Camera Mounting In A Bus
Published : 11th March 2007
I have to shoot a two-camera sequence on board a luxury tour bus. (the kind of bus high-profile music stars -- not their band -- travel in)
Both cameras are right up front. One focused on the performer sitting in the front right seat. The other focused on the view out the front window, including the bus driver in the shot.
If this were on a highway, I might even handhold it, or use tripods, but a critical portion of the sequence happens on a rural road, very bumpy, with the bus moving at a low speed (under 30 miles per hour)
So I'm trying to figure out how to mount the cameras. Standard legs, on the carpeted floor was the first thought, but I have been in situations like this in mobile homes, etc, where the inertia of movement causes the camera to rock, jar and have vibrations that translate to the lens.
I will only get one-shot at the dialogue that happens. I can't repeat portions of it.
It is being shot on Varicams. Any ideas?
Heavy speed rail cubes sitting on the floor, bagged heavily?
Jim Dollarhide wrote:
class="style2" >>I will only get one-shot at the dialogue that happens. I can't repeat >>portions of it.
class="style2" >>Heavy speed rail cubes sitting on the floor, bagged heavily?
I would find a way to attach the tripod/head/fixed-mount/camera directly to the chassis with tie-down chains (turnbuckles).
Often there are existing bolts or screws that can be removed and replaced with longer bolts or screws which can be used for the tie down.
When you start to sand bag like that, it gets very large very quickly.
IA 600 DP
I recently shot very similar footage on a tour bus and shot everything hand held. (Even on relatively smooth roads the ride could get quite bumpy.)
I can't imagine shooting off sticks on a bus on a bumpy road would be like - you'd almost need to nail the spreader into the floor, and the resulting footage might make the audience seasick!
What about rigging something with bungee cords? Buses usually have lots of railing and overhead compartments which would be good places to attach a bungee.
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List
class="style2">>>It is a LUXURY bus. The Star's personal property. I think they would >>freak (unless there happened to be existing anchor points). But the >>deal is, I don't get to scout it -- the bus that is).
What about Steadicam (hard mounted or on an operator) for the star and a simple handheld on a wide shot for the front and the bus driver?
Jim Dollarhide wrote :
class="style2">>>So I'm trying to figure out how to mount the cameras.
Two cameras at once. Admittedly I'm not experienced in this, but why not use some form of Steadicam? Either an operator or didn't someone mount one to a horse saddle once.
Wouldn't that be better than trying to rig the camera hard to the bus frame?
New York Based Cinematographer
class="style2">>>Two cameras at once. Admittedly I'm not experienced in this, but why >>not use some form of Steadicam? Either an operator or didn't >>someone mount one to a horse saddle once.
It is a shot that will last more then a half hour. I'd kill them. (the operators)
I like Jessica's bungee suggestion - perhaps add a small Kenyon Gyro - sounds a bit like shooting on a boat. If you could hard mount the Steadicam time isn't an issue. The mount takes the bulk of the weight, the Op can adjust the arm for this - they just finger the gimbals.
We hard mount them on the back of Land Rovers to chase cats in Africa. I'm trying to think of some sort of big HEAVY but moveable "foot" you could mount it off, that way you could pop it down anywhere you want and pick it up after.... but drawing a blank. I'd suggest you speak to an experienced Steadicam Op or post a ? on their chat group http://www.steadicam-ops.com
I would think this has come up before.
I shot a bus full of women (vocal group) w/ a Bolex and DVX 100, both handheld and w/ a tripod- it was on the turnpike, so it was mostly smooth, w/ some bumps of course-I would bring sandbags for the tripod since you can't tie it down
I agree with Jessica.. we did a bungee rig on a coach going through the mountains in Northern Lebanon for a spot. The grip used two regular #8 screws straight into the coachwork, that supported his rig and an Arri III.
A grip worth his salt will be able to suspend the rig from a polecat (Manfrotto Autopole), some speedrail or whatever, and not leave a mark.
1st AC London
I agree with Brian Rose in that the best way to shoot from inside a moving vehicle is to attach the camera to the chassis somehow. The camera moves with the bus. A steadicam setup won't work as well for situations like these.
I've done something similar but on a smaller scale. I was only using a DVX-100 for the shoot. I used a StickyPod (http://www.stickypod.com ) for this purpose. This cheap little accessory uses industrial strength suction cups to attach to smooth surfaces. For bigger cameras like the Varicam, I should think there are similar solutions. Bigger, stronger suction cups perhaps?
Filmmaker, DP, VFX
Sorry that link is NG –
http://www.steadicamforum.com/forums/ should be the one.
Brian (Rose)- Robin is with Tiffen now perhaps he could offer some help on this - I don't have his e-mail do you?
class="style2">>>What about rigging something with bungee cords? Buses usually >>have lots of railing and overhead compartments which would be good >>places to attach a bungee.
Objects in motion tend to remain in motion, objects at rest........
Bungees are great for absorbing vibration, or taking the weight of the operator, but not for countering large movements. Likewise a Steadicam. Your operator would be constantly fighting the external movements without any way to anticipate that movement. If the camera is not firmly attached to the chassis, the camera will move independently both of the vehicle and the subject, which is a formula for sea sickness even for a Viking.
If you cannot attach to any 'hard points' on the floor or elsewhere, then attach -- preferably with tie down chains -- the tripod to a piece of 1" thick plywood or 2 pieces of 3/4" plywood glued together with a 1x3 or 1x4" wooden perimeter (to contain the shot bags), then use lots of shot bags on the plywood. You want as much weight as possible as low as possible. That should do the trick unless the bus really is moving too fast. If that's the case, you'll know immediately because a lot more things than the camera will start flying around.
High quality ratchet straps (e.g., Aeroquip) and nylon webbing are a great way to attach things in vehicles without doing any harm. Every seat must have a seat belt. That's a good place to start looking for tie down points. A good car rigger would be helpful.
IA 600 DP
I love the plywood platform - simple yet brilliant - this is the foot I was imagining! I still think that mounting a Steadicam arm on it would work. And another thing you old sea dog .....modified ratchet straps are one of my secret weapons! The big HD straps are great but the webbing is so thick that the spool fills up after only a couple of turns - so we refit them with seat belt webbing. Seat belt webbing is only 1mm thick but good for 1200kg vs the 3or4mm thick HD webbing for lashing down 5000lb loads on the back of trucks. With a HD seatbelt ratchet you can crank in 4 feet instead of 8 inches with the thick webbing. This doesn't sound like much but when your trying to tension aircraft cable while hanging by your smalls 80 feet up a tree it makes all the difference in the world.
Jim Dollarhide wrote:
class="style2">>>I have to shoot a two-camera sequence on board a luxury tour bus. >>(the kind of bus high-profile music stars -- not their band -- travel in)
I would go hardest mount possible to the bus. At least your subject and the camera will be moving in sync with each other.
I shot interviews on a boat going across the south pacific in some heavy swells. We socked the camera and the interview chair in to the deck really well with some ratchet straps and it worked beautifully. Some times we did not want to see the horizon however as the boat was really pitched over.
Trying to get fancy with camera isolation I find often hurts more than it helps.
Phil Savoie writes :
class="style2">>>Brian (Rose)- Robin is with Tiffen now perhaps he could offer some >>help on this - I don't have his e-mail do you?
Tiffen Europe's web address is:
You should be able to get in touch with Robin via their site.
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8868 1729
Mobile: +44 (0)7768 635 788
class="style2">>>I agree with Brian Rose in that the best way to shoot from inside a >>moving vehicle is to attach the camera to the chassis somehow.
Jim don't forget in the attempt to solve all your problems in camera there are solutions in post. If your shots bounce a little bit you should be able to stabilize those in post with tracking software. I like to do it all in camera too but sometimes that's just not possible given time, budget and location.
I feel the mount to chassis is the best solution. I have done this countless times on boats, cars and planes. Of course the conditions have to be right to pull it off. I did a Hurricane Hunter trip where I shot on sticks in the plane. I needed tights of screens, cockpit controls, wings, engine props and so on. It worked out suprisingly well. I was actually shocked how good it looked. Problem with this stuff is you really can't judge how well it looks till you are on solid ground.
There is one problem you should be aware of vibration. Vibration from a hard mount can transfer to the camera creating a type of "optical printer style shake" that looks odd. Vibration may cause deck problems or tape jams if it gets severe enough. From your original post it sounds like your bus is big enough that inertia and the mass of the vehicle should give you a pretty stable ride.
Joseph T McDonnell III
New Orleans, La
Los Angeles, Ca
I've done Steadicam on buses before and there are pluses and minuses.
On the plus side, the shot looks fabulous, just the way we perceive the shaking of a bus. The outside stays smooth, the bus shakes, the people shake less (they absorb the shock). On the minus side the inertia of the camera over hilly and curvy terrain will cause portions of a continuous 30 min shot to be unusable. If the operator is wearing the rig, he/she may fall over (even if sitting). If the arm is hard mounted, the inertia of the camera may still make it impossible to hold the shot around a curve. A quick stop? The operator better wear a football helmet with face guard.
As for Kenyon gyros, they are very loud and not good for sound recording.
And lastly, without a proper scout, you'll have to prepare for anything. My suggestion would be to have a good grip bring every possible car mount tool and platform he has. For the vibration I believe there exists a special vibration absorbing base plate for cameras that you can rent. I think that Clairmont camera has them if I remember correctly. They work surprisingly well from what I’ve seen. It's kind of a hard rubber thing.
And one more thing, if the cameras are operated, make sure there is a little monitor for the operator to view with so he/she doesn't have to have his eye up to the eye-piece. This will make it much easier to control the camera over bumps and keep the operator from getting a black eye.
Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
Bruce Alan Greene
Whoever built the bus might be able to supply you with a dimensioned floor plan of it. If the bus is a high-dollar commercial job they might even have 3-D Autocad files from their design phase. A not uncommon approach to high end custom design is to show the client Autodesk 3-D Studio animation fly-throughs of their proposed design.
A lot of good ideas here, just a couple to throw in:
1/. As mentioned a bungy-mount rigged to a polecat or the like to aid the hand held stability could work really well and is a relatively easy quick fix, make sure you find a decent one preferably with handles to aid operation.
2/. If you want to go the Steadicam route, why not find a Garfield mount and hard mount the Steadicam that way, all you need is a Mitchell mount which brings you back to the tripod or a bazooka. Alternatively you could use a Hi-Hat and some Appleboxes.
3/. Chapman rent a Super Vibration Isolator which is a phenomenal piece of kit it's a 3 axis dampener which works really well, also Mitchell mount but, these are our general limitations unless you are going to build a custom rig.
Obviously I am not 100% certain as to the exact intention of the shot and how much shake is to be eliminated, but then again the creative decisions should motivate the physical.
Hope this helps,
Dean Slotar | One8Six Cape Town
t +27-21-555-1780 | f +27-21-555-1828 | m +27-82-895-2620
Handheld is the way to go if you want to retain the "feeling" of the bus moving(if you are a good handheld operator). Steadicam is useless in a bus (its a specialized and limited tool for certain tasks).
A hard mount is very restricted as your subject moves with the movement of the bus, though it might be good for the "POV" shooting out of the windshield. I would not recommend it as the A camera shooting the talent, just use the excellent stabilizing device that’s been perfected for 3 million years- your body...
Jens Jakob Thorsen
>>Handheld is the way to go if you want to retain the "feeling" of the bus >>moving. Steadicam is useless in a bus (its a specialized and limited >>tool for certain tasks).
Jens, while I will admit Steadicam is limited in a bus, I beg to differ that it is useless.
Here's an example of Steadicam on a bus :
The shots involved dollying (walking) down the aisle and settling on a passenger.
It was not easy. Many seats needed to be removed and we limited the bus speed to something like 25-30 mph. I also had helpers to keep me from falling over if the bus slowed or accelerated unexpectedly. My movement was also limited by trying to keep my head from hitting the luggage rack. Other than that, it's an effective technique for shooting in a bus. I like that the inside of the bus shakes, but the passing landscape is smooth. A very realistic sense of movement without distracting shakes.
Bruce Alan Greene
Tim Shim wrote:
class="style2">>>best way to shoot from inside a moving vehicle is to attach the camera >>to the chassis somehow. The camera moves with the bus.
I'm not sure I would entirely agree with that. I did a couple shot on a regular old Sydney Bus and tied a tripod down *REAL* well, and it certainly did move with the bus but nothing else did, making it seem like and old school process shot.
In fact, I got a few comments on that - "how'd you manage to pull off rear projection on a student film????" :D
From this I've come to the conclusion that moving vehicle interiors need a *little* bit of sway and float...
class="style2">>>Jens, while I will admit Steadicam is limited in a bus, I beg to differ >>that it is useless.
I apologise for the term useless, because its too blunt a statement, very difficult would be the term.
I recently finished 16 weeks of shooting a TV police series that was 98 percent steadicam(one camera). I’ve never been a big fan of steadicam as a general shooting tool(you can alway see a that its steadicam within the first second of the shot, it has this weaving POV feeling regardless of the operator) But this really taught me about the many pros and cons of steadicam and I am now more a fan than I used to be...just not on a bus...
Also, thanks to everyone on CML who responded with their thoughtful ideas about shooting on-board a luxury bus.
After digesting all of the information, I think the concept of having the cameras locked to the bus frame is the best idea.
So I have decided to build a small speed-rail rectangle-cube-box-like thing. About 3.5 feet long, by about 2.5 feet wide, by about 3 feet tall. It will have a middle rail, a foot under the top rail, going around the edges, to drape sandbags over.
On top of this I am going to mount some camera-mounting plates (steel or heavy-gauge aluminium plates with 3/8" holes drilled all around - I'm sure you know what I'm talking about).
I'm going to mount two tripod heads -- beefy ones like the big new O'Conner -- for both cameras and we are going to operate the two Varicams using small monitors.
The whole rig will be heavily sand-bagged but not attached to the bus floor. The center of gravity will be very low and we'll still be able to operate. The rig will be pre-assembled, then taken apart in half -- so when boarding the bus, we think we can have it re-assembled and ready to roll in less than 15 minutes.
Cheap, quick, and won't cause the artist's road manager and bus driver to get into a twist.
In addition, I'm going to have my new HVX200 and shoot some DVCProHD stuff with it, hand-held.
THANKS AGAIN for all the info.