How Dolly Tracks for Video Production are Made

Film crew with camera on dolly tracks

These days, films are all about action. Anyone who watches movies or films knows that today’s productions feature dynamic action sequences to entertain viewers and captivate audiences.

So how does a film crew get the shot? Film crews understand that it takes great plans, skills and equipment to pull it off. The assistance of a camera dolly makes all of these scenes possible. This setup helps the cameraperson and assistants and helps to capture the shots. This supports the vision and the shots the team needs in the film script.

What is a Camera Dolly?

For starters, a camera dolly creates smooth, horizontal shots with a three-man crew that performs camera moves. The camera crew includes the camera operator and the focus puller. The third person is the dolly grip. Experience in a digital video and media production programs builds hands-on experience and helps to understand the needs of video production crews.

These three are integral and creates dolly shots as they’re referred to in shooting scripts, but a group can be smaller in independent films. The crew also uses the camera dolly to get tight shots of the actors, as well as zoom shots. The camera setup varies, with more dolly tracks in use to accommodate DSLR cameras, as well as 4K resolution cameras.

The Dolly Itself

The track is a vital part of the camera dolly set-up. Although it depends on on the production’s budget, it also varies in size and scale. For that reason, no production team that seeks smoother shots can neglect this tool on their film. With this being said a person who chooses to work without a dolly is referred to in the industry as “dancefloor moves”. This is a personal choice, however “dancefloor moves” come with a higher rate of difficulty to achieve smoothness.

Dolly Tracks

A video production generally utilizes tracks that range from six feet in length up to sixteen feet in length. It is common for most productions to employ straight tracks on set, but there are productions where the shooting script calls for a shot to be done with a certain bend to it in appearance. If a crew obtains these shots, a camera person works with a dolly grip and other crew members and puts together a dolly track that has a curve.

What is a Camera Dolly Made of?

The dolly tracks are normally made from steel or aluminum. The track then bears the weight of the camera and the dolly itself, plus any other components. Tracks built from this material can be heavier to take from location to location. One positive to these tracks is that but they are durable, especially in outdoor conditions. In some cases, the track lays in a straighter fashion without much effort.

How Have Dolly Tracks Changed Over Time?

In the past two decades, track development continues to improve to allow for more creativity and productivity on production sets. Some tracks are being manufactured out of plastic to support dolly systems that are lower in weight. Other tracks that have been utilized on set have been made from rubber.

Additionally, there are options for those who want to create their own tracks. Some reasons why a person choose to build their own tracks include funds or if the person needs the track for a custom use.

This is where creativity comes into play, as well as a high degree of technical know-how. Some track setups range from creating dolly tracks out PVC pipe and wheels from a pair of roller skates, to using multi-carts and skateboards. As long as the person creates the kind of magically smooth shot needed for the film, a good dolly track can be put together with confidence.

Want to Learn More?

Learning what kind of camera dolly tracks and how they’re made and set up is a key skill to have in filmmaking on any level. If this kind of creativity appeals to you & you’re curious enough to learn more, take a moment to check out IPR’s Digital Video & Media Production program and the training that they provide on-site about the tools needed to succeed in that area.

Contact us today to learn more about the digital video production program and starting a rewarding career in the creative arts.