November 20, 2014 at 6:01AM

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How to Shoot a Car Scene from Back?

I am making a very low budget Short Film, I have a scene where two characters are going somewhere in the car, They are depressed and not talking to each other, but giving intense expressions. I have to record their expressions.

Now i cant afford to place the camera in the front and i have to sit on the back seat and record the video.

The problem is that all the videos, and tutorials i have watched are teaching the ways to place the camera in front of the car, and i am extremely confused on how to shoot this scene from backside.

Kindly suggest me any video link or idea to shoot the whole scene from backside.

Thanks

28 Comments

You're wanting to shoot the driver/passenger faces from the backseat? The only solution would be to shoot via the mirror, tilted to an angle for shooting rather than driving. However that would alter the tone of the shot - seeing people via a rear-view mirror often feels like a sinister or sneaky POV.

Film Riot have done a video on building a cheap DIY car mount that uses suction cups, but to be honest my immediate reaction is to try and come up with an alternative way of shooting this. Car shots are a pain and can also be dangerous if you're not careful (asking actors to act and drive at same time...) Is this really the best/only way of telling this bit of the story? Could it be done some other way?

November 21, 2014 at 7:41AM

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Jon Mills
Filmmaker
783

Shoot the scenes with French Overs. (over the shoulders from behind.) That's the easiest and cheapest way and if you can stabilize it, it's going to look really nice. Especially in context to the scene you're shooting as "French Overs" bring about a certain feeling of intimacy that wouldn't happen when shooting the front of your actors.

November 21, 2014 at 6:22PM

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Zachary Eglinton
Writer / Director
281

That's the way to do it. Will the characters look at each other, or will you shoot the sides of their faces.
If you shoot handheld, you can roll up a sound blanket into a football shape. Place it in your lap as a shock absorber.

Don't forget about lighting. If it's day time, try to find a street with lots of trees. That will vary the light on their faces as the car moves. You can get a similar effect at night driving on a street with lots of lights.

Charlie K

November 22, 2014 at 5:28PM

What I always hate about shots like that is the vertical bouncing of the camera as the car drives over bumps and imperfections in the road. A hand-held stabilizer won't compensate for this, and tilting or rolling motions aren't usually the problem. One work-around is to install a vertical rod between floor and ceiling (think expandable shower-curtain rod or closet rod), and clamp the camera to that.

Another thing you might try is chroma-keying the shots. It's simpler than you might think these days. If you can place the car in front a matte-green wall, you can key in the background later.

November 22, 2014 at 7:43PM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
581

It just occurs to me (and probably to others before) that it doesn't have to be a vertical rod. What about cutting a 2"x4" to fit between the windows of the back seat? Then you can mount the camera on that with a ballhead or something, or even just rest it on a beanbag.

Minor Mogul

November 22, 2014 at 7:46PM

It just occurs to me (and probably to others before) that it doesn't have to be a vertical rod. What about cutting a 2"x4" to fit between the windows of the back seat? Then you can mount the camera on the board with a ball-head or something, or even just hold it on a beanbag.

Minor Mogul

November 22, 2014 at 7:48PM

Clamp the camera to a vertical shower rod? You'd be better off clamping it to your nut sack. What a load of shit.

tilt rite

November 23, 2014 at 2:36AM

If you don't like bumps, you should shoot green screen. That generally looks like shit, though. Cars driving in real life have vibration. Maybe your show takes place in space with no vibration. What a load of shit.

tilt rite

November 23, 2014 at 2:46AM

Have a look at "Blood Simple" by the Coen Brothers - opening (?) scene. (I think it's their first film...) And if/when you do shoot from the back seat, remember that the audience can see out the windows and windshield, so you have to be careful to match the light and surrounding buildings. The Coens were wise to use a rainy night out in the middle of nowhere.

November 23, 2014 at 1:49AM

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Ages ago, I shot something like this from the back seat...

I took an exercise gizmo called a Twist & Turn (a lazy susan) and attached a board to it (nailed it to the center). On one end of the board I screwed a camera mount for my Bolex (told you it was ages ago) and the other end had an eye screw. Mounted the camera to the underside of the board, tied some fishing line to the eye screw. Sat in the back (with my Nagra) and we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge with the camera aimed at the two actors having a conversation, then I pulled on the fishing line so that the camera tracked around the outside of the moving car and shot through the back window for an over their shoulders shot. In moving traffic.

A friend of mine once tied me to the hood of his car with some old rope and game me a camera so that I could film a high speed car chase. Great shots at about fifty miles an hour... but I'm never doing that again.

November 23, 2014 at 1:49AM

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William C. Martell
Screenwriter
1

Don't ever do that again.

tilt rite

November 23, 2014 at 2:47AM

just a thought......I also was thinking of the mirror, but Jon has a good point about the sinister effect of that, but maybe you could use some of that with a couple of cameras positioned down at the knee areas look up at the faces. And for a two-shot you could shoot it stationary with just reactions and no dialogue .....would like to see the results you get on whatever you decide

November 23, 2014 at 1:51AM

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rickg55
148

Obviously, i understand that your intent and your object of emotion are in their faces (in front). I think the problem is not the technique. I mean if you definitely can´t place the camera in front of the actors in any way, i don´t see any problem in telling the scene from the other side of the car. If the camera must be in their backs, play with your actors with precise actions that in a way can show that precise emotion with its profiles, with the position of their backs: "She smoke, he cofs, she throws away the cigarette by the window..." Is it a long shot? And if you cut to delicate close-ups? It depends of course of your narrative.

Looking for "French Overs" like Jon Mills suggested, i found this interesting discussion of people having your same problem here... http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/484994-int...

And actually, your post remembers me of one of my favorite movies, which have a long shot with this exact style. Of course, the dramatic interaction is totally different but i think it´s a great reference... GUN CRAZY (Joseph L. Lewis, 1950) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IUU6w_zvMg

November 23, 2014 at 2:11AM

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Fernando Chaves
Writer / Director
74

Put the camera on your goddamn shoulder and sit in the back seat. If It's too high, rest it on an apple box or a "burrito" (furniture pad rolled up into a tootsie roll) and brace it as best you can. Choose a stretch of road that's not stricken with potholes or other irregularities. You'll be so close to the subject, that you'll generally end up on a wide lens that will help reduce the perceived vibration. Done.

November 23, 2014 at 2:42AM

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tilt rite
Camera Hobbyist
147

If you've got the angeneux short zooms 15-40 and 28-76 you're done. All you'll ever need for inside a car. Outside mounts you'll start to need the 45-120 for singles.

November 23, 2014 at 2:54AM

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tilt rite
Camera Hobbyist
147

I mounted my GH2 at 14 mm on the middle head rest of the back seat with a gorilla pod. Sound was recorded on a Zoom H1 placed by the gear stick. Footage was stabilized in post. I like how it turned out.

http://youtu.be/aGF6ai5ok_s?t=3m5s

November 23, 2014 at 3:16AM, Edited November 23, 3:16AM

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Too Wide. Shalom.

tilt rite

November 23, 2014 at 4:01AM

try shooting the driver's lines from the passenger seat and a french over for the passenger's. throw in a wide from the back and you have a real dynamic way of cutting between shots and still getting facial expressions

November 23, 2014 at 3:16AM

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Danny Fogarty
Filmmaker
21

I recommend a two-shot from the back seat and a pair of POVs for those critical facial expressions. You'll need a very wide angle lens, or else always be panning back and forth. If you cut it together with mostly the POVs, that should be okay. Good luck driving and shooting at the same time. I've done it and lived to tell the tale.

November 23, 2014 at 3:21AM

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Donald L. Denis
writer, director, cinematographer, editor; filmmaker
88

Panning on a super wide lens sucks. Wait till you're tight to do that.

tilt rite

November 23, 2014 at 4:03AM

Depending on the type of car you might be able to shoot some of the pov shots / facial expressions with the actors sitting on the back seat:
1: You sit on the back seat and film the whole scene.
Go back to starting point
2: You sit on the passenger seat and film the driver, go throught the whole scene again so you roughly have the same background at the same line / point of action.
Go back to starting point.
3: Now the passenger sits on the back seat behind the passenger seat and you sit behind the driver. Move the passenger seat as much to the front as possible, so it doesn’t show. You will still have to stick to close ups. Now go through the same scene again.
Good luck with editing this!

November 23, 2014 at 10:06AM

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Heiner Schaefer
Filmmaker at havelmond.film
1

Don't forget about the poor man's process. Google it, there are a ton of how-tos. This is a) safer, b) lets your actors focus on just acting, and c) lets you shoot from just about any angle you like.

November 23, 2014 at 11:32AM

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David S.
2958

actually, if they are depressed and not talking to eachother, it is better to shoot them from the back, as they are metaphorically showing their back to each other; you can alternate a 24 with a 35/50, for profile closeups and hands details; you can also shoot the driver from the passenger's seat, while the car is in motion (but also just a profile) and the passenger, when the car stops at a light or smth; i wouldn't use a hood rig for this, just, maybe a door rig; if you feel you need a wide shot, with both chars, take it when the car stops

November 23, 2014 at 11:37AM

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Here's a guy who built a PVC mount that goes between his windows in the back seat: http://youtu.be/JCnMeKgY2lk.

An old tripod and some luggage straps might be the solution. Notice how the camera doesn't bounce up and down as the car hits imperfections in the road: http://youtu.be/8vMLLSmlhrs.

(And thanks, Tilt Rite, for my best laugh of the day. "Better off clamping it to your nut sack." Ha! "ScroteCam". Of course, it only works in underslung mode.)

November 24, 2014 at 1:18AM

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Minor Mogul
Dilettante
581

There are a lot of great ideas suggested here. So I'll add mine.
GoPro.

November 24, 2014 at 3:23PM

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Chas nailed it, my first thought was GoPro 4K, as it was launched recently, and double sided tapes, put it anywhere in the car with appropriate lighting. The possible shots you are looking at is 1) Rear View Mirror - Bird's Eye View / CCTV View, 2) Middle of the Dashboard - Wide Angle, 3) In Front of both Actors on Dashboard - Medium Shots, 4) On the Steering - CU of the Driver Actor, 5) On the Glass of the Doors - Over The Shoulder (Face) Shots, 6) Behind the Gear Stick - You place the camera in such a way that when the gear gets to nuetral, the camera's view is blocked i.e blackout, you can use this to cut away to the next scene.
Give all the footage to a good editor and he / she will give you back your masterpiece, if the actors get the intended expressions :)

Cheers!

November 25, 2014 at 11:59AM

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Arun Meegada
Moviemaker in the Making
452

My only additional thought is: attach a mirror to the inside of the windshield. Frame the shot so you don't see the edges of the mirror. On different shots, move the mirror from side to side to get your two actors. But as others have said, if actors really get into a part, they are not doing good driving. It's like texting while driving, but times 10.

November 26, 2014 at 2:46PM

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A mark of a great actor is to strike a balance between fiction and reality, He / she should not only get into the character but also know where the camera is and the markings (not in this case), I guess this is the clan which exactly knows how they would look like on the big screen while they are acting, every pixel of it and stellar performances is natural to follow.

Coming to the safety part, I am with you Jim. It is always better to get the services of the county police by getting permissions, you don't want to put anyone at risk on the road. On a sane neighborhood day, I guess cops would be happy to chip in as well. On a lighter note, I hope Taha is not planning to film it on the streets of Manhattan but some quiet suburb.

November 27, 2014 at 1:08AM, Edited November 27, 1:08AM

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Arun Meegada
Moviemaker in the Making
452

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