Shooting a drag race

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    • #37090

      Hi. I just started subscribing to the magazine and find lots of good help but not real specific to this niche.

      I run a drag racing series for Corvettes and video time the races and put them on the internet for racers and all to view. I was hoping I can get some tips on things like best angle and maybe use of manual setting to enhance the video. At the end of the season I put a bunch on DVD and give to the racers at our annual banquet.

      The site for the videos is

      This first one is an example where I stop back at the end of the track and tried to get the cars coming at me. I had to use a lot of zoom and was kind of jerky zooming back.
      Video 1

      Here is an example where I stand beside them and zoom to the finish line
      Video 2

      Finally here is an example where I shoot them from mid track and use a lot less zoom
      Video 3

    • #164421

      Howdy, and welcome to the forums. It’s not always the fastest answer in town, but the answers are usually pretty good.

      If I were to critique the videos you offered, here’s what I might suggest:

      Video 1: The very first frame and the very last frame were both pretty good, but in between got a little rough. My primary improvement tip is that your videos will look better if you lead your subject. What I mean is, right as soon as they started moving, the front of the cars were almost to the left edge of the frame, and there was a mile of empty space behind them, on the right. Keep your camera a little ahead of the cars, so that the empty space is in front. It will really make it look better.

      Second, you might want to practice your zooming. You did really well for the most part, but there were bits where the zoom "jerked" wide quite quickly, and this distracted me from those very pretty cars. Remember, the best type of video is the one where people forget they’re watching a video at all.

      Video 2: Overall, not bad at all, but again, lead the cars a bit more. This wasn’t as bad as the first video, but they were still more centered, and I think if you keep the rear end of the farthest back car almost touching the screen’s edge, you’ll be a lot happier with the finished product.

      Your zooming to follow the cars was great, but I really didn’t like the rapid zooming out at the end. I assume you wanted to get the times on video, but I would make this suggestion for next time. Follow the cars a little longer, and later on, edit the video with a transition to go from the close-up of the cars to the wide shot with the scores. It will keep your viewers’ from noticing the rapid zoom.

      Video 3: Your big red text area got in the way of the shot! If the car lines directly under where you typically put your text block, it might be wise to at least make it partially transparent, so people can still see the car.

      You did a fabulous job on leading these cars in your frame up until about 13 seconds, when they crept back up to the front. And there’s that infernal zoom out at the end again! πŸ˜€

      For all three videos, I would say the biggest thing you could do to improve your video quality would be to throw your current tripod into a big, toasty fire, and get something that’s a little more smooth. You really do seem to have a decent grasp on video for this sport, but I think that some of your bigger problems (jumpy footage, leading the cars in the frame) are resulting from a crappy tripod. Bogen/Manfrotto has a beautiful tripod head, the 503. It’s an awesome full fluid head. Note that the legs usually come seperate with this head. A nice head like this and a set of sticks will run you about $500 or more. If you don’t have that kind of cash, Bogen also has a simpler head, the 501, that’s not quite as nice as the 503, but still does a super job, and it’s a lot cheaper.

      I really hope that you weren’t offended, as that wasn’t my goal at all. Like I said, you have a lot of skill in this area already, and I just wanted to show you what I saw to help make your skill better. Overall, I liked your shots, and unless you can get down on the drag strip itself, I don’t see a way to get too much better angles than what you used. Keep up the good work, and if you want it, I’m happy to offer a beat-down, er, I mean advice, anytime! X-D

    • #164422

      Thank you very much for the input Jim. I am not offended at all. In fact I wanted this type of feedback. I have been shooting this type of video for several years so I am glad I am almost there with it.

      I understand whole heartedly the jerky motion and zoom. Most of the video is shot free hand but some with a mono pod which is not good at all. I am concerned with purchasing a good tripod and head and then still not getting the smoothest shots. I wish I could try before I buy. I wish I could find a local owner that would let me try it before a buy. $500 would be too steep as I do not sell this video it is voluteer work and I race in the series too so I shoot the video when I get eliminated from competition.

      The quick zoom back to get the times on the board (you were right) is important for this type of video as viewers always want to see what the car ran. Unfortunately if I follow the cars and come back I will lose the times on the boards as they are only up there for a second or two.

      I really do appreciate you taking the time to provide the feedback.

      I welcome any other feedback.

    • #164423

      Oh I forget to mention, I had not realized that the text was blocking the cars. I do so many of these I usually process and move on so I will watch that more closely

    • #164424

      I used to shoot drags with still cameras until a blower explosion caused the car to dissentigrate while coming directly toward me. When I shot a race with video, I chose to shoot from close to the start line. ( self preservation!) This angle allows you start with a wide shot of the two cars, then follow with a continuous and steady zoom until the timing towers are framed left and right. The viewer will get to see the cars close up at the start line, so don’t try to stay too tight on the cars at the finish- the times are more important.
      I have a couple of drag shots on my web site, but is for a burnout video. You will see my angle at the start line. I wasn’t shooting for any timing for these.

      Keith Breazeal/Flight Video Magazine

    • #164425

      Thanks for the input Keith

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