How Do I Rig a Camera on a Car?

Filming a sequence in a car, or from a car, presents certain challenges. A key one of these challenges is how to rig a camera to a car to get the best results from your shoot, most importantly; safely.

You must consider the manoeuvrability of your camera, but also safety when setting things up.

HSE publishes recommendations for safe filming and recording in, from and around vehicles.

It notes that one of the potential hazards from working with or around vehicles is:

Inappropriately mounted camera/recording/ancillary equipment.

HSE advises that filmmakers should position cameras so that they cannot create a significant risk of injury to in-car occupants, to bystanders, or to other vehicles.

The position of filming equipment should also not interfere with the safety workings of the vehicle it is in, or on.

There are various safety precautions you should take:

  • Don’t rig any equipment which will block the driver’s view.
  • Avoid roads that are busy or will have obstacles.
  • Only film pieces to camera when it is clearly safe to do so.
  • If you’re driving, don’t look in the camera for any longer than you would in a car mirror.
  • Always remember you are driving first and filming second.

There will also be various technical factors to think about, including in-car lighting, which we will come to later.

But the thing you must get right for everything else to work is how you rig your camera to the car.

There are various options for a setting up a camera for car use, including lightweight rigs and heavy duty rigs depending on your camera equipment.

Choosing which one to hire will depend on the type of shoot and vehicle, and your filming equipment.

Lightweight Car Rigs

Using a lightweight car rig gives you plenty of flexibility, and a whole range of rigging possibilities.

The IdeaVision C3 VacuMount is a vacuum mounting platform that is lightweight and highly adaptable.

It weighs only 3kg, which means you can easily mount it on most smooth surfaces of a vehicle, including its roof, doors and windows.

It is formed from a series of articulated links, which make it extremely flexible, and ideal for use on small or narrow surfaces.

The bottom of the platform has vacuum hoses mounted on to it, which fix it securely to the chosen surface. This vacuum rigging system is micro-controlled, providing permanent pressure automatically. Powered off a 12v V-Lock battery or the vehicles interior 12v supply, if power is interrupted suction is held in place to allow maximum safety.

It has a control unit with four different modes to suit different mounting requirements.

The suction pads can carry a maximum payload of up to 100kg (220lbs), depending on how you use the VacuMount platform so can attach a wide range of camera options from mirrorless cameras to a RED or ARRI Alexa Mini.

Setting up this lightweight rig is fast and straightforward, and it’s something a single user can easily do. To ensure the safety of your set-up, it’s best to use the IdeaVision hook system, to tether the mount to the car as a safety backup.

With this type of lightweight car rig, you can:

  • Mount the camera on the front of the car, to direct it at the driver, or
  • Fix it to the side of the car for tracking shots, or side-on interior shots.

A Versatile, Lightweight Alternative

Sometimes, it’s a case of finding a cost-effective solution that will work in broad range of situations, for whatever kind of shoot you’re planning.

Here, you require something versatile but lightweight, which offers a wide selection of options for setting up ideal for small cameras.

The Matthews Pro Mount car mounting system is designed to do the job.

It is a professional but easy to apply mounting system, consisting of:

  • Three suction cup mounts
  • Three rods
  • Two grip heads
  • A hot shoe adaptor

With these combined components you can achieve an impressive amount of camera stability, so if your car hits a bump, the camera will move with it and remain secure.

You can use the system to mount a camera to the hood, side or interior window and dashboard.

Heavy Duty Car Rigs

For some in-car or on-car filming, you will require a more substantial car rig system.

This is especially true if you’re filming on rough terrain, where vibrations could become an issue.

The Rigwheels Cloud Mount deals with this potential problem by including a vibration isolation system.

Combined with a gimbal the Cloud Mount achieves smooth, dynamic camera movement.

It has a multiple configurations including sidecar and underslung positioning options.

The design element that makes the Cloud Mount fast and easy to set up is magnetic. The system uses 8 magnets with a combined pulling force of over 180kg (around 400lbs).

These magnets are rubber-cased to protect surfaces.  Suction cups are provided as an alternate for non-magnetic surfaces.

Despite being a heavy-duty rig, the Cloud Mount system is very adaptable, with a range of configurations, which you can customise and fine-tune for specific shooting requirements.

Ultimately, it’s a multi-purpose camera rig, suitable of all kinds of location shooting where vehicles are involved.

In-car Lighting

The car interior is not the easiest space to light for filming. For shooting purposes, it is essentially a small room with a very low ceiling and windows on all sides.

Shooting daytime scenes means managing contrast. The car roof will remove all overhead daylight, but the windows will let in bright light from outside.

If the vehicle has a sunroof that might help, but then opening it to light also means opening it to more external noise.

An ideal solution is to add lights to the interior of the car, and the best lights for this purpose are flexible light panels.

The Fomex 1×1×1-led/ is an extremely lightweight light source, which you can mount to stand or, for in-car filming, fix to an interior car ceiling space with Velcro.

This square, flexible panel measures 30cm x 30cm and is less than 5mm thick. You can power it with a battery as well as a mains source.

The light the Fomex 1×1 produces is high quality, with a colour temperature range of 3200°K to 5600°K with a high CRI (Colour Rendering Index) of CRI 96/TLCI 98 and a 120° beam angle.

This is the perfect answer to dealing with the problem of contrast when filming in-car.

Making In-car Filming Work For You

You don’t need a huge budget to make in-car filming a success, or to take advantage of mounting your camera on-car for dynamic sequences.

But you do need the right equipment to set up your rig safely while giving you enough adaptability and flexibility for your shoot. And when it comes to filming, the right accessories, such as flex lights, will support you in achieving the kind of quality finish you’re looking for.