Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Car Crash


14th January 2006

Hello All,

I am a UK based cinematographer about to shoot my first 35mm feature this summer. The budget is about 1.5m and we hope to shoot 3-perf 35mm with a digital intermediate.

I am presently discussing a scene with the director which involves crashing a car on a remote country road. We are covering the crash with 3 35mm cameras in various positions but need a shot from inside the car as it spins through the air and hits the ground.

Is the best choice of camera, the 35mm Eyemo with a capacity to shoot S35mm and up to 48fps. Is there an alternative camera to use? Possibly with a faster frame rate.

Many thanks

Lol Crawley GBCT

Lol Crawley writes :

>Is the best choice of camera, the 35mm Eyemo with a capacity to shoot >S35mm and up to 48fps.

I'd much rather find a high-speed Arri IIc than use any Eyemo, especially for close objects, because of the parallax. You'll probably want a hard front on either to get the full-ap lens centre.

Tim Sassoon
SFD Vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA

My first choice would be an Arri III with 200' mag if space is an issue. At today’s prices a 1st rate Eyemo, reflexed with video costs about 12,000.00 US to replace. An Arri III isn't much more but will give you 120fps, variable shutter, S35, choice of mags and pin registration. A IIC Arri is not pin registered and costs as much as an Eyemo to replace. I have done many steady tests on Eyemo's and Arri IIc's and the Eyemo’s win hands down. I have personally seen the front of an Eyemo with lens attached, leave more than one Eyemo due to G forces at impact. If any of the above cameras would suffer major damage it would be the Eyemo.

Crash housings are available for all.

Steve Peterson, 1st ac 600

>...At today’s prices a 1st rate Eyemo, reflexed with video costs about >12,000.00 US to replace.

I agree that a llC would be a good option but then what glass do you use destroy?

That's the hard question...

Jim Sofranko

>I agree that a llC would be a good option but then what glass do you >use destroy?

Do they make IIC's with Nikon mounts? If it's good enough for the SFX industry...

Art Adams, DP [film|hidef|video]
Mountain View, California
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"

It's interesting that people are assuming that the camera inside the car is likely to get damaged. I'm guessing that the safest place to be in a car crash (contrived or other wise) is inside the car (assuming it's a modern car). If you are going to destroy it then a Cameflex with a Nikon mount is going to be your best bet (Alex Georgio still has a few I think) and cost would be £1000 odd all in.

If it's an insurable event then just use a 435 running at 150fps. The mounting is the important part ..

What sort of car is it BTW ?

Justin Pentecost
Focus Puller

Hi All,

Thanks for all your help. The car would be a 'boy racer' type. Ford Escort (newer model).

Lol Crawley

Justin Pentecost writes:

>It's interesting that people are assuming that the camera inside the car >is likely to get damaged.

(I'm replying to this post, but these are general comments not necessarily directed at Justin's post.)

It all depends on the speed of the vehicle and the rate of deceleration where the weight of the camera -- and film -- may determine which camera is better suited for the job.

If there is a driver involved, you might also want to check with the stunt co-ordinator. Most stunt guys have very decided opinions often based on unpleasant experiences as to what they want to have bouncing around in the car with them.

Due the shorter flange focal distance requirements of the Nikon, it is much easier to mount a Nikon lens on an Eyemo than on an Arri. A small, lightweight, and comparatively inexpensive still lens has other advantages. (See above.)

Another advantage of the Eyemo is the internal load, even though it's only 100'. For the simple reason that unless the Arri or Cameflex mags are extremely well secured to the camera, even 200' mags can easily be ripped off the camera by the forces involved. Usually the mag throat remains on the camera, but the mag casting itself and the throat mechanism will company part even in a relatively mild crash. Commercially available clamps designed to secure mags on running -- not crash -- shots are definitely not suited for crashes.

One other limiting factor is larger loop size of the Arri which can be a problem in rapid deceleration.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP

>I agree that a llC would be a good option but then what glass do you >use destroy?

I was surprised that he found the IIc less steady than the Eyemo. That's exactly the opposite of my experience, but I've only owned one Eyemo and two Arri's, both of which were far steadier than I expected them to be. The Eyemo was pretty much a disaster, but maybe that was just bad luck. BTW, in digital finish, everything gets stabilized nowadays. I'd agree about the 35-3 for speed, but I think I'd go IIc for disposable glass. The f/2 Schneider’s in Arri standard mount come to mind. I've smashed a couple of Super-Angulons myself, and the world didn't seem to miss them much. And in a low-budget situation, why do the cameras have to be pristine? I'd get reasonable but a bit scuffed and test it.

" Another advantage of the Eyemo is the internal load, even though it's only 100' "

I think I still have a few spools of 5247 in the fridge if anyone wants them

Tim Sassoon
SFD Vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA

I'm continuing my mail about the foam and wooden box rigs we built for car crashes.

A child got in the way, (of my post rather than any vehicle). Sorry about that.

I think I explained the rig. Suffice to say, this way will only work for those shots of the interior of the car. If you are intending to shoot with exterior cameras at the same time given you may not be able to do the crash more than once, the way we shot is impossible. The rigs were fairly big and cumbersome, but worked a treat. Obviously, foam vac wrapping means you could use any camera - 435 or 235 which would get round any issues about high speed steadiness. The beauty of the rigs was that we knew that the cameras were pretty close to 100%, (as close as you'll ever be) so we could stick the cameras where ever we wanted.) I think the three positions was front passenger POV, wheel arch looking back at the driver, so we'd see the crash test dummy smack the windscreen, and then from the back a wider shot looking forward towards the windscreen.)

As I mentioned earlier the setting was a family on a school run, so there was a fair amount of clobber in the car. But on impact it was the debris flying around at 120fps, hid all many of camera evils.

Hope it helps.

Ben Bannister

>The Eyemo was pretty much a disaster, but maybe that was just bad >luck

That really depends on the condition of the camera, and most of all, loading it(careful with the pressure plate). One problem I've encountered is most Eyemo’s lose the feed spool spindle adjustment screw-it controls the recoiling action of the feed spindle, so it takes up any slack in the film which may occur when the mechanism is stopped (like a clutch on a mag)-so I put locktite on the little screw after adjusting the recoiling action. Load camera with a loop size of 9 perfs on the feed side and 11 perfs on the take up side,

There's also a gate arm back lash adjustment eccentric that prevents the opening of the gate while the camera is running, and should be adjusted if there's a problem.

I've seen many Eyemo’s without this little screw, and consequently this may contribute to jams, etc.

My Eyemo makes very steady shots since it's practically new, but I've seen others with steadiness problems(and 2C's and 3C's with registration problems too, after all many are quite old and need maintenance)

There are many PL mount non reflex Eyemo’s as well, and Nikon mt. Standard mt can take the excellent coated Baltar lenses- but of course shooting non-reflex is a gamble (check you depth of field charts)

You could always get a 2C with BNC mount or PL mount, but you can end up sacrificing a very expensive lens. A Kinoptic 9.8 comes to mind, perhaps a good choice.

S-16 might be a consideration, ( one or 2 A-Cam's)

Best regards,
John F. Babl

Re.: Car Crash

First of all, the second part of my message was delivered, but the first part was eaten by children. Hence my posting will not have made much sense.

Over the past 6 years I have worked on several road safety films for the UK govt. We have shot both on 16mm and 35mm, with cameras having to be position in the cars.

When we shot 16mm we used millicams, principally because the film required ultra slow motion; millicams give that and more. Also millicams are essentially built for scientific photography so mounting them around the car was pretty straightforward. Given their size, the lenses that they take, they help insofar as they are small, lightweight and compact though image quality isn"t brilliant; or that made have been something to do with the fact they were DERA cameras!

However, earlier we shot several films on 35mm. Once again we had to shoot from several angles within the vehicle itself something like a Ford Mondeo a standard family saloon car.

Crucially, we were able to shoot the crash sequence three times twice for the internal shots and one for the exterior shots. Therefore, we didn't have to concern ourselves about the camera rigs inside the car being seen.

We tested a great deal before shooting. The first thing we noticed was that there is a tremendous amount of debris created within the car on impact. And our impact speeds were between 27-35mph car into crash test dummy, car into car and car into very large braced concrete block. A lot of the plastic on the dashboard and the like shattered on impact, so lens and camera body protection was essential. Also, the crash test dummies and the props flew around as well.

We also had to match interior and exterior shots in the cut, and finally had to shoot high speed for the impact itself. So we decided to shoot on Arri 3s running at 120fps we used 3-4 if I remember rightly.

The housings we built worked really well. An idea I think we cribbed from Kubrick. We made wooden boxes out of re-enforced around the edges. We then put the cameras, (video assist only), prime lenses and magazines in plastic bags. Attached hoovers and reversed the blow. Essentially we vac packed the cameras. We then put them in the boxes, and poured in liquid foam, which expanded around the camera bodies, completely encasing them.

Once the foam had set, we cut round the boxes and the foam, splitting them in half and pulling out the cameras. Finally, we cut holes for the lenses. Using scaffold rigging and a lot of 3/8th whitworth bolts, we were able to mount the cameras more or less anywhere we liked in the boot of the car, the front passenger seat, over the wheel arch looking back at the driver etc. We simply sandwiched the cameras back into the foam, into the boxes and then mounted them where ever.

The damage done on impact is horrific, but the cameras, because they were supported at every point were fine. There was no problem with steadiness etc. To put it in perspective, we hit a crash test dummy, weighted for a young female adult, at 35mph. The dummy eventually came to rest about 70 meters from the point of impact. The debris in the car was incredible and in fact meant it hid any manner of problems. We shot with 2-3 cameras rigged at the same time.

Ben Bannister

>It's interesting that people are assuming that the camera inside the car >is likely to get damaged. I'm guessing that the safest place to be in a >car crash (contrived or other wise) is inside the car


That's far too sensible.


You'll ruin your image.

Sitting by the pool in South Beach, I'll have another Margarita.


Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based

John Babl writes:

>S-16 might be a consideration, ( one or 2 A-Cam's)

That sounds like one of the most sensible solutions offered so far. No reason the A-cam can't be combined with other approaches suggested here, but the lighter weight (which means *exponentially* lighter forces) and smaller size means your options can REALLY open up.

With cameras that cheap you could even do things like mount one of them so it intentionally breaks loose on impact and bounces around violently inside the car, or goes careening through the windshield.

(We're assuming here that your insurance is fully paid up, that everyone on set has had their wills properly notarised, and that this hapless camera has been heavily taped up so its door can't pop open as it comes crashing to earth at terminal velocity half a mile beyond the scene of the crash..)

Dan "fore!!!" Drasin
Marin County, CA

I come in late on this one

I would have no hesitation in saying a good ol’ fashioned Newman Sinclair would take a lot of beating (literally)

No electricity, will run 200ft at a single winding, 200ft internal magazine, will take an 18mm lens, and a register pin movement.

16 - 32 fps is standard (in my camera collection I even had one that would run at 200 fps) and being absolutely square is very easy to strap down. Just don’t put it directly behind the driver because if it did come loose it would also be a very lethal battering ram

David Samuelson

( who like every cameraman of my generation, cut my teeth on one.)

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