How to build a low-budget DIY camera cart from a $100 tool cart

Tips & Techniques

Camera carts are wonderful things when working in the studio or at certain locations. That is to say, locations with a lot of flat ground that small wheels work on. Proper studio carts, however, can be expensive.

There are plenty of roller carts out there for other purposes, that are much less expensive and can be adapted. In this video, Chung Dha shows us an inexpensive $100 cart and how he modifies it for his needs.

The Pros – It’s cheap and holds a lot

The cart Chung Dha uses as the base for his studio cart is a $100 Olympus Tools 85-188 (buy here) with a total load capacity of 150lbs (50lbs per shelf). The best thing about this cart, as opposed to most other carts, is that it’s a folding cart, making it easy to transport and store when not being used to haul gear around.

He lined the shelves with an inexpensive felt giant mouse mat (buy here) that he cut to fit around its outline. Of course, it also features the obligatory cup holder (buy here), and the top shelf is large enough to handle a Pelican 1510 (buy here) opened up for easy access.

Also attached to the cart is the Tough Gaff (buy here) gaffer tape roll holder, and it also carries the DIY camera saddle he showed us how to make in a previous video. Cable Cuffs (buy here) let him attach more rolls of tape, along with T markers (buy here) for when he needs to give subjects their mark.

The cons – Nothing’s perfect!

The cart is inexpensive and it’s mostly designed for helping you shift tools around a garage or workshop – not dragging a ton of gear from your vehicle to a shooting location. Of course, it’s mostly plastic. So, it’s not super stable.

It doesn’t look like it’ll fall apart at any moment, but it does wobble a little, as Chung Dha demonstrates in the video. You could potentially take the time to modify it to add some cross-braces for increased rigidity, but if you’re going to go to that kind of effort, it might be worth looking at something just a little more expensive.

Chung Dha says that it also doesn’t roll very smoothly on outdoor surfaces due to to its small wheels. For outdoor use, even the “draging a ton of gear from your vehicle” thing a short distance can be quite challenging. Typically you want large wheels for this to get over the somewhat rough terrain.

Once it’s on-set, though, on carpet or smooth hard floors, it should move pretty well.

What else do you need?

Chung Dha’s cart is obviously designed for shooting at client locations. That’s what it being foldable and easily portable is a big deal. Your needs on location will be different than his and if you want to use it permanently in the studio, your needs will be different again.

Perhaps you might want to add a charging station in there, so that you can keep all your batteries topped up from a single spot. Or maybe you want to have dedicated spots for lighting accessories, like gels and cinefoil.

Perhaps you want to use the top as a portable desk with your laptop, SSDs and card readers to be able to quickly offload or backup photos and footage while still at the location.

There’s really no fixed list of things that you should have on your own cart or functions it needs to perform. You’ll need to adapt it and what it carries and does to suit your own needs at the time of use. I do like the idea of using giant mouse pads to line the shelves, though. I might have to steal that one!

What would you put in or on your cart? What’s vital for your shoots?

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