The Two Way Camera Dolly

I’ve always admired the film maker Ken Burns. His use of still photos is a trademark called “The Ken Burs Effect”. They’re brought to life through the use closeup shots and slow pans.

I thought this technique would be a good choice in producing a video memorial for my Mom on Mothers Day. She passed on two years ago and I wanted to pay a tribute to her with pictures from her life. She was very influential in my childhood as someone that demonstrated the DIY spirit in her daily activities. She sewed clothes for us, baked bread, tended a garden, canned goods for winter, knitted mittens and hats for the needy, made quilts, grew wonderful flowers and cooked simple nutritious meals for us every day.

I knew that the dolly I wanted to build had to move freely in two directions. After some thought, I realized that this old broken flatbed scanner/printer I had was a good choice for parts. The ink cartridge holder and carriage would take of holding the camera and allowing free movement in left and right directions. I could add some rollers to the end of this carriage so that they could rest in a drawer slide and allow movement fore and aft. Another bonus from the scanner was the glass flatbed. I could flip it over, place my photo under the glass and it would be held flat ready to reproduce on video or still digital photo. Perfect!

As a side note, YES… I realize there is software out there that will do this for me however I like to build stuff so, to quote Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way!”

I first stripped the carriage down to the bare essentials, mounted the rollers and camera mount then set to work on the frame. A few pieces of wood served to build the frame and legs to which I added two salvaged drawer slides. Then it was simply a matter of placing the dolly over the flatbed, lighting the area with a bright light and I was ready to shoot!

This is a good example of re-purposing existing hardware into something new. I do a lot of this. Yard sales and thrift stores are great places to find these items, usually quite cheap. In the videos below you’ll get to see a step by step build of this project and the video I made using the dolly. It was pretty emotion filled video session looking at all these photos of my Mom. Of course, I miss her. She was a wonderful Mother and so I say “Thanks Mom” with this tribute to her life.

Enjoy watching and keep on hackin!
Dino

3 thoughts on “The Two Way Camera Dolly

  1. This is virtuoso hacking right here. I’ve been working on a vaguely similar 2-axis metalwork project for many many hours now (spread over weeks) so I know just how difficult it can be to make well-aligned structural members.

    This is my favourite HAW video so far because you make this look so effortless and simple. You have some extraordinary skills and this project is clever and worthy.

    The follow up tribute is a real tear-jerker, beautiful work sir.

  2. Hey there, nice job. Your how-to camera work is great.

    I’m curious, at about 8:05 you slid some sort of paper up under the frame corner while screwing it together. Is that to keep the carpet from getting pinched into the wood?

Leave a Reply