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Old March 19th, 2005, 11:56 AM   #1
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shooting from a moving bicycle

I plan to shoot a documentary during the world naked bike ride this June 11th. I have permission from the organizers in Chicago to video their protest and participate in the ride. I'm shooting with a GL2 and need suggestions how best to record from my bike during the ride. Are there any devices (homebuilt or commercial) for attaching the camera to the bike frame? Do they provide enough smooth isolation from road bumps? I'm most interested in hearing suggestions from people who have actually videoed from their bikes, but other clever suggestions are welcome.

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Old March 19th, 2005, 01:21 PM   #2
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I found myself in the exact same position last time I filmed a naked bike

If I were you, I wouldn’t attempt to ride a bicycle, look where your going, frame a shot, and try to keep the whole thing stable whilst chasing after lots of naked cyclists. It just doesn’t tend to work out too well.

I would get someone to help you shoot from a car, or a motorbike with someone on the back.
Richard Lewis.
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Old March 19th, 2005, 01:23 PM   #3
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Ok, i don't mean to discourage, but a couple of cautions.

Shooting and riding, may not be a good mixture - beacuse both tend to require concentration. - just remeber to be safe and keep an eye on the road.
I shot a fun-run last year, and I shot from the back of a Jeep (where I was strapped in) using a 'shakycam' (Hold tripod legs together, camera (XL1) on top, hold the thing from below the head and add wight to the bottom to counterweight (think Steadicam...)) Worked great. I could concentrate on shooting while the driver concentrated on driving.

- I did also have a harrowing experience with a Bike trailer shoting a biking video. - I was in a trailer beeing pulled by one bike, shooting backwards at the other bikes with a Steadicam (Flyer [full rig]) - all went fine untill a corner where my wieght beeing too high for the trailer caused it to flip dumping me and the rig out on my back. Lukily no injuries to me or the gear. I was very glad to be wearing a helmet when my head hit the deck.

And you want to be really carefull if you use a Steadicam or similar stabilizer on a bike (you shouldn't) beacuase both rely on perfect balance - something not likley to be possible very easily for both. (though it *has* been done)

That beeing said, I hope you find a handy way to pull off the shot, sounds like it could be a lot of fun!

And regarless what you do when on any set of wheels, naked or not ALWAYS wear a helmet!

- Mikko.
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Old March 19th, 2005, 03:20 PM   #4
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Thanks for the comments. I agree that shooting from a car would be preferred, but the World Naked Bike Ride is a protest against oil dependence and it promotes bike riding as an alternative to polluting fuels. It would appear very hypocritical to video from a gas-powered vehicle. Also, I couldn't get shots from within the group from the participant's point of view.

I know I can't handhold a stabilizer while riding, but maybe I could fashion a brace with a balanced gimbal to the bike frame to shoot forward with a wide to medium framing. Attaching to the bike frame behind the handle bars should give a position to view the camera monitor and minimize shocks from road bumps since it is more centered between the wheels. Maybe a solid (non-floating) mounting is better to lock the camera in place and just shoot more wide angle to minimize image bouncing. Cameras mounted on car hoods and in the driving compartment probably are locked down and any bouncing adds to the realism of the shot. I guess I'll need to build and experiment before the shoot.

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Old March 19th, 2005, 05:45 PM   #5
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You could always use a hybrid, or electric car ;-)

But really. If you attach the camera firmly to your bike frame, you will allready notably minimise the angular displacement of the camera. (especially if your bike has some suspension and the road is nice and flat). A gimble probably wouldn't help you much.
The image stabilizer on the GL2 is also a very good one, it should do a fine job of eliminating the finer vibrations.

So, how to fasten it. My sugestion would be to use a "Super Clamp" - It will clamp nicly to the roudn pipe, and it's allready got a correct size threaed hole for the cmaera, you jsut need a short peice of allthread to connect the 2.
I'd sugest some sort of safty too, run a good strong price of line through your camera's handle and then to the bike, just in case.
If you want a little more positioning fleability (no pun intended) get a "Magic Arm" - those things are worth their wieght on gold. - they do cost a bit, but they are indespensible on any shoot.
Both SuperClamps and MagicArms are available from B&H ( among other places.

Also, another neat trick: Let some of the air out of your tires. Thsi will make them noticably softer, and smoothen out your ride a lot. - Of course watch out for rocks!

- Mikko.
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Old March 24th, 2005, 09:28 AM   #6
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How 'bout this: Get 2 conduit hangers (you'll find them in the electrical department. The are used for hanging electrical conduit to ceilings and such). Use a couple of bolts to attach the conduit hangers on a small bit of plywood. You now have a camera tray that will mount on your front handle bars. Bolt a tripod head to the tray, and you're finished!

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Old March 24th, 2005, 09:37 AM   #7
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I specifically don't want the camera attached to the handlebars since steering the bike will cause the camera to swing more than necessary. I plan to use something like the conduit clamps or U-bolts to mount the camera to the bike frame just behind and above the handlebars.

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Old March 24th, 2005, 09:42 AM   #8
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Ah, good point!

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Old March 24th, 2005, 10:03 AM   #9
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A sky-diving rig using a backward facing lipstick cam attached to your helmet will work just fime.

Your local flying club will have the particulars.
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Old March 27th, 2005, 08:28 PM   #10
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I recently finished a feature-length documentary about a bicycle caravan, which I filmed almost entirely from a bicycle over a three-week period.

FWIW, I would suggest that you not even think about hard-mounting the camera to the bike frame unless you can scout the route of the ride in advance and assure yourself that the road surfaces are absolutely smooth -- and I would guess that Chicago city streets won't meet this standard.

It is quite possible to handhold a small light video camera while bicycling and get very decent results. The trick is to practice, because you really do have to concentrate fully on two seperate activities at once, and this is especially true if you are filming from within a group of bicyclists. It also helps if the fold-out LCD screen on your camera is fully readable in sunlight - consider getting a hood for it otherwise. The other key thing to think about is whether the controls (such as focus lock and exposure lock) on your camera can be easily operated with one hand -- because that's all you are going to have free. And try to rig up some sort of basket/handle-bar pack/belt pouch/whatever so that you have a place to store the camera in between shots, and again you want to be able to easily get the camera in and out with just one hand.

I'm not sure the GL2 is ideal, both because it's size and weight may make it a bit hard to handle on a bike, and because I'm not sure it will lend itself to one-handed operation.

Lastly, as has been said, wear a helmet.

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Old March 27th, 2005, 10:31 PM   #11
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if they have a pace or safety motocade i would setup to film on that, it was how a lot of scenes from the documentary pro were filmed
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Old March 28th, 2005, 02:54 PM   #12
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Filming while on my bike is 90% of what i do. I make bmx videos, this requires trailing a rider through a line which is very common and a really nice effect if you can get a good shot.

As others have mentioned before, mounting the camera to the bike directly is not a good idea. There are a number of reasons for this; all of which i'm sure you've heard or can figure out so i wont waste any time with that.

What is most commonly done, and with good results are some of the following:

a) You have a GL2, so you're already a few steps ahead, the handle provided is great for following riders. Generally holding the camera around your waste rather then up near your head or down at the pedals provides a relatively bump free shot. This is so you can avoid locking your arm and or trying to check the viewer at an awkward angle. In general any attempt to anchor the camera with your body or the bike with be really shaky due to the physical nature of the vehicle you are using.

b) Do NOT try and look through the view finder while pedaling. If you have an external monitor you're set for life. Mount it to your handle bars, point the camera, and shoot. Otherwise, for your own safety use the lcd screen.

c) ultra wide angle lenses (fisheye lenses) are a god sent. Yes, you get distortion, but not having to watch the riders as you are rolling is a huge plus. you can just point and shoot in their general direction and be pretty positive you have them in your shot. This is beneficial if you are not comfortable riding your bike with out watching the space in front of you.

d) helmet cams: good results, but:
1) it gets boring
2) the shot will bounce or move with your head
There are “helmet cams” which are rigged like the blair witch project which have arms that extend from a back pack... these will avoid a lot of the bumpy motion from your head but will still have a lot of bumps from the riding it self. Not to mention they are really expensive.

e) If you are not comfortable riding a bike you shouldn’t be doing it with a camera. If you insist on riding a bike wear a helmet and wrist protectors. If you have a helmet cam this avoids the "un-cool" factor that generally comes with "extreme" bike riding... and the wrist guards give even more stability to the shot. But seeing as how nudity is involved i am doubting the likelihood of backflips and 360’s so nevermind the cool factor (if, however, by some chance i am wrong about the backflips, may god rest their poor souls).

f) non-motorized alternatives to bikes:
1) skateboards - if the surface is not bumpy (such as through city streets) a skateboard can glide along just fine. Of course if you've never ridden one its substantially worse than a bike.
2) inline roller blades - such as those used for inline hockey, are great because of the large wheels and the length of the wheel base you can remain relatively unshaken.
3) The advantage of skatebaords and or inline rollerblades is not only are they relatively smooth but if you find a rope and a chump with enough leg power you can get them to tow you behind their bike... there for you can concentrate on your shots rather than where you're going.
4) The major disadvantage is their speed.. they can only go as fast as you can (ie. no mechanical advantage (gears).)

Those are the most basic things that help when actually filming while biking.

If you want to see a good example of how well bike footage can turn out there’s a great bike video out Called “Forward” By the Etnies shoe company. It show cases many of the techniques i have just discussed if your curious about their results. (incase this is considered advertising or using names is not allowed on the board i’m sorry)

If you have any questions about any of the above mentioned things feel free to ask.

Good luck,
That'll do pig, that'll do
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Old March 29th, 2005, 02:46 PM   #13
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Thats great info.

As a former TV News Photographer and now corporate photog who bikes to work and bikes (24" & 26" BMX cruisers)recreationally, I have long wanted to capture my always stressful encounters with, to be kind, inconsiderate San Antonio Bus drivers.

I have thought about the helmet cam but it just didnt seem practical.

A low angle shot at speed using an extreme wide shot would really make these encounters pop.
I just bought my son a HandyCam that accepts lenses.
This should be great.

Heres hoping I dont give myself a reason to start wearing a helmut.
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