A few weeks ago I was hired to shoot a corporate commercial for a production company out of Los Angeles. With them they brought a tool I had never used, or heard of before, a ladder dolly. I have used several different dolly systems, but none using an extension ladder as the track. From the moment I set my camera on it (pictured below), and made my first slide, I fell in love and my 2 foot slider stayed in the car the rest of the day. This dolly system uses a standard extension ladder as the track, which at first I thought would be cumbersome, but I was wrong. It’s light, rigid, and easily re-positioned. I was able to get down low on the ground for some great slides, as well as, mid-level with a pair of adjustable height saw horses. Did I mention, with the ladder as rails, I had 8′ feet of sliding real estate, and unlike my slider, each take was a keeper and I rarely had to shoot the same slide movement twice! At the end of the shoot I was sad to say goodbye to my new friend, but I was sure to write down the name of the company that produces the particular model I was using, CamTramSystem. As soon as I got home, I fired up the computer and quickly ran a google search and, BAMM, there it was. After reading through their site it quicky became apparent that the professional system was out of my budget, running in the $2000 range. I went to bed knowing I would have to build a DIY solution and started to come up with plans as I drifted asleep.
I woke up the next morning and quickly got behind my computer again, this time looking for the parts I would need to build my very own ladder dolly system. First the wheels, I went with a pre-made set from ebay seller, TCMGAL. For $49.99 I picked up a brand new camera track dolly wheel assembly. The kit arrived with in 3 days via USPS, and I must say their customer service is top-notch, I highly recommend! Next I would need something to hold my tripod head to the platform. While I was checking out some of the other cool things TCMGAL had for sale, I noticed they also had 1/4-20 and 3/8 screw knobs. Picked up a couple of those and that was all I would need to purchase. Next up, a ladder which I already had in the garage that I picked up from a garage sale for $5.00, so my track was ready and waiting for me. For the tripod head I used a spare that I had, a Fancier (also known as Weifeng) 717A fluid head. So far this has been the perfect head for the job, I especially like that the handle is removable, adjustable and can even extend to almost 2′, making slides especially easy. Once the wheels arrived I quickly started working on the platform, a piece of plywood I had in the backyard. I cut it to size, measured up the distance the wheels needed to be apart from each other and screwed it in. After all four were attached, I put it on the ladder for a test run. One of my main concerns before I started was, would the dolly wheels, that sit at an angle, hug the ladder and not try to fall off the track? I finally had my answer, yes. It locks on, and slides smooth and straight every time. The next few hours I spent in the garage playing around with my new tool. I am extremely happy with the final product and look forward to using it in upcoming projects. Check back soon for a complete video review with samples.
**disclaimer: I am not responsible if your platform goes flying off the track. Please be careful and put in some stoppers!
Thanks for reading!
Note: The pics above are from my first sloppy assembly, in which I was excited and in a hurry to see if it would work. I have since cut a new platform where screws are not visable, edges are sanded and is presentable for commercial jobs.