The Camera Bag: Camera Table Dolly Will Help You Shoot Smooth HD Video Tracking Shots


posted Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 9:07 AM EDT

The Camera Table Dolly is a high-tech skateboard adapted for shooting digital video with a DSLR. A cleverly designed variation on an adolescent’s street speeder, the Table Dolly solves one of the biggest problems facing HD video shooters: picture jiggle and bounce.

It is a frustrating problem that happens whenever I shoot videos of moving subjects. Not wanting to pan the shot from where I am standing as the subjects begin to move out of the frame, I try to follow along side of them. Invariably, despite moving as slowly and carefully as possible, there will be some small misstep and the subjects will bounce up and down violently in the frame, ruining the shot.
This kind of shot, photographing a scene or an action by moving the camera parallel to it, is known as a “dolly" or tracking shot. It is as old as cinema itself, first used by Italian director Giovanni Pastrone in his 1914 silent film, “Calabria.”

Pastrone realized that it was awkward if not impossible to pick up a hand cranked movie camera and carry it around to get the kind of shot he wanted. To solve the problem he came up with the idea of mounting the camera on its tripod on a railroad type wheeled handcart and laying down railroad tracks as a path for the shot. To this day, the tracking shot and its arrangement of track and dolly cart remains an integral part of filmmaking.
The Camera Table Dolly is a miniature of the big movie dollies and is built of industrial grade aluminum with two sets of rotating wheels to ensure smooth tracking shots. Mounting the camera on the Table Dolly’s adjustable friction arm and tightening the joints locks the camera into position.

When using heavy telephotos lenses, the friction arm can be removed and the camera mounted directly on the rolling base. If needed, you can add your own fluid ballhead to make both panning and tracking shots silky smooth.
The Camera Table Dolly costs $90 with free shipping and is available from Photojojo.

[Ed. note: What looks like the same product is available from Photography & Cinema, for similar pricing. The Photography & Cinema site also offers a number of optional accessories for customizing your dolly, including different arms, camera mounts, and "Swiss Rods" for additional accessory mounting options.]