Tutorial: Your Car is (Still) Your Best Friend for Capturing Smooth Tracking Shots
Forget using expensive dolly tracks or handheld gimbals to pull off beautiful camera moves. You've got a car, right?
Admittedly, using cars to get these shots is kind of an old school technique that indie filmmakers have been using for a long time, especially before handheld 3-axis gimbals came along. (In fact, you can get some amazing shots using a car and a gimbal in tandem.) But since gimbals are becoming more ubiquitous (though still spendy), it seems like now's as good a time as any to remember one cinematic tool that you might've forgotten -- or hell, maybe you never knew!
So, if you own a car, or at least know someone who will lend you theirs for the sake of filmmaking, you can use it to capture high angles, creative special effects, and (of course) smooth tracking shots. Vimeo Video School offers up a few tips on how to approach these techniques using your ride.
Again, this is a pretty old school trick, but it's important to remember that, no, not everybody can afford a gimbal or dolly track and, no, not everybody has time to shop for, set up, and tear down cheap DIY dolly track.
Using something that you most likely have access to, a car, is a no-brainer for most no-budget filmmakers -- especially the ones who are just starting out and literally only have a camera, a tripod (maybe), and a dream.
Now that we've gotten the vetting out of the way, here are some things you might want to keep in mind when you decide to use your car as a cinematographic tool.
Your car ain't no stabilizer
Remember, though your car may absorb some of the shock from driving over bumps and divots in the road, your camera is still going to be a little shaky (especially if you're zoomed in), so you're gonna want to find something to stabilize your shot. A bag o' rice, a tripod, or even a sweatshirt can help in a big way.
Your audio will most likely be horrible
Like the video says, your "dolly" has a loud roaring engine, so audio recorded anywhere near it is just not going to be useable. However, there are a few options you can try:
- Record ADR (dub it in post)
- Use a boom
- Stick your car in neutral, turn of the engine, and push that ol' gal
Don't be a dummy. BE SAFE!
I feel like I shouldn't have to say this but -- I have to say this. Please use common sense while operating a motor vehicle during filming. Art is awesome and making it is super duper, but damn -- life and living are also those things. Keep your cast, crew, yourself, and everyone around you safe.
Do you have any tips on how to utilize a car in your cinematography? Let us know in the comments below!