Inside a moving car – an everyday setting, but amongst the more challenging ones for a film crew. You can tackle it with greenscreen, or with front projection, or with Poor Man’s Process. Or you can do it for real.
On The Gong Fu Connection we did it for real. If you’re going to attempt this you’ll need three things:
- A very wide lens, if you want to get both the driver and the front passenger in frame. I used the wide end of a Tokina 11-16mm zoom, kindly lent to us by DIT Rob McKenzie.
- An LED panel to ensure the cast are sufficiently illuminated when the vehicle passes through dark areas.
- Some kind of suction mount.
I still had a Hama car mount I’d bought back in 2000 to do car chases like this with my Canon XM1.
I can’t believe I used to rely entirely on that mount to hold the camera, with no safety rope. I’d never do that now.
Of course, this mount wouldn’t support the weight of the Blackmagic. It was just to provide an extra anchor point. Most of the camera’s weight was actually rested on the dashboard, as you can see below. Cardboard and gaffer tape were used to secure it firmly, and the V-lock battery was placed in the open glove box underneath.
We ruled out mounting the camera on the bonnet partly for safety and partly because windscreen reflections can be a real nightmare. But we did mount the LED panel on the bonnet, or rather in the gap between the back end of the bonnet and the windscreen, nestled on the wipers. Its yoke rested against the windscreen, maintaining the panel at the right angle. Bungee cords and gaffer tape held it firmly and a bin bag protected it from the spitting rain.
Baldur, the character in the front passenger seat, was supposed to have a laptop on his lap. Since it was out of frame, I gave him another LED panel instead to represent the light coming from the screen. With hindsight I wish I’d gelled it cooler, but never mind. I gaffer-taped over the brightness and colour temperature dials on the back of the panel to stop them getting accidentally knocked out of position.
Exposing for these shots is tricky, particularly when you’re driving on country lanes where a dark, tree-lined avenue can suddenly give way to a bright, open field. If you turn up the LED panels too bright, the dark sections look fake, but if you don’t turn them up bright enough then the dark sections look too dark. I made a guess and it turned out to be pretty bang on.
When we shot, only the three actors and the sound recordist were able to be in the car. Before it drove off, I started the camera rolling and Colin popped in with the slate. Then it was all down to the actors. They did a series of takes and came back to show us the results. Everyone was happy, and that was that.
Support The Gong Fu Connection at www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-gong-fu-connection