Malia Campbell Photography

Seattle Real Estate Photography by Malia Campbell

The Chase Jarvis DIY camera dolly

We’ve been quite busy over here at TulipChain Photography HQ.  The past two weekends have been spent working on the construction of Chase Jarvis’ DIY Camera Dolly. After multiple trips to various hardware stores, much sawing, even more drilling, and a couple “oh screw it!”s we’re finally done!  Check it out!

The track

The Track
Here’s the easy part: the track.  This took two long pieces of 10′ long PVC pipe (we bought 1.75″ diameters) and four elbow joints.  We also used some PVC pipe cement for stability but that’s optional.

We hack-sawed two long pieces and two short pieces.  It’s important to know which tripod you’ll be using so that you can accurately measure the short pieces which establish the width of the track (which should match the footprint of the tripod).  It’s pretty self explanatory, especially if you view the image (to the left) larger so I’ll just note this: we glued the two inner end pieces but NOT the outer joints.  This allows for changing the long pieces out if you want a longer or shorter track and makes it easier to break everything down for transport.

Truck, close up

The Truck
The truck required a little more thought and planning.  First we had to make sure to measure everything carefully as this was the part of the dolly where the tripod (and beloved camera!) would rest.  Not only did it have to be the right size, it also had to be sturdy.  Jarvis’ truck seemed to be a mixture of bolts and tape but we wanted something a little sturdier.  We ended up using a combination of screws/bolts and epoxy.

Truck, close up

We used 1.75″ diameter PVC pipe (the same that we used to make the track), two “T” joints for the PVC pipe, seven end caps for the PVC pipe (four for the ends that connect to the wood blocks and three for the tripod to rest in), lots of screws and nuts, locking washers, eight skateboard wheels, four metal “L” brackets, four wood squares (I found these in the decorative molding aisles at Home Depot), and some PVC pipe cement which, again, is optional.

Unfortunately since my main task was to distract the eager-to-help puppy I can’t give you step-by-step instructions but, hopefully, the close up images will give you a sense of how to build this. The only part that is not obvious from the photos is that there are two screws holding the wood piece to the metal L bracket.

The end caps on top of the truck, which hold the tripod feet, were screwed *and* epoxied on and these are where the tripod legs rest.

Aaaaaannnnnnnnddddddddd ACTION!

Here’s our first video of the dolly:

And here’s a little video we made with the dolly at the park:

And here’s our first “real” video:

Now, go forth and dolly!  And send me some videos you make with it!  I’d love to see them!


[edit: Although implied, I should be better about giving Scott his credit.  He did the shopping, the planning and the constructing and I wouldn’t have this (or any other DIY toy) without his expertise.  Thanks, Mister!]

[second edit: Oh, he also shot the video of Astrid, the Wonder Dog and Chase, the Little Dog at Volunteer Park.]

Written by Malia Campbell Photography

January 5, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Posted in How To, Video

21 Responses

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  1. How long is your track?


    January 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    • Aren’t you supposed to buy me a drink before you start asking questions like that?

      TulipChain Photography

      January 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      • Sure, pile all that track into your car and we’ll meet up.


        January 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        • haha

          We had enough PVC to make two tracks – one long and one not-so-long (sorry, my tape measure doesn’t reach far enough to give anything more precise). The long track fits in my car (barely) so I think it’s about 9′ long…?

          TulipChain Photography

          January 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    • The long track is 10′, the short track is about 6′. Theoretically, it should be possible to make the track about as long as you want by splicing together the longest pieces of PVC you can find. Just need to make the joints as smooth as possible.


      January 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

  2. I was just wondering. I have freinds who have been making these dollies for years. Many of them had vans to haul around long PVC pipes.

    I which there was an easier way to get a smooth move without a track dolly, but there really isn’t.

    I have a steadi-cam knock off, but you need to keep your moves very limited before it goes into major wabble mode. On the other hand it gives you some major movement in non real estate situatuions.


    January 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm

  3. Well done you guys!


    January 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm

  4. […] The Chase Jarvis DIY camera dolly « TulipChain Photography […]

  5. Next you’ll want to build one of these…

    which I think spawned this simpler (but seemingly effective) version…


    January 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm

  6. Love the chili caliente movie.

    Recipe? Looked like Scott added chocolate, and no spices?

    Bill Millios

    January 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    • Thanks Bill!

      We did add spices (cumin, chili pepper, etc) but it wasn’t very interesting. I liked the sound of the paper crinkling as he unwrapped the square of chocolate so I threw that in. :)

      TulipChain Photography

      January 18, 2011 at 8:37 am

  7. Looks good! Seems like you had fun, too.

    How did the chocolate taste in this dish?


    February 5, 2011 at 11:49 am

  8. What a cool little dolly you guys built! Saw this on PFRE and came here to have a look. Nice work!

    Dave Kinkade

    February 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm

  9. […] folks over at Tulipchain Photography HQ have built a DIY Chase Jarvis Dolly.    They have provided well laid out plan’s and a […]

    DIY Dolly

    February 24, 2011 at 9:54 am

  10. MC-this is very cool! Going to home depot tomorrow~

    Ryan Buccola

    March 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm

  11. I just googled this:
    dolly track chase jarvis

    and your pages came up #1 and 2…Chase’s came after.


    May 12, 2011 at 8:25 pm

  12. What kind of wheels? lol the most important part


    November 25, 2011 at 9:35 am

  13. […] been following my blog and/or my venture into video you’ll probably remember when I built my own slider.  It’s sort of a big project but I’d absolutely recommend everyone to start there.  […]

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