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Road Trip Film - Advice for filming in a car?

car rig car mount advice blackmagic BMMCC road trip

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#1 Dante Velasquez

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 05:41 PM

Hi all!

 

I’m DPing a short road trip film next year that takes primarily in a car in the desert. I have some experience shooting in a car before, but would love any advice, input, or words of wisdom that you all may have in regards to doing it right and/or better. Moreover, if any of you have any car scenes from any film or show in mind, I’d love to hear them so I can study them as a reference.

 

This is a low budget indie short film, so any advice on car rigging on a budget is much appreciated. I’m primarily looking at the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera as our main camera as it can easily mount to the hood and doors with a standard suction mount, and it's small enough to mount inside the car for various creative angles. 

 

In conclusion, I would just love to hear about your experiences shooting in a car, rigging cameras inside/outside a car, and any wisdom you might’ve learned through the process that you wouldn’t mind sharing. Thank you all in advance!

 

All the best,

Dante 


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#2 Samuel Berger

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 05:44 PM

 

Hi all!

 

I’m DPing a short road trip film next year that takes primarily in a car in the desert. I have some experience shooting in a car before, but would love any advice, input, or words of wisdom that you all may have in regards to doing it right and/or better. Moreover, if any of you have any car scenes from any film or show in mind, I’d love to hear them so I can study them as a reference.

 

This is a low budget indie short film, so any advice on car rigging on a budget is much appreciated. I’m primarily looking at the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera as our main camera as it can easily mount to the hood and doors with a standard suction mount, and it's small enough to mount inside the car for various creative angles. 

 

In conclusion, I would just love to hear about your experiences shooting in a car, rigging cameras inside/outside a car, and any wisdom you might’ve learned through the process that you wouldn’t mind sharing. Thank you all in advance!

 

All the best,

 

Dante 

 

Dante,

If there's no dialogue, you should consider Super 8 for your project. You can buy several "crash" cameras on eBay and do all sorts of wild things with them, and still process and scan the film at Cinelab, for a fraction of what you'd spend on a Blackmagic camera.

It would definitely help your film stand out.

 

Check this out:

 


Edited by Samuel Berger, 04 December 2017 - 05:46 PM.

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#3 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 06:08 PM

Dante,

If there's no dialogue, you should consider Super 8 for your project. You can buy several "crash" cameras on eBay and do all sorts of wild things with them, and still process and scan the film at Cinelab, for a fraction of what you'd spend on a Blackmagic camera.

It would definitely help your film stand out.

 

 

 

A BM micro cinema camera is about $1000. That's equivalent to the cost of buying and processing 20 rolls rolls of Super 8. With a run time of just 2.5 minutes, 20 rolls gives you 50 minutes of footage. Not a lot, when you consider what you can fit on just one SD card

 

Super 8 may have many attractive qualities, but being cheap is not one of them.


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#4 Samuel Berger

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 06:28 PM

A BM micro cinema camera is about $1000. That's equivalent to the cost of buying and processing 20 rolls rolls of Super 8. With a run time of just 2.5 minutes, 20 rolls gives you 50 minutes of footage. Not a lot, when you consider what you can fit on just one SD card

 

Super 8 may have many attractive qualities, but being cheap is not one of them.

 

Stuart, Dante says he's making a short. And he wants to mount his camera outside his car, etc. I think 50 minutes isn't bad at all. Who knows what his vision is? I was simply suggesting there are other options out there, that he may not have previously considered.

 

Does that Micro come with lenses? Isn't it worse to risk a thousand dollar camera than a $20 camera from eBay? Many ideas to consider...you can TAPE an old camera to the roof of your car. I've done it.


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#5 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 06:36 PM

 

Stuart, Dante says he's making a short. And he wants to mount his camera outside his car, etc. I think 50 minutes isn't bad at all. Who knows what his vision is? I was simply suggesting there are other options out there, that he may not have previously considered.

 

Does that Micro come with lenses? Isn't it worse to risk a thousand dollar camera than a $20 camera from eBay? Many ideas to consider...you can TAPE an old camera to the roof of your car. I've done it.

One of the things you notice when shooting car material is just how much wasted footage there is. Rolling the cameras and just getting moving can take 20 or 30 seconds. Pulling over and cutting can take the same. When you only have 2.5 minutes on a roll, that's a HUGE amount of wastage. Super 8 is just not a practical solution.


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#6 Samuel Berger

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 06:45 PM

One of the things you notice when shooting car material is just how much wasted footage there is. Rolling the cameras and just getting moving can take 20 or 30 seconds. Pulling over and cutting can take the same. When you only have 2.5 minutes on a roll, that's a HUGE amount of wastage. Super 8 is just not a practical solution.

 

I should shoot a car trip short on Super 8 just so I can pull it out when I encounter posts like this. ;-)

 

But really, do you really think this wasn't done for DECADES before digital video came along? I know you have a ton of film experience but I think that if digital has become your go-to tool, it might be good to remember there are positive aspects to film, even Super 8. I hear a lot that if you give a man a hammer, all his problems start looking like nails.

 

I remember reading about car camera rigs for Super 8 on CINEMAGIC magazine (you're probably too young to have read it) and wondering why they didn't just use tape like I did. Although there was one incident of some teenager filming by sitting on the car window as it ran and he fell under the wheel and died and for some reason I always think of that...but that's a tangent..


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#7 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 07:00 PM

 

I should shoot a car trip short on Super 8 just so I can pull it out when I encounter posts like this. ;-)

I never said it was impossible, just impractical and expensive.

 

 

 

But really, do you really think this wasn't done for DECADES before digital video came along? 

It was done with cameras that could be remotely triggered, and that carried more than 2.5 minutes of stock.

 

 

 

I hear a lot that if you give a man a hammer, all his problems start looking like nails.

Says the man who recommends shooting with Super 8 to just about everyone who asks for advice.


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#8 Samuel Berger

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 07:07 PM

I never said it was impossible, just impractical and expensive.

 

It was done with cameras that could be remotely triggered, and that carried more than 2.5 minutes of stock.

 

Says the man who recommends shooting with Super 8 to just about everyone who asks for advice.

Film, not exclusively super 8. ;-)

 

My Canon 814 XLS allows me to start the camera with a self-timer that can be set to either 10 or 20 seconds. A number of cameras take shutter release cables or remote controls.

One does not need to become an expert on Super 8 to shoot said film.

 

It's not likely he will choose film but I did think it was worth bringing up.


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#9 Tristan Noelle

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 08:02 PM

Windshield reflections in the daytime will be tricky. Use a polarizer filter to control them, of course, but even when set to max there's only so much they can do. The reflections can look very natural and cool, but if you need to shoot an extended dialogue scene through the windshield, it may feel wrong if you can't see the actors completely clearly. The other way around reflections is to mount a 6x6 solid or 4x4 black floppy flat above the windshield, but that will obviously take more rigging time, equipment and know how. Do a quick test with a polarizer and see if it accomplishes what you need.

Also, in addition to the suction mount for the camera, it's a good idea to have a few with baby pins mounted on them and some C-stand arms and heads. The top of the camera needs to be stabilized for a steadier image. Here's a picture of the additional top stabilizer arm.

13561948_258435947852021_1730110536_n.jp

That picture was taken before I used some trick line to safety the camera. Also tape your focus and f-stop on the lens so they don' go awry.

Best of luck on the project.

Tristan
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 08:13 PM

Sugarland Express has some of the best camera coverage for car dialogue scenes so check it out.
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#11 Dante Velasquez

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 06:38 PM

Dante,

If there's no dialogue, you should consider Super 8 for your project. You can buy several "crash" cameras on eBay and do all sorts of wild things with them, and still process and scan the film at Cinelab, for a fraction of what you'd spend on a Blackmagic camera.

It would definitely help your film stand out.

 

Check this out:

 

I would LOVE to shoot film, but I have not yet done it before and want to save that first experience for something shorter and less risky haha. 


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#12 Dante Velasquez

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 06:43 PM

One of the things you notice when shooting car material is just how much wasted footage there is. Rolling the cameras and just getting moving can take 20 or 30 seconds. Pulling over and cutting can take the same. When you only have 2.5 minutes on a roll, that's a HUGE amount of wastage. Super 8 is just not a practical solution.

Definitely something to consider, thank you! It's for this reason exactly why I'm thinking of shooting ProRes instead of RAW too. 

 

Windshield reflections in the daytime will be tricky. Use a polarizer filter to control them, of course, but even when set to max there's only so much they can do. The reflections can look very natural and cool, but if you need to shoot an extended dialogue scene through the windshield, it may feel wrong if you can't see the actors completely clearly. The other way around reflections is to mount a 6x6 solid or 4x4 black floppy flat above the windshield, but that will obviously take more rigging time, equipment and know how. Do a quick test with a polarizer and see if it accomplishes what you need.

Also, in addition to the suction mount for the camera, it's a good idea to have a few with baby pins mounted on them and some C-stand arms and heads. The top of the camera needs to be stabilized for a steadier image. Here's a picture of the additional top stabilizer arm.

13561948_258435947852021_1730110536_n.jp

That picture was taken before I used some trick line to safety the camera. Also tape your focus and f-stop on the lens so they don' go awry.

Best of luck on the project.

Tristan

Tristan - thank you! I was definitely going to use a polarizer, and will definitely consider mounting a board or floppy above the windshield. And thank you for the photo of your mount - very helpful! 


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#13 Dante Velasquez

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 06:45 PM

Sugarland Express has some of the best camera coverage for car dialogue scenes so check it out.

Awesome! I'll check it out - thank you David!


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#14 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 01:21 AM

 

 will definitely consider mounting a board or floppy above the windshield. And thank you for the photo of your mount - very helpful! 

Rigging solids over the windshield works fine when the car is not moving. When it is moving, the solid is likely to get torn away from the car by the headwind, even at fairly low speeds. If it's firmly secured, you might be ok at <20mph, but if you're planning on driving at normal road speeds, it will be a problem.

 

Speaking of driving  on normal roads, any rigging you do to the exterior of a car needs to be extremely safe, and the more of it there is, the more likely you are to attract the attention of law enforcement.


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