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#1 Greg Gross

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 12:32 PM

I was looking through the new edition of "Cinematography" by Kris Malkiewicz
and M. David Mullen ASC. Saw a photo of a great looking camera car based on
a Ford frame/body. I do have access to a ford truck which I could probably con-
vert to a camera car and I've been trained in the past to do welding. So far I've
done three of my own productions in DV and two detective/mystery productions
in DV for a production group. I will be shooting in 16mm this fall. I write my own
scripts and produce them(usually romantic comedy) and they contain a lot of sc-
enes shot on the open street here in my city. My two main characters will be wal-
king down the street a lot of the time, having discussions. There will be a lot of
city storefronts in most of these scenes. We have an independent cinema in my
city and my productions are shown there. I like to include local storefronts and
locations in my productions, the idea being that the viewer will see local locations
and identify with them. I'm wondering if the camera car could be more efficient
to use in the city than a dolly and tracks for a tracking camera shot. One thing
I'm looking at here is that I have a small crew to work with that has been train-
ed by me. They are all dedicated aspiring filmmakers. I want to put myself in
the fall production, I'll be standing behind a hot dog cart handing a beautiful lo-
cal blonde a hot dog(no dialogue). I'll be wearing a white hat. The production is
a romantic comedy and the blonde is the leading lady. I have used a dolly and
tracks only twice in my productions, have used the camera a lot on my shoulder.
I know we have a lot of experienced professionals here on the forum and I would
really appreciate your comments on Camera Car VS. Dolly and Tracks.

Greg Gross
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 12:56 PM

The trouble with using a car to shoot a moving dialogue shot of people walking & talking is that you're limited to the roadway plus you have engine noise to deal with, so it's not really a good substitute for dolly & track or a Steadicam except for some wider side-angle where sound is not critical or where you need to follow someone running. It would be good for moving shots through a city, but you could do a lot of those from an ordinary pick-up truck.

One angle that camera cars get you is looking straight ahead due to the platform in front, which is hard to get from ordinary vehicles. But you better know a lot about welding and cars to safely mount a front platform, plus I don't know what special permits you need to drive such a vehicle.

Also, real camera cars have crystal-sync generators for powering lights, usually to light a vehicle being towed, sometimes on a trailer. Plus they allow the crew to sit on the camera car (director, sound recordist, script supervisor) and not have to squeeze into the picture car being towed, especially if there is more than one actor in the car.

Mainly it's the fact that a camera car has a generator that makes them so useful for car scenes, because most other methods of powering lights (i.e. inverters or battery belts) are problematic and unreliable.
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#3 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 12:17 AM

I was looking through the new edition of "Cinematography" by Kris Malkiewicz
and M. David Mullen ASC. Saw a photo of a great looking camera car based on
a Ford frame/body. I do have access to a ford truck which I could probably con-
vert to a camera car and I've been trained in the past to do welding. ... I would
really appreciate your comments on Camera Car VS. Dolly and Tracks.
Greg Gross

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I'd say building your own camera car is one of those technical "dead-ends" that would take away from what you actually want to do, which is make a film. It would sort of be like dragging a steamship over a mountain so you could produce an opera.

Besides the engine noise, it's really tough to be smooth and hit marks w/ a pickup truck. An alternative to laying down tons of track for long walk and talks is to get a doorway or western dolly and use the Chapman Motion Isolator head. It helps to pick a smooth stretch of pavement; but you can always fill in the potholes yourself. I'm sure your city won't mind!

(Of course, I may be lying; I am posting anonymously. :o )

Edited by J-Ro, 05 August 2005 - 12:19 AM.

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#4 Greg Gross

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 12:19 AM

Thank you David,

I'm afraid I had a case of tunnel vision concerning the camera car. I'm sure
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would require special permits along with
the city of Harrisburg. If my budget allows I'm going to try to go with a stead-
icam operator. I trust your advice for proper/better technique to shoot the sc-
enes. We will start shooting in October and I'm just afraid I won't be that pro-
ficient yet to operate a 16mm camera. If the budget won't allow I'll have to
shape up fast. I'm absolutely sure that I would do better with tracking/dolly
shots. We have two scenes we would like to do with the couple in a car. We
would be moving slowly in the city and I think we could shoot from the back of
our truck. We have a paralegal that takes care of permits that are involved and
it helps that we have shot in the city before and have a good reputation for be-
ing on time with our restraints. I'm just afraid the camera car would open a whole
other ball of wax. Maybe in the future on another production with action shots. I
like the new edition of "Cinematography" and it has a lot of valuable information
within its pages. Thank you David for pulling me away from my tunnel vision.

Greg Gross
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#5 Greg Gross

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 12:29 AM

Thanks also J-Ro,

I'll check on the Chapman Motion Isolator, maybe I can get it out of Phila-
delphia. You can slide on not signing with your name.
Can you e-mail me your autograph?
I actually had been wondering if engine noise would be a problem.

Greg Gross
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#6 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 12:49 AM

We have two scenes we would like to do with the couple in a car. We
would be moving slowly in the city and I think we could shoot from the back of
our truck.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Does that book cover car rigs, and hostess trays and hood mounts? It doesn't matter how slowly you're moving, you'll be into some kind of tow or car rig. Towing a car is a BIG DEAL; if you're crew is small and inexperienced, and the budget is too small to get more, and more experienced people, I would strongly recommend against doing a tow rig. Hood mounts are pretty cheap to rent, and you need only one skilled grip to work it safely, same can be said about the side-mounts.

As far as the motion isolator goes, keep in mind that it has a mitchell mount (flat, as oppossed to a ball mount) on both top and bottom. If all you've got is sachtler legs w/ a ball head, you'll have to get a set of mitchell sticks, as well as the all important and often overlooked mitchell to ball adapter.

Good luck, don't kill anyone!

J

Edited by J-Ro, 05 August 2005 - 12:51 AM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 02:57 AM

Does that book cover car rigs, and hostess trays and hood mounts?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I mention them and have photos of what the rigs look like, but I didn't go into a step-by-step detail about how they are done.
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#8 Greg Gross

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 11:35 AM

Thanks J-Ro,

I put a call out to Philadelphia this a.m. to get advice. The guy I needed to talk
to was not there. The guy I talked to suggested mounting camera on the car. I
am expecting a call today. Thanks much for your advice. I have no experience
with car scenes and at 57 yrs old I don't have a lot of years to learn. I'm afraid
I'm learning the hard way but I won't forget what I learn. The rest of the pro-
duction is being shot using techniques that I am familiar with. I got on this cam-
era car kick by seeing a photograph of a crew in N.Y.C. using camera car and a
jib. I think this was probably used for some wider shots as David Mullen had sug-
gested in his post. I appreciate all of your posts,comments. One of my step dau-
ghters has my copy of "Cinematography" right now so I can't refer too much on
details of camera car listed. If you ever come across the publication you might
want to take a peak at it. I believe its a Ford and it appears to be quite a vehicle.
I'm sure Mr. Mullen is very familiar with it. I respect the publication as a valid
source of information and it has integrity. The other one I keep near me is "Am-
erican Cinematographer Manual",the step daughters do not get this one out of
my hands. I had wondered if the use of the camera car would be more efficient
and time saving. I'm afraid I failed to think of alternative methods. I had a true
case of tunnel vision. Thanks again to all.


Greg Gross
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 05 August 2005 - 03:42 PM

Hi,

I had a car scene in something I'm shooting Monday/Tuesday, and we originally intended to back project it. Unfortunately, we don't have access to a studio we can drive into, and it doesn't get dark early enough to do it outside at the moment, so we actually moved the whole scene to an airport departure lounge. The digital set extension is actually easier than a car rig...

Phil
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Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

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Tai Audio