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Car Rigs


Here's at least one other way to mount the camera in various parts of a car interior. Make up an expanding pole that can friction-fit from ceiling to floor, and a slotted angle iron L-bracket that slides up and down on it, to which you attach the camera with a simple screw or wing nut. This works better with tiny cameras, of course, but in any case takes up much less interior space than the serviceable 2x4 plank thru the windows. You can also get in/out the car without a lot of hassle. And it lets you shoot 360 degrees without showing the camera support. You can also hang lighting on it. By locking the camera to the frame/body of the car, you take out major vibration, since camera and car hit bumps as one unit. The outside view shakes more, of course.
I've never built one of these for the inside of a car before, but I imagine threaded metal pipes and some extra threaded connectors or lock washers would do the trick. Large rubber pads or cups on the ends keep from poking holes in car fabrics, and improve the grip/hold. You would do field/tension adjustments with a pair of plumbing wrenches.
Plastic version: You could make it out of two pieces of telescoped PVC pipe with some kind of a spring inside... just think of an old pole lamp from your parent's rumpus room, or the expanding shower curtain rod in your bathroom for inspiration. You'll have to design it to the weight and other needs of the specific camera you're using. All bets are off if the car is a convertible:-)
Wait a minute, hot flash hit me: The PVC thing is easier if you forget the spring, and buy a solid rubber strap-style bungie, maybe a foot long. No, buy several in various sizes, they're cheap. Follow me on this: the outer tube of the "telescoping" pair gets two slits in it/across it at one-third it's length, which lets the bungie pass thru inside, blocking the tube inside. When the smaller diameter inner PVC section is inserted, it pushes out against the rubber strap, kinda like an inside-out bow and arrow. And be careful here, 'cause this would expel the "arrow" with harmful, if not fatal, force. But now, the pole has an adjustable amount of "spring" extension force, depending on how much the rubber strap is stretched. (which is why you bought several lengths).


I needed a mount for shooting in-flight interiors of me flying in a VERY cramped Cessna. This mount also works well in automobiles, and can quickly give you a high-angle security camera type shot when hung in most any doorway. Setup/takedown takes seconds.
It is all perforated steel strapping from the hardware store, heavy gauge, so it takes a lot of muscle to bend it by hand. Add standard nuts, wingnuts and bolts sized to match your camera's mounting bolt threads. The primary unit is a simple ÔL' shape, with a shorter secondary piece attached at right angles half-way down the el's long axis. This adds stability against twisting, and gives you a surface to gaffer-tape against the window of the car or plane. A piece of steel L bracket is screwed into the back of the unit at the bend to stiffen it. Camera sits on the short horizontal part of the big el. The cool part to me is the short loop of nylon strapping or webbing that you attach to the highest point of the L. This gets trapped in the rolled-up car window, or between door and jamb, anchoring the unit. The folded loop should be about 15 inches long, which lets you vary the height of suspension. It must be a folded loop, not a single straight piece: camera weight pulling on it makes the loop's end splay out at the window interface, locking the unit in place.
I also discovered you can put this on the top of a door, close the door on the loop, and (usually) it stays put quite well. For loose-fitting doors, push a pen thru the loop to help keep it from pulling thru the jamb. Obviously, you have to lock the door or guard against accidental opening while the camera is hanging. Try this mount sometime, it is very versatile and costs about $12 in parts. I also pad the sides that face window glass with spare foam rubber, like from an equipment packing case. Helps damp vibration and prevent scratches on glass.
This mount has weight limitations: the most I'd trust to it is a VHS-C camcorder, but I'd be pretty confident about it with High-8 or mini-DV units.


Place a pillow/cushion onto the hood of the car. Position the camera onto the pillow, then use lots & lots of gaffer tape & rope to secure the camera. I've used this technique many times. Make sure you use a Polarizing filter to reduce the glare of the windshield.

Look at the book "Cinematic motion" by Steven D. Katz. There is an entire chapter devoted to the different kinds of car mounted camera rigs, and how to set them up.
Or you can find other books here: Required Reading

Depending on the needs of the shot (This won't work as well if you have actors in the backseat), you can even place the camera on top of a pillow, with the pillow curved up around the camera so that the sides and back were protected, and the lens is pointing into the car. Wrapping the pillow with a bungee cord or two holds the thing together. The camera-in-pillow is then placed on the hood of the car, centered, on top of two 2x4 pieces to help raise up the camera, and level it. Then, use bungee cords from the corners of the hood (some wrapped in duct tape to keep from scratching the car), to hold the camera in place.

Mount a microphone inside the car, on the cup holder, out of view, between the passenger and driver's seats. It would be cool to also have a video monitor on the ground between the passenger's legs. The mic cable and video feed from the camera ran along the edge of the car, out of shot, in through the passenger window.

This rig works at speeds up to about 75mph on a highway, and beautifully around town. Depending on how high you mount the camera, there is still excellent visibility, although as in all things you glean off this board, there is an inherent safety risk when driving with an object on your hood.

Tip: Use a polarizing filter to see through reflections on the glass. If you want to see the actors clearly, it's a must. If you want that whole cool Mistubishi commercial reflections-of-tree-branches-streaming-over-the-windshield look, shoot w/o the filter.

This is also good entertainment on a summer evening. Drive around with a pillow/camera mount on your hood and you'll get many odd looks.

[and that's almost as funny as driving around with an empty softdrink cup taped to your roof--if you need cheap entertainment, I highly recommend it]