A lot of times, amateur filmmakers forget the everyday objects and items they use everyday which can be used to enhance their videos. They are easy to overlook. After all, that rolling chair in your office couldn't possibly be used as a dolly, could it? That's for sitting and nothing else. Well, as it turns out, your car can be used for video, too, and it has even more mobility and versatility than even an office chair. With a hat tip to Ricardo at Wooshi, we thought we'd take a look at Derek Beck's entertaining video called, "Drive-By Shooting: Using Your Car to Make Better Videos," and break it down.
How to Use Your Car as a Video Production Tool
What do they tell you first? Well, be careful. You're driving your car around here. You need a clear road, and you need to drive with safety in mind, and sometimes, you'll have a guy looking through a camera who might be in a precarious position. So don't be stupid.
1. Using Your Car As A Dolly
- From the Trunk
The first shot we see is of Derek walking along towards the camera as it moves away from him. We see the camera operator sitting in the open trunk of the car as the car drives slowly. And the effect is simple, almost like they had a professional dolly track. They also show this vantage point being used for a slow-push "dramatic" shot.
- Out the Side Window, From the Backseat
Another vantage point is from one of the side windows of the car, with the camera on a tripod in the backseat. This method can capture side dolly shots of people slowly walking. What's more, if you don't have a tripod, they suggest using a bag of rice to keep the camera steady at the bottom part of the window frame.
- From the Front
The camera hangs outside one of the front windows and needs to be mounted safely so that it doesn't fall out the window and crash to its death. The framing needs to be done so that the front of the car can't be seen, just your subjects (unless, of course, you want people to know it's in a car). With this vantage point, the camera can capture people running or another car or anything that might need speed to keep up with.
2. Audio Issues and How to Avoid Them
- Overdub the Dialogue
You may need to do some ADR (automated dialogue replacement), or overdub the dialogue in a more controlled environment, if you don't want that car engine to be in the soundtrack. But, there's another way:
- Get Out And Push
Turn the engine off, put it in neutral, and you can guide the car where you'd like. You'll have to get a boom mike or something similar to hang outside the car to record the dialogue. Notice from here they've turned the car's tires slightly so that when they push, the camera can slowly circle the subject.
3. Helicopter View Effect
If you happen to know a place where driving on an overpass can get you close and personal with the tops of buildings, you can add helicopter blades in post and it makes it look like you're flying around the building, provided you keep any part of the car out of the frame, of course.
4. The Out-Of-Body Effect
There's that effect where you see the main character in the center of the frame and no matter where he goes, he remains in the center. The effect is hard to pull off in a car, and in the description of this shot they say it's probably easier to pull off in a truck.
5. Elevated Platform
If your car's roof is sturdy enough, it can be used to get that perfect bird's-eye view. Yeah, don't try this when the car is in motion.
6. Fake Driving
By simply giving your subject something circular to hold onto and keeping your fake steering wheel out of the shot, you can safely shoot a person "driving" in the backseat of the car. Just keep the frame tight where only the actor's head, arms, and the window are in view. With someone else actually driving, the car can be in motion and the subject doesn't have to keep an extra careful eye on the road (although, the effect would be ruined if the subject just sits and talks to the camera the whole time).
7. Ditching Your Car Effect
This requires a couple of shots, then matching them later in editing. First, you've got to shoot the car driving past a certain point. Then, your subject, safely out of the car and on the far side of the road, will pretend to "jump" out by rolling and standing. In post, this requires matching similar frames from the first shot and the second shot to complete the effect. Selling the effect may require a separate shot of the actor opening the door from inside the moving car and pretending to jump out.
8. Pretending to Hit Someone with Your Car Effect
This requires some post-production reversing. Create a mark for where your subject is standing. Start with your actor in his "post-crash" state and slowly move the car backwards. When the car reaches the mark, the actor should slide off the hood and stand up. The car moves out of the frame. The way they did this effect here was they shot Derek saying a few words, then they matched a shot from the sequence they wanted to reverse, then sped up the reverse shot, making it look almost seamless.
By the way, if you want more amazing car stuff, Film Riot, unsurprisingly, has also made a few great videos involving cars, including "Driving In A Car Without Driving A Car:"
In that tutorial, they use three different methods to achieve this effect. Green screen, rear projection, and special effects lighting are all covered.
And that's not all. They also have one where you can "Drive Fast Without Driving Fast," which we actually broke down in this article.
With Derek and Neko Neko Productions' tutorials, and the accompanying videos from Film Riot, you can do almost anything you want with cars, except, hopefully not wrecking them.