll share with you in this post, but I ultimately reached out to the creator of the Doug Dolly and purchased his track ends for $75 a set (we bought two sets, as I originally build this dolly for a friend!). I’m not sure you’ll score the same price we did as the ongoing pandemic has increased prices all over the place, but I do know that the Yoke mounts used in this design went from ~$5 on B&H to about $10.95 in the past few months.

If you break something it might take you 20hrs to 3D print a new one!

I’ve made this design as simple as I can for you to print on your own, but anyone who has owned a 3D printer long enough, will tell you that there’s always some level of tinkering on your end to get a design right. Especially something like this that holds a few thousand dollars of your camera gear. I printed in PETG. I’m sure PLA would work, but if you can print in a stronger filament (PETG, ABS, etc.).

Your camera is as wobbly as the weakest link! 

I’d recommend Junior pin lowboy combo stands with wheels, but they can be pricey ($169.36 per 4′ stand). You can make this all work with light stands and baby pin connectors, but you’ll want to avoid a cheap light stand. You’ll want something with a more rigid metal otherwise the stands will wobble as you add motion to your camera. 

For my shoot I used a short C-stand and combo with wheels. $10 light stands won’t cut it. You’re better off using construction saw horses (you can DIY those too!)

Time! It takes time to make this. If you don’t have it, consider buying the Doug Dolly or waiting for a used Dana dolly package. You’ll still want to factor in the costs of the track, combo stands, and a ball mount camera head if you don’t already own one.

Price and customization are everything here. The price is low, and the components upgrades you chose can make this fit your needs.

Pricing:

  • Dana Dolly $829-$1200 (does not include track)
  • Kessler Shuttle Dolly $1320 (does not include track)
  • Matthews Dutti Dolly $1427 (does not include track)
  • Doug Dolly $399 (does not include track)
  • Dope DIY Dolly: <$100 (not including track)

You can add about $75 when factoring in the track if you chose the conventional “speed rail” aluminum track. But, let’s just say you’ve got options. I’ll detail below.

Costs Breakdown:

Total: ~cheap


Wheels:

I found used skateboard wheel from LA for $1 per wheel (coincidentally they were used for someone else’s crazy dolly configuration!). I bought the lot of them 36 wheels total, and build two dolly sets (16 wheels each). 4 wheels per corner in a 4 corner design. I’ve seen others have success with tripod style designs, 4 wheels and 3 corners. In my experiments, 2 wheels on each corner with 4 corners were stable for my <~10lb camera package using a sturdier base. (that would be 8 wheels total, similar to the Matthews design).

Below is the V1 design based on a dolly I built in 2005 using steel angle iron. The final 3D printed version allows for smaller wheels and varying track sizes.

^ An off-the-shelf wheel solution for $30 a wheel.

Bearings:

Inexpensive 608 bearings with 8mm axles typically use steel ball bearings. If you opt for a quieter bearing, you can reduce the overall noise, but for most non-sports related filming the bearing noise is little to none. I wouldn’t recommend ceramic bearings as they tend to be louder than steel if they are inexpensive have an open face for easy lubrication.


Track Ends:

Doug Dolly Track Ends

This is where I cheated, but you don’t have to. I purchased Doug dolly track ends, because I didn’t want to build two sets of them (one for me and the other for my friend). If you look at this design, you can imagine how to do it yourself. The Junior / Baby Pin connectors are called Yoke Mounts.

You can bolt the Yoke mount receivers into whatever you’ve got. And the Doug dolly simply uses bolts and wing nuts to draw everything together.

If you want to get fancier with it, you can add track connectors similar to what the Dana Dolly uses.

These are called Truss Clamps and you can get them for anywhere between $8-$14. Just make sure you get a clamp that fits the size track you want to use. I opted for the Dana Dolly “squeeze” method because it allows for more options in track type. (You might even score some Scaffolding clamps for free if you ask around.

If you opt for a square track like the Mattews Dutti Dolly, you can think of even more creative ways to get the job done.

[the above look like roller blade wheels to me! hmm… maybe in V3.0!]

I’ll eventually updated the 3D printed designs to include a 3D printed alternative to the truss mount clamps, but it’s low priority on my to-do list.


Hardware:

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of it:

  • $0.19 8x 5/16” 1-1/4” Zinc Bolt (you can subtract 2 bolts if you opt for swivel design)
  • $0.21 16x 5/16” 2” Long Hex Bolts (partially threaded) for wheel axles.
  • $3.08 25x 5/16” -18 thread zinc plated hex nut (comes in 25-pack)
Bolts I used to attach the wheel base to the baseboard. There’s a center mount in the Wheel base for you to use 1 bolt instead of two for mounting / swiveling. In my experiments I found you could use a single bolt mount for every wheel base with no issues.
These partially threaded hex bolts were used for the wheel axle. The non-threaded 5/16″ bold fits well into an 8mm 608 bearing. You can experiment with other bolts and bearing sizes on your own.

The Base:

Wood works! Plus, you can flip the tripod head around and suspend the camera from above, if so desired.

I don’t expect everyone to go around CNC-ing Aluminum plates.

I’d definitely recommend a ball mount tripod head so you can easily adjust the level if you want to angle your track.

Having a good masonry level is nice for setting up your track. Some wedges can be used at the base of whatever stands you choose to balance things out.

In some of those photos you’ll notice a PVC track on the ground with a tripod on top. This is “okay” but not the greatest solution. Essentially, I needed a 20′ track for a live streamed event that was coming up and at that point I had only designed the wheel assembly. So I mounted it to a piece of wood sitting in the garage, bought some PVC and called it a day.

The first trial run of this 3D printed dolly wheel was used for a live streamed collaboration with slowdanger, Arvid Tomayko, in partnership with The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater (PGH), Kennedy Center (D.C.) and sponsored by Facebook.

The elevated camera position and flexible PVC on a vinyl marley dance floor worked because all of my camera movements were subtle. If you require something faster paced, you’ll need to lower the camera position closer to the wheels and put the wheels on something rigid, such as aluminum track!


The Track:

I purchased 1-1/4″ Schedule 40 6061 Aluminum Pipe that comes in 20-foot lengths for $75 a piece. It was sourced locally. I recommend you call around local metal warehouses and see what prices they can offer you. If you cut that in half you’ll end up with two 10′ lengths. 6′ is a suitable length and 8′ seems like the perfect in between, but as strange as this sounds. After I built out the entire system, I started finding “dolly track” everywhere!

Portable ballet barre.

This is a ballet / dance stretch bar. The vertical poles are perfect 4′ pieces of track! And my friend was tossing it out. You could even use the base feet as mini tracks!

Got two sets of weight lifting bars? How about some 1″ EMT Conduit? Maybe a few street signs fell over and ended up on your dolly track!

If it’s on the ground, you can use PVC — it’s far from perfect, but it might work for you in your next music video. Sometimes PVC can make odd noises that would make your sound recordist cringe.


Time:

It takes time to 3D print. Make sure your settings are correct, everything to scale. If you’re new to it, you can pick up and Ender 3 Pro for <$200.

As with everything, there’s a learning curve, and things may not always give you the results you desire.

Let’s just say this isn’t supposed to look like this!

Once you have the wheel bases printed, the rest can be cut and assembled in less than an hour, but take your time. The good old, measure twice — cut once! motto is a good habit to have.


The Files:

Download and do what you will. If you found this write up helpful and feel like buying me a coffee (or tea) my Venmo is @ProjectileObjects all donations are appreciated.


Cults 3D STL Download Link


I’ve include some more .STL files in this post that are not in those download links:

I made these bases if you use 1″ PVC

1″ PVC base

One can be used for an end stop with a bolt (mine snap fit snug), and the other is low profile so the wheels can roll over top of it (depends on your wheel diameter and width.


Conclusion:

Do It Yourself! At the end of the day it’s a tool, but if it helps you reach your dreams, then I’m happy to share it with you.

The name for this came quick: Dana, Doug, and now Dope! But you get too many options if you google DIY Dolly. I don’t care what you call it 🙂

If you found this helpful, please leave a comment and share it with others. It’s out there now, so I’m curious how we can all work together to make it better. I have some more designs for a wide variety of applications in queue, but it takes a good deal of time to get these blog posts together. Hopefully, if there’s enough interest, it will inspire me to release more of them sooner rather than later.

Thanks and ❤

-Cornelius

3 thoughts on “The “Dope” DIY Camera Dolly 3D Printable

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