Building a DIY slider: advices

Last week, I decided it was time for me to get back into my workshop and (finally) build a slider using my RigWheels. Right off the bat, I knew this was a prototype; the goal was to figure out the various pitfall of such a project so my next one would be perfect since I would have learned from my mistakes.

The materials

  • 4 sets for RigWheels
  • 8 foot long aluminium tube (1 inch diameter) cut in half
  • 2x 4 foot long wood stick
  • 2 small wood plank and 4 screws

The idea was simple: put the stick inside the tube so I could screw them to the wooden planks. I would then put a camera plate under each wood plank and attach these to a tripod. If I wanted to use the slider directly on the ground, I just had to put the slider upside down. Here is the result. DIY Slider

Comment on the design

My initial idea was to use the slider on the ground, without any tripods. The goal was to use it to shoot clips of my baby girl walking around the house so it had to be at ground level. It is also why I did not mind its ridiculous length: it would give me more room to follow her. For this, it worked perfectly. It stood flat on the ground and only needed a very light push to start sliding.

The mistakes

The problem started when I had the genius idea to use it on a tripod. Because of its length, it required two tripods. I knew a 4 foot long slider was too much but I thought it would be cool nevertheless so I went forward. Big mistake. Half that length would have been much easier to manage, move around and would have been soooo much more stable! Using two tripods also means that it was harder to level the slider and move it around. Moral of the story: never use a six legged slider if you ever plan to move your slider around!

The other issue I had was with the camera center of gravity. Since I was out of ballheads, I borrowed one from my friend. It pushed the camera up about 3 inches on top of the rails. With such a high center of gravity, it was hard to move the slider without generating any shake. If I pushed the slider while holding the camera, the sliding effect would be jerky because wheels would not carry the weight evenly and if I pushed the slider by the base, the camera ran the risk of wiggling.

My final issue had to do with my choice of rails (tube). I picked them too small. As you can see in the picture below, not all the wheels are touching the rails at the same time. Surprisingly, this is not that much of an issue regarding the smoothness of the slide, but it does affect the centre of gravity since the camera + head + carriage weight is not evenly distributed.

Next version

Of course there is going to be a next version! But this time I will do the following improvements:

  • Make the slider 24 inches long
  • Spread the rails further apart so I have enough room to put the camera between them to decrease the centre the gravity
  • Use a single tripod design
  • Have the rails about 1/4 inch wider
I will keep you updated once version 2 is out!

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...

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  • Terry

    Maybe an idea for the tube is to visit your local exhaust shop, they have offcuts in various lengths I’m sure they’d sell cheap and is mostly 2″ 2 1/4″ or 2 1/2″ in size. It’s slightly thicker so it’ll make less noise when the camera travels over top, could also get some aerosol pack fill from a hardware store and fill the tube with that, its light and will insulate against noise as well.

  • Drew

    Glad you posted this; I received my wheels very recently and getting ready to make a slider 3-4 feet long. Was also gonna do this very much on the fly and see how I went, but definitely got some tips from this post! Wouldnt a PVC pipe of bout 3″ diameter work better in terms of noise?

    • admin

      Noise was not much of an issue for me because I move the slider very slowly. 3” would work, but it would make the whole slider quite big, which would increase setup time. So it really depends of what you are expecting to use it for!