Introducing CamDolly Cinema System
When you think about cheap gear and especially dolly, you just wonder how much quality you will need to scarify to fit your budget. Every independent filmmaker dreams about the perfect product. A tool that allows clean shots, portable, simple but multitask, robust like hell and above all without stumping up 10 000€. So when we first heard about CamDolly we were quite exited to test it.
Thanks to Met Hrovat inventor of CamDolly Cinema System, our team had the opportunity to try this dolly “all-in-one”. At the first look, it’s a solid construction but much lighter (45Kg) than a regular dolly. Pretty fast and easy to set up with the tutorial online, you need between 10 and 15 minutes to build any configuration. It fits in the trunk of a small car (VW golf+) and it costs only 3000€.
From camera dolly to slider to tabletop we had to work all the day to explore different possible configurations and we couldn’t try everything! So let’s have look to the different combinations:
The tracking dolly is maybe one of the most useful configuration. Not only you can make a clean dolly shot without dealing with a 300kg gear but even more important you are faster than building solid tracks on the ground. The principle is not new but what CamDolly offers is much more than a cheap homemade dolly. The materials are heavy duty, the system is smart and the all product is made in Europe except for few pieces (inflatable wheels for instance). When I tried it I thought immediately if I owned it, I would rent it as a like-professional equipment which I simply can’t do with “Chinese” staff (cheap gear is too risky to rent because of building quality and cheap material; it usually doesn’t resist long to an intensive use).
The solid flexible rubber tracks allow you to make quick set up of straight path or curves. On this set up, the camera is fixed on the tripod (on the set you quickly switch from a tripod to a dolly shot). The tripod stands on the base plate and the camera operator can sit on the dolly. The base plate comes with four extension legs. On one side, you add a rotational platform so the wheels perfectly adapt to the track. This means you don’t need the rubber tracks to be perfectly parallel. The dolly operator has a handle to pull or push the dolly. However it’s way easier to pull it.
We tried with an ENG camera (Sony pmw-500 + sachtler video 15) on a ceramic floor and with a DSLR (canon 600D + Manfrotto) on paved floor.
The results are very good with the heavy camera and good fluid head. We tried a complex movement combining a curve with camera rotation while zooming and the footage move is very clean. The footage from the DSLR is more shaky although the ground was not easy but at the end of the day a stabilization correction in editing would rescue the shot in many case.
The only thing I missed is the mobility of the sit. With CamDolly Cinema System camera operator has to choose a sit position on the base plate and big camera rotations are complex to execute because you don’t have a good visual on the whole movement. Well, you can’t have everything but it’s frustrating to be so close from a perfect gear!
The Doorway dolly allows you to operate on macadam, roadway, sidewalk, playground. We tested it on ceramic floor and a sidewalk.
It’s a similar configuration like tracking dolly but the rotational elements come on the back of the dolly so you can pull it (you can also push it but it’s way harder to drive smoothly).
The results on the ceramic floor are satisfying for both camera and DSLR although we noticed once again that the heavy camera prevents from vibrations.
The slider is a very useful option and this one is seduced us. One of the good point is the possibility to use cheap and standard heavy duty tripod or light tripod. The slider is precise enough to work with long focal and the big deal from my point of view is the possibility to use heavier camera than a little DSLR and a real fluid head to precisely pan during the slide even with a long focal. The base plate center piece is removable and comes with 3 mounts: ¼’’ mount, 75mm and 100mm bowl mount. So if I want, I can put an Iphone or a Sachtler video 20 fluid head with Arri Alexa! You can also customize the length of the slider as the rails are standard aluminum tubes. With a 10kg camera I think 1,5m meter is a sweet spot so the weight of the slider won’t curve the tubes. However if you put a lightweight camera, you can go to 2m or even more.
A Tabletop is a must have in documentary and industrial films. I don’t have a studio where I could put a large installation and I never found time to build by myself a portable tabletop. I get the tabletop by using the base of the dolly and add it 3 skate wiles. The addition of a motor (which will be added soon) will make a perfect portable tabletop. We put the object to shoot on the seat but I can imagine larger piece would be difficult to make stand on the seat. If you use the base plate on a table for instance then it’s no problem to put larger objects.
The orbital tabletop is also a great option but we run out of time to shoot test footage. Take the previous configuration, turn the wheel on a slightly different angle and you have instead of a base plate turning perfectly around its center a mini dolly turning around an object.
The orbit dolly allows you to drive the same configuration (low mode) and shoot for instance feet while walking. As for the previous configuration we didn’t try this configuration.
CamDolly Cinema System: a Suisse knife for independent filmmaker
If you are like us: without money, big team and always short on time, you will love the CamDolly. We particularly appreciate the good quality of material. It’s portable and as light as it could be given that the camera operator can sit on (unless your camera operator weight more than 250Kg). More than a dolly, you have an all-in-one solution that fit in a sport bag and if I owned it I guess I would take it on almost every shooting. At this price range and for the quality it offers, I would work with CamDolly from documentaries to short film or just industrial film.
What do you think? Would you use this dolly for your projects?