One of the most feasible solutions to make a certain car action sequence more exciting and appealing to your audience (assuming that you don’t have access to a multimillion budget, fancy VFX studio or the most expensive high-end cinema gear) is to get as many camera angles, both inside and outside of the car, as you possibly can. The more coverage you have, the more dynamic and versatile the final edit will be and the more overall production value you will add to your videos.
However, getting some unconventional camera angles while shooting a fast-moving car can be a challenging and quite risky task. So, what are some of the best practices while shooting these type of sequences? Well, there isn’t a simple and straightforward answer to this question (besides having a really large budget), yet there certainly are some useful tips and tricks you can utilise to get the job done better, faster and safer.
In another excellent video produced by Film Riot Andrew Kramer gives his insights on shooting car sequence for one of his latest short films.
Obviously, there is one mandatory requirement that you have to consider in all instances no matter what. These are the safety measures you should take in advance to secure your crew and your equipment. Don’t understate your equipment’s insurance. Only for a few additional dollars, you can, at least, have the peace of mind knowing that the possible damages will be covered if something unforeseen happens.
Furthermore, taking advantage of the small footprint of your favourite mirrorless camera or a GoPro setup will significantly help you to get these extreme action shots. You can simply use a tripod head attached on a Suction Cup Rig so that you can easily mount your Sony A7s or Panasonic GH4 and set the desired angle while filming.
Using CineSaddle tied up to your car is another common solution. This unique camera support tool provides a stable base for a wide variety of shots with a fast and easy setup. CineSaddle can be used as a replacement for a tripod or fluid head or mount and can be attached to any static or moving object.
You can get one for around $100-350 depending on the size of the camera that you want to mount on it. Again, taking special precautions and securing both the mounting system and the camera is mandatory.
Surprisingly enough, Andrew Kramer wasn’t impressed by the dynamics of the shots he got using the CineSaddle mounted on the front of the car as the camera was too high above the ground. So instead, the team ended up using tripod adjustable arm mounted underneath the vehicle which finally help them to achieve “the fast look” they initially have been looking for.
The other tool filmmakersused for this particular car sequence was a MoVi M5 gimbal. However the extra stability the 3-axis stabiliser provides made the exterior shots too static, so, in the end, the team decided to add some camera shake in post-production just to liven up the footage and make it look more dynamic and exciting.
Another problem in this shooting scenario might be the reflections of the rig on the car that you are filming. This is a common problem that many unexperienced filmmakers stumble upon. Generally, these unintended reflections are spotted long after the filming is wrapped up. One of the solutions is to shoot at diagonal angles utilising longer focal lengths and from a “safer” distance.
Ultimately, if you want to succeed in getting the most exacting car shots for your production always plan carefully your sequence long before you start filming, take some extra precautions to secure your team and your equipment and don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles and focal lengths.
Having enough material and extra angles will guarantee you success later in post, thus making you scenes look more engaging and immersive. With the right pacing and the use of various cutaways, closeups and inserts you can make the action seem faster and eventually get the look and feel you want.