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How to rig an EX1 to a Harley?


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#1 Matt Irwin

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 12:49 PM

Hey guys,

I'm starting a documentary in a week and a half that's very much a road picture, and I need a way to mount an EX1 to a Harley (motorcycle) for a key shot. In fact I'll probably need to rig to other moving vehicles as well.....

Anyone done a rig like this???

The requirements of the shot: camera facing backwards, about head-level with the rider (on a 32mm equiv-AOV), lens in front of the windscreen (so we see some of it in frame), smooth and vibration free on the rider & bike. I do not need to see the front half of the bike, but the ability to get slightly high on the face and see the tail of the bike would not hurt.

Th requirements of the rig:
needs to pack reasonably small as we are travelling in an RV, needs to be able to handle road wind at about 30mph, needs to absorb vibrations--- in a perfect world both rider and background scenery are glass-smooth but if the rider is at least smooth, then we're good.
The bike, as of now, will be free moving so the rig can't completely obstruct the riders FOV or unbalance the load too much.

Rigging to the top handle of the EX1 is out since it's so flimsy, so I'll be starting with a cheeseplate cage or something similar from Modern Studio parts.

My initial idea involved baby pin suction cups and maybe cardellinis to extension arms and magic arms, but I'm not sure if that will be solid enough. Do I need to start off the frame? Or create my own rig points?

I do no know exactly which model/year Harley this will be (if that matters), and I'm 99% sure the bike can not be destructively modified.

Any ideas help...
Thanks,
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#2 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 05:22 PM

Hi Matt,

Try Doggicam Systems in Burbank. They have a great little Rigging System kit that might be exactly what you need. http://www.doggicam.com/

Rigging to the frame of a Harley might be a little sketchy. The bowling-ball-in-a-washing-machine vibration could be an issue if it's one of the older models. Ask the guys at Doggicam what they recommend.

Good luck,

-Fran
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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 01:01 AM

I would second a call to doggicam. Motorcycles don't usually have surfaces that are large enough or flat enough for suction cups. I also wouldn't trust a rig as large as you would need based on suction cups.

What may work (depending on the type of bike) is this: a cardellini on each side of the fork with the pins pointing forward, grip arms going straight up from those, grip heads on top of the arms both grabbing pins welded onto 2 opposite edges of a cheese plate. Use a small suction cup with a pin low on the windscreen, short grip arm and a head grabbing another pin (one with a 3/8-16 on one end) bolted (sticking out the bottom of the front edge) to the cheese plate.

Just remember, when you are thinking about this, that if the rig comes loose you don't just destroy a camera, you probably cause your biker to crash.
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 04 September 2009 - 01:11 AM

I made a drawing. It's a profile so imagine 2 of most of this stuff (cardellini on the fork, long grip arm, etc)

I had a little lapse in memory and drew the short arm from the windscreen to one of the long arms. Better, I think, would be to go to a pin screwed through the cheeseplate (use a pin with a 3/8-16 threaded and a nut) and sticking out the bottom.
Posted Image
Posted Image

Edited by Chris Keth, 04 September 2009 - 01:14 AM.

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#5 Daniel Wallens

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 12:27 AM

I have done rigs like this. Most recently is one imaged below. However, there were a couple key differences:
-the camera was a larger film camera.
-the shot did not have to be 100% smooth, vibration free.
-it was on a bicycle, not a motorcycle.


Posted Image

Posted Image


One thing I will say: GET AN EXPERIENCED KEY/RIGGING GRIP IF YOU ATTEMPTING TO DO THIS WITHOUT A PROCESS TRAILER (ie, if the actor is operating the bike). Really, even if you are using a process trailer, they should be experienced, and really know what they are doing. If you don't get someone who knows what they are doing, there is the potential of them seriously injuring themselves and others around them, and also damaging a lot of expensive gear.

Now, yes, a doggicam system is definitely an option. It will be expensive, but it will undoubtedly come out great, and your on-set grip department won't have to do as much of the manual labor (the doggicam techs will be taking care of most of it). However, you can definitely do it with an experienced and knowledgeable rigger and/or key.
A few considerations: How fast the vehicle will be going. This may affect your rigging and safety issues (20mph affects the driver differently than 90mph). Moreover, this should really be done with a professional stunt driver. The balance and handling of the vehicle is completely thrown off by additional gear added to the system. Motorcycles are not originally made to have other heavy pieces of gear hanging off of them. Unless professionally altered (by a picture car company) the rig can be made dangerously unsafe. If the balance is thrown off, it's a recipe for disaster. Now, you may not be thinking "an EX1 and a cheeseplate isn't that heavy." But, you need it to be "smooth and vibration free." This will NOT happen with just a camera. You need a stabilized head of some sort, such as a Libra, Scorpio, or, at the very least, a vibration isolator. Otherwise, the frame will be jittering all over the place. These heads alone can be 50lbs or more, without the camera or lens system.

One thing I will add: Do NOT use cardellinis to secure your mount. Cardellinis are fine for holding a b-board, or for steadying or for holding something in place. They are NOT very good for "high-impact" applications and where a lot of vibration is involved. Go with graded bolts and nuts, speedrail starters, beam clamps, cheeseboros, etc. These provide a much securer hold than things like cardellinis or maffers.


-DW

Edited by Daniel Wallens, 06 September 2009 - 12:30 AM.

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#6 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 01:45 PM

I have done rigs like this. Most recently is one imaged below. However, there were a couple key differences:
-the camera was a larger film camera.
-the shot did not have to be 100% smooth, vibration free.
-it was on a bicycle, not a motorcycle.


Posted Image

Posted Image


this should really be done with a professional stunt driver.


-DW


Hi Daniel,

Even better: An experienced stunt rider. :)

Seriously, though, you make some very good points. I would add that the vibration isolators I've tried are utterly useless in a situation like this.

Honestly, the best way to solve this dilemma would be a camera car with a Filmotechnics "Russian Arm" and Mini Flight Head, but way too expensive, I'm sure. It might also be worth considering a smaller camera system like the Iconix for these rig shots.

-Fran
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#7 Matt Irwin

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 02:01 PM

Thank you Daniel and Chris!!

We will have an experienced rider for the mount shots, however the key shot in question requires the subject / talent to be riding on a flat, straight, open road for about 30 seconds of screen time. You make some very good points there regarding clamps and balance that we will be heeding. Because the shot requires the camera above the handlebars and slightly off from center, I want to affect the balance of the bike as little as possible in the interest of safety for the subject - which means using as little weight up high as possible.

Since this is a $100k documentary with limited resources in regards to crew and equipment, Doggicam and Scorpio etc are out of reach for this project. I'm also under certain space and weight restrictions for equipment since we will be flying, then driving, then flying, etc. without coming back to LA. That said, more of a "caveman" approach is needed and I understand that compromises are in order. If we get the occasional bump here or there, fine, but I am trying to avoid constant, aggressive vibration.

Say I start at four points- two on the fork and two on the handlebars- pipe clamps to extension arms to cheeseplate/camera. What sort of options do I have to reduce vibration? I know there are mounts that suspend a cheeseplate with bungies from the sides-- I'm wondering if there is something with less bulk? Or another option entirely?
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#8 Daniel Wallens

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 02:18 PM

Matt,
I'd be tempted to choose your "Or another option entirely?" Honestly, the rig depends on which particular model of motorcycle used, how/if it's been modified, etc. It is important to have your rigger take a look at the vehicle beforehand, during a scout, and make decisions based on what he/she sees. They can see what's exposed, the sizes and rigidity of the parts of the frame, etc. This is NOT a project to have decisions made over the internet. There are too many variables, and too many things that would be very difficult to describe. Helpful suggestions and hints in the right direction, yes. But a list of what and how to, no.

You can't connect to the handlebars, or the driver won't be able to steer/drive. At all.
You can't just use bungies to hold the camera, suspended from above, unless you want it bouncing around all over the place.

Fran's suggestion of Filmotechnic's gear is a different approach. The Russian Arm, or any other arm, be it Technocrane, Lenny, Shotmaker, or whatever, with any kind of stabilized head on it, will get the job done, but it will be a different shot. From what you describe, you want a rig that gets a shot that is one with the actor, that feels the bike's movements exactly as the driver makes them. A rig connected to the bike will do this; a separate arm and head, while it can stay close (get a damn good operator and driver) to the bike, will still not have that same close, "immediate" feeling and the same responsiveness than an attached rig (such as a doggicam or something you make yourself) will have.

Edited by Daniel Wallens, 06 September 2009 - 02:21 PM.

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#9 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 03:15 PM

Thank you Daniel and Chris!!

Since this is a $100k documentary with limited resources in regards to crew and equipment, Doggicam and Scorpio etc are out of reach for this project.


Hi Matt,

I think Doggicam rents that Rigging System kit, check with them. I seem to remember it was reasonably priced and I believe you can rent it without a Tech. It's just arms, connectors and clamps, comes in a smallish case for travel. If you can do a test before you hit the road it would probably answer a lot of questions. My gut feeling is any shot from a camera rigged to a Harley is going to be pretty shaky. The engine cadence on those v-twins creates a lot of vibration.

-Fran
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#10 Sanjay Sami

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 01:11 PM

This is the rig I use. That is a 235 camera with a 200 foot load. No shake. For a Yamaha commercial.

Sanjay Sami
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www.thegripworks.com
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#11 Sanjay Sami

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 01:21 PM

Was going to post a few more pictures, but it will not allow me to get any more. Basically , we can get any position you might need, and it is very solid.

Sanjay Sami
Key Grip
www.thegripworks.com
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#12 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 09:35 PM

Does the bike have to turn? How wide is the shot? Since the camera is leading the bike, how about you rent a tow-dolly at the local u-haul and build from there?
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#13 Sanjay Sami

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 11:53 PM

how about you rent a tow-dolly at the local u-haul and build from there?


Towing is a simple, easy solution. However, the subtle horizon shifts, even when going straight, and massive horizon shifts on turns are what sell the motorcycle part of the shot. IMHO towed motorcycles always look towed.

Sanjay Sami
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www.thegripworks.com
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#14 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 10:56 AM

Towing is a simple, easy solution. However, the subtle horizon shifts, even when going straight, and massive horizon shifts on turns are what sell the motorcycle part of the shot. IMHO towed motorcycles always look towed.

Sanjay Sami
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www.thegripworks.com


True, true.

On Indy IV, "they" (I guess it was us, but I didn't have anything to do with it) had a motorcycle tow rig that allows the bike to bank on the turn. Maybe Matt should give second unit Key Grip Alex Klabukov a call about that rig.

If you do settle for a straight tow, don't forget to let the air out of the tires!
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#15 Sherry Maggio

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 04:47 AM

This is exactly what i was looking for. thank you for the informative post and keep up the good work!
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#16 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 05:57 AM

This is the rig I use. That is a 235 camera with a 200 foot load. No shake. For a Yamaha commercial.

Sanjay Sami
Key Grip
www.thegripworks.com




Nice one Sanjay!
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#17 JD Hartman

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Posted 09 December 2009 - 05:12 PM

You can mount to both the handlebars and the forks, properly designed it should not interfere with turning. Only three hard point need to be used, as "Three points define a plane." in Geometry. Since you know it's a HD EX1, you should be able to mock-up the rig on a local bike. Photos or video of the actual machine should be able to convey and differences. I'd avoid anything that involves welding to an Aluminum cheeseplate, unless you can find a welder who will back up the quality of his fabrication with both a certification for the particular process and a liability policy.
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