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Aaton XTR Prod on a tripod/hi-hat in moving car

Mark Khalife

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Aaton XTR Prod on a tripod/hi-hat in moving car; the road is fairly smooth, and we'll be driving at around 40kph (~25mph), no bumps or potholes. Can anyone advise as to whether there is still a high risk of dropped frames, film moving out of position, or any other issues I should be foreseeing?

Many thanks.


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Aaton XTR Prods have legendary great registration. Driving in a moving car without any stabilization (steady Cam) won't or shouldn't cause the film to "jump" in the gate. Highly unlikely, even less so if the camera is recently serviced. However, the image may still not be steady, but it isn't he cameras fault, it is the movement of the support under it. In your case, it seems like it might me very little. If you cannot use a steady cam, use a car with a very soft ride. For example a big Cadillac and not a Corvette. Try padding under the Hi-hat to help absorb vibration. 

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If you are moving the camera during the shot, you may get some rolling shutter effect. This might occur if you are shooting out the side widows while driving and moving the camera around. But film cameras have a fast rolling shutter and I as an Aaton owner have rarely seen it. 

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I've done everything to an XTR you can think of outside of underwater, no chance in hell you'll "skip frames" at 24fps. The film is moving way too fast. 

It's not like the film is just sitting in the gate either, it's being pinched on the gate AND the pressure plate. You can shake the living crap out of the camera and the only thing you'll get is noise really. The film will continue to run no problem. 

I do car shots all the time with my camera on bumpy roads, over cranking quite a bit, works great. I've also done it successfully with the Aaton 35III, same results, always perfect even on bumpy roads. 

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I wouldn't worry. Once I bolted my LTR to the cargo hook plate on a Hughes 500 helicopter and shot some fabulous footage. No skipped frames or mag jams. I did worry about metal fatigue and my beloved camera ending up 500' below in the Indiana countryside.

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Here is a pix with a video camera rig we made in the back of my car for shooting vintage classics at Clint Eastwood's ranch. The low camera is a lock-off.

I've done similar rigs many times with film camera and never had a problem. If you can pick a vehicle with fairly compliant suspension (a minivan is ideal) and drop the manufacturers tire inflation specs (look on the rear inside of the driver's door frame) a few pounds or or kilopascals for a more cushy ride. You don't want to drop it too much as the handling go mushy or wallowy.

The driver is an important part of this equation. Make speed and steering transitions very smoothly. Don't be afraid to use the accelerator and the brake simultaneously to achieve this. It takes a little practice. If you're shooting a trailing or passing vehicle have a little safety briefing before hand. Work out a set of clearly understood hand signals. This often works better than walkies. If you're taking up both lanes on a two lane road make sure the local gendarmerie has a firm lockup to keep civilians off your road.



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