From the moment I first bought a Panasonic DVX100, in 2004, I decided to invest in gear that would make my work look more professional than the typical handheld DIY aesthetic. It was widely understood that for relatively little money you could buy dollies and Steadicam-like devices, though most filmmakers seemed to eschew them in favor of a quasidocumentary approach. By contrast, I picked up a classic 3-wheel dolly and a Cobra Crane, both of which can be seen in use in the 2007 Filmmaker short 12.5 Seconds Later….
Now that the switch has flipped on DSLR shooting, which by its use of 35mm lenses inherently creates a more cinematic depth of field, filmmakers are becoming more interested in supplemental gear. As an adopter of the Canon 7D, I’ve decided to expand my library of tools; yet, instead of buying prefab equipment, I’m building my own.
Call it “street style.” Having portable homemade gear that you can set up on the fly, as opposed to industrial-designed rigs, is sort of equivalent to that skateboarding moment in the early ’90s when aerials bottomed out and street skating took over. (Which isn’t to suggest that people who don’t go with the flow are going to end up like Gator or Hosoi….)
Building your own gear feels rewarding. You can play with various designs and customize them to your own taste. Here are some photos of two different models of portable sliders I recently put together.