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Jack Henry James

Filming inside a vehicle, doc style, for several hours continuously

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Hi everyone.

I have to do something that strays a little out of the day-to-day for me so wanted to ask for some thoughts about how I have been thinking of approaching it.

I want to rig a 4x4 for a long road trip, where we want to film every day for probably 8-10 hours (at the most). We'll be self-shooting and pretty much unsupported from a filming point of view.

The plan is to edit short summary films every couple of days.

Now, I can hear many of you screaming that filming a million unlogged hours is a stupid idea and that we can probably get better results by structuring what we film, but it's basically an unplanned and unscripted road trip and we don't know what will happen when - hence the blanket shooting approach. I'm after something between a VLOG and a planned doc shoot. 

Hear me out, anyway, and apologies in advance for the long post.

 

Intended coverage:
3/4 shot of driver
3/4 shot of passenger
Centre two-shot of driver and passenger
Forward shot and rear shot (think dashcam style)
Various positions outside the car, done with one camera that is repositioned
Handheld for out and about

 

Considerations I've had so far:

The environment.
Mostly desert and mountain terrain with some cities. So temperature variation, dust and water are big factors. It's also mostly off-road so will be fairly punishing.

Size.
Physical space is at a premium because of the amount of other kit that has to be carried (camping stuff, recovery gear, spares, diesel...)

Ease of use.
Being realistic about it, there's going to be a lot to concentrate on every day before we even think about the filming, so I'm trying to come up with a solution that is almost set and forget inside the truck, and front and back. That way providing we remember to put new media in and push record on everything at the top of the day, we should be capturing most of what we need, then whenever we get out of the vehicle we take with us a handheld and film as normal.

Security.
A losing battle really when adding a lot of cameras, but there will be a lot of occasions where we don't want to draw attention to ourselves, such as border crossings. So I think sometimes we'll have to remove bits.

Budget.
At this stage I don't know how far it can stretch as we're really at the beginning of this, but currently I've been considering Go Pro / GH5 sort of money as an initial starting point, plus grip, audio, media etc etc. Not sure if that's realistic or not but lets see how you all answer..!

 

Questions:

Camera choice.
For the internal angles, are we basically talking about Go Pros? I've been trying to find out if there are better options, and assuming that we rule out the cinema end of the market for budget reasons - the ARRI ALEXA Mini etc - then I'm not sure what else to look at. It seems like the GH4 or GH5 might be an option. I saw an article about the filming of Grand Tour where they said they found these to be ideal for this purpose, for example. I'm concerned about the size of these though, see space and security considerations... I appreciate the trade-off between size and quality may mean I can't get good quality + small at the same time - I'm more curious to know what people 'usually' use. What about all those docs that follow ambulances around, is that just a bunch of Go Pros and and army of people changing SD cards? I did consider looking at the new BMPCC but thought that it might suffer sensor wobble on the road.

External angles - I guess Go Pro or similar..?

Sound.
I know that sound inside a truck is likely to be frustrating to get right. I was thinking of two lavs, a mic of some sort in the cab and then maybe even something outside so get some ambient. So then a 4 channel Zoom style recorder?

Light.
We can modify the truck as much as we want, so I was considering some sort of bi-color LED fixtures there the visors are?

Logging.
We need a way to log moments that were of interest each day. Could do timecode? I'm conscious that we're going to end up with a lot of hours and we want to be able to find and keep good content and discard mundane content with some certainty otherwise we'll never meet our editing goals. Perhaps we could log against time of day.

Data.
Not sure about the practicalities of DITing all this on the road. SD cards are a pain so I'm considering external recorders. See space concerns above though. One thing I considered was loop recording - Go Pros and dashcams and similar do this, and that could mean that at the end of the day, or maybe just when something interesting happens(!) the related clip could be kept and the rest discarded. I have a feeling we're not going to be able to keep everything.

Despite the huge post I'm sure there's stuff I've missed and even more that I haven't yet even considered. I know many of you who are experts in this (I am obviously not) will have more sensible ideas.

Thanks all of you.

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DJI have just come out with a Go pro style camera .. which fits with Go pro accessories .. I've  read the stabilizing system is better.. although it crops in more than the go pro to achieve  it.. no free lunch !.. for either the problem with be the very limited battery life.. you will need some sort of ext power pack .. USB to Micro USB.. but there are plenty of those about ..

We usually radio mic the people..you can also tape to dash board etc.. hide the sound devices in the back .. and do a hand clap .. or a slate.. keep it simple ..

 

I wouldn't loop record as you could  just as easily lose some great footage ..

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I have heard good things about the Sony RX0 II. The GoPro doesn't specify what size the sensor is, but the RX0 II has a 1" sensor. I think the RX0 gives a better image and codec. The Sony is also has S-log and can output 4:2:2 4k from the HDMI output. If you chose to record to an external recorder you could save battery life on the cameras themselves, get higher quality footage, and record directly to SSDs instead of handling a bunch of micro SD cards. If you recorded into something like the Atomos Ninja V, you could record straight to a 1tb or 2tb SSD. At the lowest bitrate for DNxHD (4.3MB/s) you could get a full 8 hour day on 125GB, or up to 7 days on a 1TB drive. This does not allow for redundancies necessarily, though I don't know if that is something you are considering.

The biggest downside to this approach is battery life for all these items. I think you can run the Atomos recorders on V-mount or Gold Mount batteries with a D-tap adapter, which could probably get you a good amount of time (someone with more experience with this type of power could probably get you exact times). I'm not sure how you plan to charge the batteries on the road, so the large size of a V-mount or Gold plate battery may not work well.

I'm only recommending this as a "best image to size" option. Of course I didn't account for the budget, as one of these cameras can cost 2-3x the cost of a GoPro  and then an external recorder (if you wanted to go that route) would cost extra, and batteries of course would be extra.

Just a thought on an alternative to the GoPro.

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Thanks Matthias, I’ll take a look at those. 

Power probably isn’t a problem actually, there’s plenty in the truck and we can get power to the cameras to avoid batteries, I would think. 

 

We actually alteady have some recorder options so that might reduce the budget pressure. 

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The new black magic 4K pockets might be a shout for long record times. They have a usb-c port and you can mount an external portable disk on it for longer record times then internal card media.

Its small and has good exposure latitude which is helpful on driving shots, you want to see into the shadows without the windows blowing out. Its proper 10 bit pro rez or raw internal - negating the need for an external recorder

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There is also the Z-Cam cameras (E2 and other models) which could be useful for interior shots. I think they have the possibility to record to external ssd as well.

It would be useful if you would have the ability to mark the good shots immediately after the events so that they are much quicker to find. 

An external recorder could be useful if it would record multiple streams at the same time (for immeduate sync of the cameras) and you can add markers real time when recording. It might also make it easier to offload the footage if it would be on large ssds instead of memory cards 

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At least we live in the times of card media I was an edit assistant on Top Gear, back in the days of shooting the car interiors on DV tape. Lots of editing round the vibration induced tape drop out

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Interesting options, thanks.

Wondering about how good the Blackmagic camera would be in a bumpy off-road environment. I might try and get a test. Good point about the exposure though, that does have the potential to be tricky to get right and so latitude would be a bonus.

Will look into the DJI one thanks Robin (sorry didn't see your post before). Likewise the Z-cam aapo.

 

Agreed about cards Phil. This stuff is definitely easier now.

 

 

 

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Hi all,

So I've done a bit more research into the RX0 II. Looks like a sensible option. Except, it basically overheats at the drop of a hat. Especially if running for a prolonged time, or when plugged in, or in my case both.

We're planning to go to quite a hot environment so I think it's ruled out.

Made me wonder though, do Go Pros also suffer from this? Probably worth seeing how hot the recorders get too.

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Why does every movie remove the head rest in vehicles? I notice this long ago, and I have a thought its for lighting, maybe for more of the scene to be shown as well. But never actually asked or looked it up.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, BrandonFuller said:

Why does every movie remove the head rest in vehicles? I notice this long ago, and I have a thought its for lighting, maybe for more of the scene to be shown as well. But never actually asked or looked it up.

Not just movies .. but docs/ corps too.. we never or very rarely  have the luxury of car trailers, green screen cut away cars..etc.. so we have to be  inside the car.. in the back usually.. for any sort of over shoulder shots ..or going between two subjects in the front .. you take them out to be physically  able to get the shot.. ie French over ..

Edited by Robin R Probyn
spelling

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Quick heads up about mounting a GH5 to a car: The floating sensor for the in body stabilization gets messed up by strong vibrations. I experienced it using a tripod on a large ship, but the Top Gear guys described the same problem with their car rigs. If you buy a panasonic make sure to get the GH5S. 

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