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 ).
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.
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.
- 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).
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.
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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