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Mounting Lipstick Cameras On Automobiles
Published : 2nd September 2004
I've been asked to DP an automobile series and the director wants to use lipstick cameras for interesting POV's, while the car is being driven. I have combed the archives and failed to find anything. Having never worked with lipsticks, I'd very much appreciate some guidance on favourite mounting systems and which cameras are especially suited to this task.
I am interested in safety to protect the cameras mounted on the outside, as well as preventing personal or property damage from improper use of the mounting equipment. Any advice is much appreciated.
Thanks to all,
Director of Photography
Nick Mueller asks :
>lipsticks, I'd very much appreciate some guidance on favourite >mounting systems and which cameras are especially suited to this >task.
I've been doing lipstick camera work for over 10 years and have found the Toshiba lipsticks to be most reliable and versatile. I'm sorry but I've had mine for so long the model numbers on the camera have rubbed off and there is no model numbers on the CCU.
However Toshiba makes the lipstick cameras for Eymo and their easy enough to find.
I choose these cameras because NASCAR uses them so they've got to be tough and they have proved to be.
I also chose them because they have a separate CCU (camera control unit) and that allows me to mount a camera/lens only with no other electronics to be jarred....and...the CCU allows three options for output :
1/. Composite video out
3/. RGB via a nine pin computer type connector.
I primarily use the S-video because I run it directly into a clamshell miniDV recorder, thus giving me as good a recording as I can get under the circumstances.
Peter Lisand ( www.peterlisand.com/ ) makes some very nice swivel mounts that are machined to collar the camera so you have pan and tilt aiming capabilities. It's mounted via a standard 1/4 inch screw .
Bogen/Advenger makes a very nice suction cup mounting system but I use a variety of devices according to the application and whether or not I have to worry about scratching the car.
Ratchet type cargo straps are your friend. After all the mounting is done, I then run a cargo strap over the whole thing for total stability and rock steady pictures.
Also fibre tape is a must. After ratcheting down with straps, fibre tape is what I use to take that last bit of shake from the camera.
Maffer clamps work well for car part shots. You take the stud out of the maffer and replace it with a stud that has a 1/4 inch screw mount on one end. These are available at most decent camera stores.
You can get some rubber matting and cut it into small pieces that are used when clamping on the maffers, to avoid scratching.
Using these maffers you can also use short C-stand arms. You put a knuckle on the maffer stud, run a short arm to where you want the camera mounted, add a stud with the 1/4 screw end, mount the Lisand mount and you almost there. Now you usually have to place some wedges under the last knuckle where the mount is to keep it from bouncing and then use the cargo straps and tape for the final step.
There are hundreds of ways to mount these guys but there is one thing you have to be warned about. These little cameras are pretty good quality, but they spike like the punch at a high school prom. Any "light hits" almost s out the picture and hits can come often from direct sun, bumper and windshield glare.
That being said, I don't want to bore CMLer's any more than they are now, so if you mail me directly, I can give you a little list of must have jazz and where you can get this stuff.
You can also get good results by mounting little 1 chip mini DV cameras like the DSR101. Their small, have their own tape transport and mount almost the same way as the lipsticks and are remarkably stable.
Allen S. Facemire
To Allen S. Facemire's excellent advice on mounting lipstick cameras :
>Ratchet type cargo straps are your friend. After all the mounting is done, >I then run a cargo strap over the whole thing for total stability and rock >steady pictures.
>Also fibre tape is a must. After ratcheting down with straps, fibre tape is >what I use to take that last bit of shake from the camera.
Also excellent for final tie down is gum rubber or surgical tubing. It won't scratch the paint. It is unbelievably strong.
A few well stretched wraps is almost like welding. It's fast and relatively cheap, so you can just cut it off when it's time to wrap. In a pinch, hose clamps padded with a little tape are great too. There's usually no shortage of these when you're around car guys.
IA 600 DP
We normally mount them on the inside not outside as windshield reflection is a problem. Normally in the middle of the dash or between the areas of the visors where the rear view mirror is. Great thing about lipstick is you can use very wide lenses with them.
BlueSky Media, Inc.
212 517 5237
Nick wrote :
>Having never worked with lipsticks, I'd very much appreciate some >guidance on favourite mounting systems and which cameras are >especially suited to this task.
There are a variety of ways this can be accomplished.
First, choose you poison : from smallest to largest - Board, Bullet, Lipstick, Cigar or Ice Cube camera. They all are quite small and quality goes up with each step. When you get to an Ice Cube camera you can get 3x 1/3" CCDs. All can be powered by DC.
Since these cameras are quite light they can be rigged without to much trouble. There are several suction cup style mounts adaptable to use with these small cameras, I don't recall the exact model, but they seem to be some sort of small pump-action super-grip. Quite often a maffer with a cable will be rigged nearby for a safety.
On the subject of safety, some people are incredibly unsafe. I've heard about people rigging Cigar Cams into a shotgun mic mount at the end of a boom pole and hanging it out a car window to get a shot just inched off the ground.
I think it would be cool if you could rig a small remote head, like for a Pelco Spectra camera. On the underside of a car. Then you could pan and tilt while shooting!
When I worked on Blind Date there were two cigar cams suction cupped to the front windshield criss-crossed to shoot the driver and passenger. The cables were run along the ceiling and into the back seat for the ccu's, two DSR-V10 clamshell decks are used for recording. I think they still use the same set-up.
I know several people who specialize in hidden and P.O.V. camera rigging. If you need any referrals please contact me off-list.
Allen, Brian, Walter and Illya,
Thank you all for the excellent responses. I've gotten information on-line concerning available gear, but the expertise in making that gear work to full potential is most valuable. You've all given me good homework to get started. Also much appreciated are the offers to share off-list. I will be in contact. All the cars featured in this series will be new, so I will have to be careful with the merchandise.
Allen S. Facemire wrote :
>These little cameras are pretty good quality, but they spike like the >punch at a high school prom. Any "light hits" almost out the picture and >hits can come often from direct sun, bumper and windshield glare.
Could a piece of PVC piping be cut and mounted to act as a lens hood for a lipstick?
Depending on the type lens being used, of course,
Brian Heller writes :
>Also excellent for final tie down is gum rubber or surgical tubing. It won't >scratch the paint." AND "It's fast and relatively cheap, so you can just cut >it off when it's time to wrap."
I can see a fair amount of surgical tubing in the expendables budget. Thanks.
Illya Friedman wrote
>When I worked on Blind Date there were
two cigar cams suction >cupped to the front windshield criss-crossed
to shoot the driver and >passenger.
I think we may be using this setup. I'd considered using Arri suction cups on the windshield, coupled with a griphead holding a maffered camera. Some windshields are better suited than others, depending on curvature. Noting Walter Graff's warning about windshield glare/reflections, there are some polariser solutions available particularly for cigar and ice cube cameras. I suppose you could also tape a filter in proper orientation on a lipstick camera.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for sharing your experience. I look forward to returning the favor.
Director of Photography
Allen Facemire writes :
>Lipsticks are all but useless for that application because you can't get >them outfitted with polariser's.
Brian Heller writes :
>In a pinch, hose clamps padded with a little tape are great too.
I've used hose clamps for all kinds of rigging. They're very useful...but **beware of over tightening them**. The screw develops a huge amount of force, which can put a dent the stainless-steel strap, disengaging the screw from the strap. It can also wrench the screw housing away from the strap where it's anchored. When in doubt use several clamps in parallel, tightened just-so.
Dan "learned the hard way" Drasin
Marin County, CA
Dan Drasin asked "why you can't use a Polarizer on a lipstick camera". The only reason I don't use one is that I've never seen one small enough to fit.
I'd use one in a heart beat.
As a matter of fact I'd love to have a clear glass 'cause I have to buy new lenses every few years because they get gravel/sand pitted from car mounts.
Anybody know of some sort of slip on filter for Toshiba/Eymo lipsticks, I'm all ears!
Allen S. Facemire
The director of the automotive pilot, which I DoP'd, is very happy with the footage. My considerable thanks to all who advised me on lipstick cameras and various car-mounting techniques for these and other cameras, particularly Allen Facemire, Brian Heller and Lew Comenetz. Gentlemen, thank you.
Our pilot show features the new Cadillac XLR roadster, the body of which provided excellent practice (very carefully) for a variety of camera mount configurations. Not once did the mountings get loose. We got our shots, our gear survived unscathed and the car returned to GM without a scratch.
With much gratitude,
Director of Photography