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Cameras On Race Cars

Published : 13th Febraury 2007

I'm shooting for a show where we'd like to mount some cameras to funny cars and dragsters for some driver's-point-of-view footage. We're shooting on the Sony Z1 HDV cameras generally, and have been using DVX-100's for lipstick cams.

Question is, will a camera like the Z1 withstand speeds like these we're talking about - up to 330 mph, a quarter of a mile driven in 4 seconds? What about the dragsters, which go …hmm …something like 200 mph? All these cars take off with an immediate blast-off so the G forces must be great.

If not, what sort of camera would be ideal for this? It can't be anything big for space reasons. Best quality possible of course is great.

Also, what sort of mounting for speeds like this? I'm guessing the old suction cup on the hood won't work.

Thanks,

Bryan Donnell
dp, la


Hi Bryan,

The little Sony camera can easily be mounted with an assortment of c-arms (short and long), gobo heads, cardellinis, c-clamps, etc., and the mounts can be fortified to withstand a lot of force. If you want it on the hood, consider ratchet straps, a cheese plate, and a furniture pad. Something that will lock to the car should be strong enough, but those suction mounts won't hold very well.

Make sure you have some clear filters, or polas, to protect from any debris. The weak point would be that little 1/4-20 bolt on the bottom, so I recommend a cardellini clamp to the handle, or maybe even both. If you're concerned about the additional forces, double brace your c-arms, and even use rope and ratchet straps to add tension to the mount.

Good luck,
Graham "...Haven't Lost a Camera Yet" Futerfas
Los Angeles DP
www.GFuterfas.com


class="style15">>> The little Sony camera can easily be mounted with an assortment of >>c-arms

Bryan,

Insist on a good and well-seasoned grip to rig your cameras to a race car (or to any car)--a heck of a lot cheaper than loosing a camera, and those guys have all sorts of knick knacks purpose built for the jobs over the years that are not rental-house-available.

The intense vibrations may well shake the tape off the tape head (this happened to me with a VX 1000 on a Harley).

Good luck and have fun.

Byron Shah
DP Los Angeles


class="style15">>>I'm shooting for a show where we'd like to mount some cameras to >>funny cars and dragsters for some driver's-point-of-view footage

I just shot some footage of funny cars for Fox Sports Net in January at the Las Vegas Drag Strip. I was shooting footage from the sidelines about 30 feet away with a Sony DXC-D35 Betacam SP camcorder.

The sound vibrations were so loud that they distorted some of the video footage (slight tearing and ripping). I would imagine if the camera were on the car that the problem would be much worse.

John Mastrogiacomo
Spectra Video Productions, Inc.
8701 Leeward Dr.
Las Vegas, NV 89117
(702) 363-9289
www.spectra-video.com


class="style15">>>The sound vibrations were so loud that they distorted some of the >>video footage (slight tearing and ripping).

Tape based recording suffers from top fuel and funny cars because of the shock waves the nitro based motors produce when they leave the line.

You can cable to a deck further away or maybe try an HVX?

Mark Smith
DP nyc


The HVX is no guarantee either. We had to abandon a motor racing shoot because vibrations were causing the camera to stop rolling. It was heavy vibration and I’m sure the HVX did much better than tape would have, but none the less it shut down. Unlike tape which would probably keep rolling and give you drop out only during the rough moments, P2 just shuts down.

Best


John Chater
San Francisco


Bryan Donnell wrote :

class="style15">>>If not, what sort of camera would be ideal for this? It can't be anything >>big for space reasons. Best quality possible of course is great.

Formula 1 cars frequently have little cameras strapped to them for live TV coverage so perhaps you could try to find someone who's put cameras into F1 cars? I'm sure they'll be able to give you some advice.

My hunch is that you wont be able to house the recording device on the car - instead you'll have to send the video via wireless link to a recorder on the ground. Those cars will produce HUGE forces which I doubt any tape / HDD system would cope with. Even if you built a really good housing with lots of shock-absorbers, your hardware will still be exposed to huge acceleration forces.

If I were doing that shot I'd probably investigate putting a very small and light camera on the car with a wireless link to a ground-based recording system. That's pretty easy and cheap in SD but I expect wireless systems are still very expensive for HD applications.

Jack Kelly
Dir / Prod / Camera
London
UKFilm.org


Byron Shah wrote:

class="style15">>>The intense vibrations may well shake the tape off the tape head (this >>happened to me with a VX 1000 on a Harley).

It's a pretty smooth motor if you're riding mellow, but by the time the powerband hits at high rpm it's high frequency vibration- so with more acceleration/rpm, the more the camera freaked out. And then the battery case cracked to top it off- Bolexes worked, but the more acceleration, the more the image got "fuzzier" - I concluded the 160 degree shutter was the issue(too much blur), and a 45 degree or skinnier setting might have helped, but unavailable on that camera. I'm sure a 35III w/ variable shutter would have worked nice.

I've seen amazing vintage Formula 1 footage, 16mm ("Legends of Motorsports" I think it was called) Perhaps they used NPR's (and they had variable shutter) I can't imagine anything that shakes and vibrates more violently than a dragster, unless you're dealing with the turbine ones.

There was an article on AC sometime ago on Nascar(I think IMAX format) Try to get a professional that has experience w/ this to mount the cameras. Maybe a Photosonics/slow motion would be a good choice-

Arri's website has some 235 footage mounted on current F1 cars, take a look when you get a chance-

Maybe you could try lipstick cameras too?

Good luck with the shoot and please try to post the results-

John Babl
DP
Miami


I've put film and video cameras on F1 and Dragsters, video doesn't work
on Dragsters.

Unless you can find a flash ram recorder that will fit with a mini-cam on a Dragster then don't waste your time.

ALSO you need a very very good grip.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


Good point about the noise vibrations.

What about using a water-proof housing or something to reduce the noise and vibration levels? You could also add rubber padding in the housing to help reduce the sound.

Of course, vibration is the enemy to a good camera mount. I suppose you could look into actually bolting the camera mounts onto the car, but that would be a more time-consuming process. Is the camera going inside or outside of the car?

I was under the impression it was a driver's POV.

Graham Futerfas
Los Angeles


Um... not to state the obvious, but,...why not use 16mm? Been doing it for years with predictable, high quality results. Lots of hardware options, and you're not rolling tons of footage so cost can't be a big part of the formula. If you're set on video, find out who provides the technology for on-car images in World Rally. But, like in Formula 1, it is a microwave link system.

Some other ideas are at www.chasecam.com Not ultra high quality but possibly useable for your needs.

Rod Williams
Motion Picture and HD First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California
U.S.A.


Just an aside, would a helmet based camera suffice? It depends on the shots you want to get?

That would take care of some vibrations. I'm thinking the ones skydivers might use with a wireless link. Could even be a wireless link to a heavily padded, shielded, floating VTR/HD/Flashrecorder in the dragster somewhere

Of course I could be wrong altogether/talking rubbish and it will not suit your shooting.

A Googlesearch threw this up, might give you some ideas http://www.jonescam.tv/ (No idea if they're good or anything, usual stuff)

Good luck

Werner Van Peppen
Soundguy/lightbulb fitter
London, UK


If I were to mount a film camera on a funny car, is there a particular model I'd need to use that's more durable than others?

Bryan Donnell
dp, la


Bryan Donnell wrote :

class="style15">>>If I were to mount a film camera on a funny car, is there a particular >>model I'd need to use that's more durable than others?

The Arri 235 might be a good candidate, it weighs 7.7 ponds(without mag/film) I was going to suggest the Photosonics 4 ML, but it weighs 28 pounds, with loaded mag, and even the Actionmaster weighs 20 lbs. However, the Super 16 Photosonics 1VN(100' daylight spools) weighs only 3.75 lbs, pin registered/side rails, up to 168 fps. 92 degree shutter. Nice choice w/ a 10mm Switar...

I think there is also an aspheron/wide angle adapter available for this lens insurance is another issue.

Where are you thinking of mounting the camera?

John Babl
DP
Miami


class="style15">>> If I were to mount a film camera on a funny car, is there a particular >>model I'd need to use that's more durable than others?

The tried and true Alan Gordon GSAP cameras are pretty bullet-proof and can take quality C-mount lenses. Plus you can rig them anywhere. Also the Photo-Sonics 1VN rents for a reasonable price and they have a 100' spool mag for it. I'd stay away from any camera that has a pressure plate that can pop open (Arri S, Aaton Aminima, etc) Had that happen. Not fun.

Rod Williams
Motion Picture and HD First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California
U.S.A.


Going with a good RF system might work, recording at the receiver instead of in the car which would subject the tape transport to vibration and whatnot. The systems I have used transmit audio and video.

Ted Conniff


Apart from mounting the camera on the car itself is there any kind of dampening cloth you can use if you are just shooting near something vibrating.

Josh Brown
New York, NY


Josh

A friend and I tied down a camera to the hood of a Saturn using a combination of ratchets and pillows to soften the vibrations. It came out looking very nice, super smooth unless there were large potholes in the road. Generally I've used suction cup mounts, which absorb zero vibration but are much safer for the equipment. I think the RF transmission is a great idea for high-speed mounts.

I've never seen spectacular looking RF but I'm sure on the high-end the equipment exists. Even the most ruggedly built tape transports or film mags are going to be negatively affected by the high-end vibrations of 200 mph on an uneven surface, and my guess is that they will fail if used extensively in these ways.

Jim Eagan
NY shooter/editor


You cannot compare the g-forces, vibrations and stresses that a race car is subjected to with those that a passenger car is subjected to -- likewise the ordinary camera. The good news is that nearly every serious race team has had experience with mounting cameras on their cars.

It is a job that is best left to experienced professionals. It is very unlikely that the crew chief or driver would allow just anyone to attach a camera of any significant size to their car. In any case, you should get explicit permission from all concerned before anyone touches anything on the car, also they may be able to direct you to a local expert.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


Bryan Donnell writes:

class="style15">>>If I were to mount a film camera on a funny car, is there a particular >>model I'd need to use that's more durable than others?

Simplest and lightest would probably be the Ikonoscop -A-Cam. Has a small onboard battery.

Ruggedest and heaviest would probably be a Bell & Howell 70 with a motor drive. Needs a big battery.

Maximum running time at 24fps would be about 3 minutes. (100-foot daylight load)

Don't use any camera with a big magazine unless you can clamp the mag solidly. An Arri-M with a 200-ft mag (if you can find such a beast anymore, not to mention 200-ft daylight loads) might be a good compromise that will double your running time. Arri’s also have a registration pin, which should minimize any vibration-induced gate weave.

An Arri-S with 100-ft loads would probably also work.

Make sure any lens turrets are very solidly locked and taped. (The Ikonoscop has only a single C-mount, no turret)

I'd avoid cameras with split gates -- i.e., where the back of the
gate and pressure plate are part of the mag (Aaton, Eclar NPR, Kodak Cine Special).

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


John Chater writes:

class="style15">>>Unlike tape which would probably keep rolling and give you drop out >>only during the rough moments, P2 just shuts down.

Might be due to the floating lens components getting pushed around, triggering a shutdown.

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


class="style15">>>If I were to mount a film camera on a funny car, is there a particular >>model I'd need to use that's more durable than others?

Did anyone try the a-cam in an extreme g environment?

Could be the thing if you want high quality images...Otherwise as mentioned before in this thread F1,Champcar,Nascar,WRC all have onboard cameras with wireless transmitters, and so there must be numerous people making a living from acquiring such images.

Best regards

Jens Jakob Thorsen
Director of Photography
Denmark
+4540508840
www.jensjakob.com


Somebody said "Why not shoot 16mm" - me thinks A Cam!

Anna Carrington
AC
UK


These guys can set you up with high end RF video systems, the kind used for golf, racing, etc.

http://www.aerialvideo.com/

Ted Conniff


Thanks everyone for the thorough replies. Very helpful.

Bryan Donnell
dp, la


Bryan,

Don't forget - if you do get to mount a camera on a funny car, they do the quarter mile in 7 seconds or something(top fuel around 5.6(?)

Haven't kept up with it, but somewhere along those numbers.

Point is, a Photosonics 1VN S-16 w/ 100' spools would seem ideal-3.75 ponds loaded-pin registered, 92 degree shutter, up to 168 fps. The thing is, how much the 28 volt batteries weigh and where would you fit the stuff

So if you roll camera after the car does the burnout before launch, you should have plenty of film to capture the run- (who would roll camera anyway?)

John Babl

Sleep typing
Miami


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