How To Build Your DIY Camera Slider for Smooth Outdoor Video Capture - Tutorial & Test Video

Shooting Video on a DIY Slider
DIY Camera Slider and Sony HX9V

Update: DIY GoPro Mount for Camera Slider (I upgraded the dolly with bolts as legs)

Those smooth video shots - how do they get that?!

Simple. They use a camera slider which is nothing more than a rail of some sort on which the camera plate slides.

Now, professional camera sliders start at a couple of hundred dollars and the price goes up if the rail is longer. Some of them also have a small motor which allow you to shoot sliding time lapse videos - of course those are even more expensive (some going higher than $1000 ).

DIY Camera Slider

As an amateur filmmaker, the camera slider was the next thing I had to build after my DIY steadicam. Basically the lower camera plate in my current design of the camera stabilizer inspired me to build my DIY camera slider.

Now I use it to shoot videos for our solar panels installation services in Germany and Belgium.

Shooting Video with my DIY Slider on a Solar Farm
Solar Farm on Rooftop

Watch the video below to see the shots I was able to get.


The deep water solo climbing clip below also has a few scenes shot with the slider (the first version, without the aluminum rails).


Materials you'll need for your mini camera dolly

The list can vary according to your own input on the design and functionality of the slider. This is just what I had:
  • A base for the rails which can be made of  aluminum (wide and thick flat stock), Alubond or laminate flooring. I happened to find Alubond on a construction site and I used for a GoPro HD camera mount as well. If you want a light and robust material this is it - look for a local distributor and maybe you can get some scraps for free (like I did). 
  • Thin and light flat stock for the rails. Use 2 mm think aluminum plates. Also add an L profile piece for making the base more rigid. The longer the base, the higher its tendency to bend when weight is placed on it (such as your camera).
  • Resin glue - Bison Power Adhesive in my case. 
  • Bolts and nuts (locking nuts and wing nuts).
  • Ball bearings - whatever you find at your local store. As long as they're small and light, and can be fixed on bolts with locking nuts, they're good for your DIY project.
  • Metal piece shaped like an L as your camera mount. Make sure it has holes through which a 6 mm thick bolt can pass - you'll use an improvised tripod mount bolt to secure your camera on the sliding piece.
  • Tripod Camera Bolt Improvisation
  • Plate with channels made of any material you find fit. Mine is machine worked, made if iron sheet but I'm planning to make a new one out of Alubond. Anyway, if you can't have it machine made, make one from laminate flooring and use a jigsaw to make the channels for the bolts (you can also use a milling cutter/milling drill bit for the channels).  
Alubond and aluminum flat stock

How to make your DIY slider 

The images and video speak for themselves but here are my tips:
  • Use as few elements as possible. Example: Have two bearings fit an aluminum flat stock instead of having two aluminium flat stock pieces to fit a bearing when creating the rails. 
  • Leave a tiny gap between the bearing and the rails. This grants a better slide and less friction.
  • You don't need a rail below the base. I thought I needed one but there was too much drag so I set the bearings further apart so they won't touch the rail at all. Now the aluminum piece below the base only ads weights to the rig - but it also makes the base more rigid so that's a plus.
  • Add glue only in the middle of the flat stock so when you press them on the base, no glue will get out. You wanna keep the rolling surface as clean as possible for super smooth video shots. 

Aluminum flat stock and resin glue

Ball bearings on bolt

Bearings on DIY slider rail

Bearing on DIY dolly rail
Tiny gap between the bearing and the aluminum rail 
(slightly loose fit) - this enables the bearing to roll easily

Camera rail in DIY slider

Camera slider - aluminum rail

DIY camera mount for DIY slider
Sliding cart & camera holder

Camera mount for DIY slider

DIY dolly

DIY camera dolly

Ball Bearings DIY Camera Slider

DIY dolly track

DIY camera slider with camera mount

DIY Camera Dolly - Mini Version

Conclusion

I need to make some legs for the rail for faster set up when preparing to shoot but for the moment I use it as it is. I improvise with my backpack and my tripod but it can be anything: a rock, a tree, a fence, etc.

Also some stoppers would be nice - you don't want your camera to fall off the rail once it reaches the end.

A system to place the slider on a tripod in definitely necessary and I'm gonna update this article as soon as I implement a solution for this particular slider.

So far, I'm pleased with the shots I get so I guess I'm gonna use it more in my extreme sports & outdoor videos.

Over to you
  • How do you find this system? Simple? If not, why?
  • What's your preferred tool when shooting video, other than your camera? Mine is the glidecam.
  • Do you have any other tips regarding shooting video on a slider?


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7 comments :

  1. I loved the cliff jumping video. What a fun hobby it would be build a camera slider. Maybe I'll give it a shot!

    ReplyDelete
  2. So do you just let gravity move the camera or do you push/pull it somehow?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can do both.

      For the gravity trick - you should tilt the slider a bit and the plate simply rolls on it.

      For flat placing, you drag or push the small "cart" by hand.

      Delete
  3. Constantin

    Go to an auto parts store and get the rubber bumper pads for a hood. Then drill the holes in your glider and screw them on the ends this will keep the camera from falling off but you will lose about an inch of glide on the two ends at most.

    If you don't know what I mean by the rubber bumpers for a hood, go pop the hood on any car and look in the corners near the front of the car and you will see them. They are adjustable up and down so they just barely make contact with the hood. Best part is they already have screws built in you would just need some nuts to fit them.

    THX,
    Rick

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see your point.

      I added some bolts and I lost some gliding space indeed. Check out pics here, here and here.

      Thanks!

      Delete

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