Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996
Cameras On MotoGP Bikes
Published : 29th august 2004
I planning a shooting that involves those huge bikes from the GP World Championship and I wonder about the small cameras the bikes have all around (wheel, motor in order to get a terrific shot when they take a bend, camera on helmet to get a pilot POV, etc...)in order to get the spectacular live footage while racing. You must know them if you watched a GP on TV. The bike goes armed with small and light cameras that cover the whole race and offers a more intense and thrilling angles of the
OK, then, I'd like to know if using 35 mm (or 16mm) for this same purpose is possible. Of course I assume that's impossible using the same amount of cameras and I'm not trying to do the same. I just wonder how difficult must be to get that kind of shots using a film camera. Is there any kind of rig to achieve that?? How could you prepare a Bike like that in order to support film cameras? Talking about mechanical rigs, they are used on stills for ads so they can be easily erased with Photoshop, but how to do that on film?
Then, we must add some complications to this challenge :
The most important : the racing team will not let you modify or add anything on the bike by any reason. They only allow running with that small cameras Ok, I get that...So then, I'd like to know if possible to get that kind of shot with a film camera quality. To fake a helmet's POV can be relatively easy but to fix a camera under the cylinders??? And what about to fix it on the exhaust pipe to get the bike behind you approaching fast? And etc...
I have watching films like DRIVEN (Renny Harlin) where they did a great job but how much amount of 3D where involved in that or similar movies? I guess a lot...Also this is a car racing film, not bikes involved.
Another solution could be to get the video footage from the original cameras and then get a good telecine transfer(Spirit) and go through a good image treatment or color manipulation with Arri laser or similar to get a great look. What you think about that?
But again, I'd like to get as much spectacular 35 mm as possible, and I'd like to go beyond the conventional TV coverage on GP racings. There are any examples or references? Also I'd be very grateful if you can tell me where to get more info about the DRIVEN shooting involving 3D and stuff like that (American Cinematographer issue, resources...)
Thanks a lot again!
Santi Trullenque wrote :
>The bike goes armed with small and light cameras that cover the >whole race and offers a more intense and thrilling angles of the event.
>OK, then, I'd like to know if using 35 mm (or 16mm) for this same >purpose is possible.
Having road raced motorcycles I would say 35 or 16mm is out of the question on size and weight considerations on any racing machine.
One thing you might try : teams often have "mule" bikes that are used for development. These don't get raced, but rather flogged to death testing new developments. Maybe you could get a "mule" to rig and take it out in a practice session.
I think your best best is to take existing video and make it look as good as possible in post. Unless some one really likes you or you bring bags of $ I don't see you rigging any film cameras on these bikes.
Oh Seven Films
143 Grand St
Jersey City, NJ 07302
>Is there any kind of rig to achieve that?? How could you prepare a Bike >like that in order to support film cameras?
We used 16mm GSAP (General Service Aerial Photography?) camera's with modified lens mounts. They are rather small, have 50 feet cassettes, good for about 90 seconds. Surplus about $15 if you can find them. Modifications adds several hundred dollars, never mind the lens you want to use. Another problem is, they use most often 24 volt DC, unless rebuild for 6v. They were originally used next to machine guns in airplane wings to record hits (if any) and could withstand high G-forces and vibrations. We used them in parachute jumping, car racing and yes, bolted once to the front wheel shaft of a Harley. Weighed fully loaded about 500 grams. They were also used in car crashes and explosions. Don't know, probably still are..
Other small camera's can't stand those forces on those bikes or are too heavy, so forget them.
Find the best lipstick videocams.
Robert Rouveroy csc
The Hague, Holland
Robert Rouveroy wrote :
>Other small camera's can't stand those forces on those bikes or are too >heavy, so forget them. Find the best lipstick videocams.
Of course there are small HD cameras - but then you have to record them somehow, which is why I omitted that thought from my previous post.
"yeah the camera is only this big, and then there is the trailer with the Hd deck & cables that gets pulled behind the bike"
>"yeah the camera is only this big, and then there is the trailer with the >Hd deck & cables that gets pulled behind the bike"
You might be better off doing this during the "silly season" during the winter (like right now) when teams test at tracks in Spain like Jerez.
Please keep in mind that what ever you do has to be done with safety as the utmost consideration. This is an inherently risky activity and objects coming off of motorcycles at racing speeds are really nasty for who ever is behind. Having been hit in the right hand ( throttle & front brake) by a bouncing object on the way into a turn at 100+ mph I can attest is not fun and a little sketchy in the maintaining control department.
One way that might resolve this issue is to get you hands on "world superbike" class bike which are based on "production motorcycles" and of course a professional WSB of F1 licensed pilot.. It won't really be as fast as a F1 machine but it might be fast enough to fake it plus give you enough space to actually rig a camera, maybe a minima with remote start & stop. Actually a minima with a tap, if there is such a thing , and a wireless video link with a remote stop and start for the camera would be a possibility. That way you could send some bikes out have them chase around and trigger the camera when you like the shot coming across the wireless link.
I'd be happy to help out, still have all my tools and like to go fast
Oh Seven Films
143 Grand St
Jersey City, NJ 07302
35mm on GP bikes? Wow! Brave endeavour!!
As a key grip I'm constantly searching out new ways to mount cameras in strange places; but first, its the tools you use that will help you the most. 35mm does not mean a 535 with a 10:1 zoom when it comes to mounts. Start with the smallest/ lightest unit you can find, like a an SL with a 200 ft load.
Keep your stock iso high as well. That big t stop will make using prime lenses redundant, and solve all your focus/ depth of field problems, in addition it will provide the latitude you need for 45' shutters/ 60 fps rates etc.....
Mounts do not have to be bolted down. Though this is the ideal method, bolting and welding to a frame can seriously affect the structural integrity of a vehicle, especially a race bike that has had all its parts stripped down to save weight.
I modelled my mounts after the doggicam system, using 5/8 shafts and multi axis joints that work like a grip head but weigh very little. Doggicam also has a fantastic assortment of clamps/ braces that they use with their "SparrowHead", that would simplify any mounting procedure.
Mixing 35mm footage with some HD minicams would produce a great result as well, and allow you the flexibility to pull off crazy off-axis shots and mix them in with some well composed 35mm beauty shots.
A good 1st AD helps as well...if you can shoot during testing sessions, lap days and pole races, the team would probably allow you to put cameras all over the bikes.
And be prepared to wreck a few cameras. Optics and asphalt at 150mph are a production managers nightmare.
If you'd like, call me at 416 829 2160 and I'll tell you everything I know that's possible with camera mounts. You will be amazed.
Patrick Thompson, Key Grip
Toronto, Canada (eh!)
PS. Check out : A-minima, Doggicam, Ultracameramounts, Flight-head, Ikonoskop-A-Cam, Helmetcam, Filmairinternational and Shelly Ward Enterprises on the web for more info.
You should try to rent Bruce Brown's "On Any Sunday". It was shot way back in '71, and there's also a sequel "On any Sunday II from '81. Both films are incredible, lots of onboard film shots-I suspect B&H GSAP, Arri S and who knows, maybe some 2C's with 200'mags. These films document the golden era of GP racing, back when Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene(I believe he just died of cancer recently)were the big stars-there's a lot to watch if you search on the net for motorcycle movies. There was a series of videos in the mid 80's about racing and crashing, I can't recall the name right now, but you should try a search for as much info as possible.
Much like F1, just around 1983 GP racing vanished from the US, leaving only the Superbike 4 stroke category and the smaller GP bikes still raced here (the 250cc 2 stroke class) Good thing you're in Europe (laughs). You should take a peek at www.europark.com to have an idea of what the GP bikes look like up close. The problem is, these factory teams are secretive about the bikes- I suppose you have a contact, permission, etc to get involved. If you have a full blown team to rig cameras, I can see using an SL Cine 35mm on training days, obviously not on an actual race. Perhaps the way to go is to mix onboard video (small HD cameras?) with 35mm and S-16 footage.
Moto GP bikes are either250cc twin two-stroke, 500cc 2 stroke V4/V2, or (the new)990cc 4 stoke 5 cylinder category. The 500 and 990 bikes produce over 200 hp!!! And not to mention the most incredible power to weight ratio. I think the problem with shooting onboard is vibration-so if shooting film, try to go with the narrowest possible shutter angle to reduce blurr. I shot onboard my Kaw. H2-it's a 750 triple two-stroke, and the vibration transmitted to the camera got very blurry at high speed/revs. I shot some tests with Eyemo and Bolex cameras, with mixed results. I tried an RX5 with the shutter set to the lowest angle but you can still see a fuzzy blurr from hard acceleration.(I should have tried adding rubber to mounts to reduce vibration)
There are many professional ways to mount nowadays, but as mentioned, in the Steve McQueen days Bruce Brown was shooting On Any Sunday, I believe they were improvising-and there was an enthusiasm from all sides to document the emerging sport. The slow motion footage of all the bikes coming around the corners is just beautiful, and uncommon nowadays except for some commercials (we can see them here on Speed channel)
Honda has some very nice spots, and I know Photosonics cameras are used. Come to think of it, the Photosonics 1VN, Super 16, pin registered 24-168fps camera would be a nice choice(and it's available w/ videotap) You can use a 3.5mm T2 Century Cinetar II or a Switar 10mm(add wide angle adapter, 6mm) I believe this is the smallest S-16 camera (100' loads, 3.75 lbs) and the camera has several mounting holes. The Photosonics 4ML is also incredible(35mm, 9-144 degree shutter) but weighs 28 pounds The SL Cine weighs a little over 5 pounds but I'm not sure it's available w/ variable shutter as some 2C's were.
And if you get a chance, try to find a film on F1 racing, from the '78-83 period. I believe it's called Legends Of Motorsports. Stunning onboard footage of the amazing F1 turbo era, the sound alone is music to my ears...
Good luck, please post your results.
John F. Babl
I've rigged 16 and 35 cameras on motorcycles for docs, commercials, and ridefilms, and even on the street, where lean angles are not so extreme, and on fairly heavy street bikes (where the rig weight is a small percentage of overall weight) here are serious issues regarding balance, cornering clearance, and controllability. If you watch the GP bikes in action, you can see that you can't get very far off of centre line of the bike without getting close to the ground on some turns, and the farther you rig from the bike's centre of gravity, the more the rig weight affects handling. If you do want to work with film, I concur with Mark Smith's suggestion to work with a mule where you might be able to find some decent attachment points.
One thing I would stress rather strongly is that I would consider it unsafe to rig cameras onto motorcycles using clamps and rods (like the Doggiecam system) if the bike is going to be taken out on the track in race conditions and riding with other bikes - the risk of something vibrating loose or slipping and throwing the bike out of control is not high if properly rigged, but the results if this does happen can be literally deadly. I am a very strong proponent of purpose built rigs for this sort of thing. They can be easily built using EMT (thin wall electrical conduit which we use here in the US) which can be cut to length and the ends crushed and drilled to form struts - I do not favor Speedrail solutions for this sort of thing either. I will not clamp a rig to a bike - I bolt rigs together and then either bolt to the bike directly (where I can find attachment points) or I will bolt to pieces of angle aluminium that I have attached to various parts of the bike with multiple hose clamps. Some people weld rigs, but I find that welded rigs are harder to adjust or re-arrange if the shot tuns out to be a little different.
The gee force issues are not as much of an issue as the vibration with regard to having the camera survive and get good shots. The rigs can be tuned to minimize vibration, but I also am not a proponent of rubber-mounting rigs - proper isolation mounts are harder to build than people realize until they are well into it.
One of the tiny 16mm cameras I have used is the Richter EMP camera which fits in the palm of the hand. It has no viewfinder - you aim it with a prism view in the gate and then you put the film mag on and go. It carries very short loads which have to be hand-wound into the mag, but they are cool for this sort of thing. I have no idea where to find one these days, however.
The basic question I would ask is whether you are trying to capture documentary footage of actual races or whether you are looking for more specific controlled shots, where you could work with one camera bike and a couple of other bikes and choreograph the action to work with specific camera mount angles. If you are doing that, you could also work with bigger cameras in some mount configurations - and quite honestly, the riders could work a little slower and leave themselves a bit more margin for error with respect to traction and manoeuvring if something goes wrong and you really will not be able to see the speed difference on camera. If you are trying to do a narrative piece, you can mix different sorts of shots in which allows you to use the shots that you can get.
Mark Smith is probably smiling as he reads this - my rigging kits can be packed and on a plane in pretty short order...I haven't done one of these for a few years, but it makes a nice switch from the glacial speed of visual effects...
>Patrick Thompson, Key Grip
>Toronto, Canada (eh!)
I believe the Canadians do some serious motorcycle racing(eh!)- if I recall correctly there was a surplus of Yamaha TZ 750 engines that were used for the GP Sidecar racing-they subsequently went to 500 cc as well and soon the V4 500s were spitting out way more power (over 200hp)
For a look at these incredible bikes, take a peak :
The newer 2 strokes actually have 2 crankshafts (both the 250s and 500s) I think sidecar racing is also popular in Scotland. Rigging to one of these would be a nice choice since it's a 3 wheeler. I forgot to mention that another avenue is to investigate older footage of Isle of Man (no wonder they call it the Isle of Man!)
A few years ago I converted a Yamaha TZ 250 a friend owned to street use. We had to cut holes on the fairing to add lights(they have none)and we put street tires on it. We got pulled over one night before the conversion was finished, and the cops were very intrigued- my friend couldn't get off the bike because they have no kickstand! LOL They also have to be push started, no kick or electric start. That bike is so fast it can smoke most street 4 strokes, you better believe it.
Before this turns into chat, the more I think about it, I still believe the Photosonics 1VN S-16 is a good choice to look at, with the 3.5mm Century Cinetar II and Switar 10mm. It has a fixed shutter set to 92 degrees (but perhaps that would be fine to keep things crisp) I don't know how big the 28 volt battery is, but perhaps newer ones can be employed if the factory ones are too big.
And isn't there a new camera built in Sweden, S-16?... Perhaps they should be looked at. I believe the GP bikes are finally making a comeback to the US this year, hope I get to see a race.
Robert Rouveroy writes :
>We used 16mm GSAP (General Service Aerial Photography?) >camera's with modified lens mounts. They are rather small, have 50 >feet cassettes, good for about 90 seconds.
In my feckless youth I used GSAPs (modified with C-mounts) as cockpit cameras in competition gliders, where space is at a premium. When they worked, they worked. And when they lost their loops (which happened more often than not) we got "special effects." Ugh.
My preference, whenever possible, was to use spring-powered Kodak K-100 cameras instead. The non-turret (single-lens) models were very compact, weighed little more than GSAPs, ran 40 feet on a winding, and never gave us a lick of trouble. They were about the same height and width as GSAPs but twice as long from stem to stern. They took 100-ft rolls. The main downside was that you couldn't remote-control them without a jury-rigged cable release.
The K100 was a sort of streamlined, "prosumer" spinoff of a pro 16mm camera called the Cine Special, to which Bolex motors could be easily adapted, and which used 100-ft and 200-ft quick-change magazines. The K100 couldn't be externally motorized off the shelf, but with some modification it probably could be. I have no idea whether it would be possible to modify a K-100 for Super-16 -- I suspect it wouldn't be very hard.
You can see some excellent pictures of a turret model K100 at:
The single-lens model was rare, even in its day, and I've never been able to find one via Google.
Marin County, CA
Dan Drasin wrote:
>My preference, whenever possible, was to use spring-powered Kodak >K-100 cameras instead
Great camera, and pretty quiet for an MOS camera, too.