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Shooting Video from a Moving Vehicle

Jennifer demonstrates the different ways to shoot video from a moving vehicle.

Video Transcript

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Hi, I’m Jennifer O’Rourke. On today’s tips and tricks, we’re gonna show you how to shoot from a moving vehicle.

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Depending on the vehicle at your disposal, and whether you’re working solo or have a driver, there are different ways to achieve your shot. Let’s talk about the type of vehicles first.

The typical transport you’d most likely use would be the family car or truck. Larger vehicles like vans, SUVs and luxury trucks or luxury cars usually have better shock absorption than compact cars or some sports cars.

The props and gear you need to shoot might include newspaper, rubbing alcohol, camera, tripod, bean bag, sand bags, bungee cords, a vehicle and a driver.

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There are three different ways you might position your camera – shooting through a windshield, an open window or door, or au naturale from a convertible, sunroof or the back of a truck.

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Shooting through a windshield is the easiest to set up, but usually not the most effective, as you need to constantly watch for dirt, bugs and sunspots on the window. Sometimes, a scene calls for a point of view, or POV, that really is shot through a windshield or a straight driving shot, so here’s a tip. After you’ve cleaned the window, clean the window again using rubbing alcohol, not window cleaner, as it is less streaky and use newspaper instead of a towel to wipe it down. A small bean bag on the dashboard will help support the camera and lessen some of the bumps. If your POV is supposed to simulate a through a windshield shot, try to include portions of the window’s edge in a shot or two for reference.

When shooting through an open side window, shooting at about the 2:00 position, then you see your subject or scenery as it approaches and your audience is happy. However, breaking the rules, if you’re looking for a good road trip type blur, shoot a straight angle right at an orchard or a cornfield.

Although I’ve done a lot of shooting using black beauty here, my favorite vehicle to shoot from is the old-fashioned family van.

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A uniquely cool feature in a van is the sliding door. An open door gives you so much more options to frame your shot than an open window. You have a wide open palette to follow a subject that is on a bike, another vehicle or walking.

One technique you see a lot will have the shot approach the subject from behind, pace him for a while, then pass him up, allowing a natural transition to take another angle. That other shot might be from in front of the subject as he follows the van. If you’re shooting handheld, sit cross-legged as far back as you can comfortably sit without falling out and cradle the camera in your lap or a bean bag works as a cushioning agent. Fluff it up so the camera is tilted up a bit to reveal more scenery and less road.

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If you don’t have a driver, you need to find a different approach. Shooting with a tripod can seem cumbersome, but if you’re going solo, you need to support that camera somehow. This is where creative strapping and setup comes in. When setting up a car seat, before you place the camera on the tripod, set one leg of the tripod on the floorboard and the other two legs towards the rear of the seat. Then, stretch the bungee cord around the center spreader, if your tripod has one, or around the back two legs, then around the bottom of the seat. Keep the tripod as low as possible, then level your tripod head. It may take some finessing, but it’s easier to level the head than trying to level the legs.

Whichever way you set your shot, shoot as wide as you can without getting the edges of windows, doors or other portions of the vehicle in the shot. Shoot wide. A wider angle will reveal a lot less shake than a zoomed in shot. Check out the location you’re planning to shoot at different times of the day. You might need to travel north to south in the late afternoon and find you’re shooting right into the sun.

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A small cover of tin foil over the top of the camera shading the lens will help cut some glare. If you have the budget, you might look at a camera mount. There are several types on the market today from the vice-like mounts used in Hollywood to the Davis and Sanford Steady Stick and Sticky Pod. We’ve done a few stories on these devices. You’ll find a link at the end of this show.

Finally, speed does matter. Remember, you’re never gonna use the shot right when you first take off and right when you stop because you’re gonna get a little bit of bobbling of the camera. And also, you want to shoot about 35 miles per hour. Anything slower, and you’re gonna have the car shifting; anything faster, and you’re gonna have too much of a blur.

So, there you go. That’s your tips and tricks for shooting and driving. I’m Jennifer O’Rourke for Video Maker.

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For more details, take a look at these articles using this DVD on your computer.

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