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Old April 20th, 2007, 08:52 PM   #1
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Putting a car in tow for night driving scene = Safe?

Hello everyone,

I'm shooting a scene from Collateral for a friend's class project. The scene is extracted from the beginning of the movie when Annie and Max are talking in a moving cab. The camera needs to be in the front of the car. I thought about ways to shoot this and figured the easiest and best looking way would be to get an SUV or pickup and then rent something like this:

http://www.uhaul.com/guide/index.asp...-autotransport

We would shoot out the back of the SUV/pickup into the trailing car. It would be lit from the inside.

My question and concern is: All of my friends tell me that it's not worth it and that it's probably unsafe. I'm starting to get a little concerned about whether I should do it. The Uhaul manual also says never to put passengers in the car in tow.

Is this really a big safety issue or do you think it's a good idea? Would I be pulled over if the police saw passengers in the car in tow? Are there any other ways to get this shot I haven't thought of? We would be moving at a relatively slow speed on a straight, well-lit downtown street. The car in tow will be a Dodge Neon (relatively lightweight). We would frame it so you can't see the exterior of the car, and then inter-cut it with footage of a real cab driving.

I'm sure there are rigs that are specially designed for this kind of filming, but I wouldn't know where to look for one and probably wouldn't be able to pay that much. This seems like a cheap solution.

We would have to rent this platform as if we towed the car directly on the ground it would be too low and impossible to shoot from the leading car.

I considered just having the actor drive the car and we would shoot from the leading car, but there's an issue of keeping the same speed and finding a car without a back window level with the trailing car to shoot out of. I also considered a car mount but that would block the view of the road if the actor is driving and probably be equally unsafe.
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Old April 20th, 2007, 10:22 PM   #2
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I'd say NO WAY

And U-Haul specifically states it in thier rental lease you'll receive

I'd suggest shooting green screen in a controlled environment. It'll look great and your audience won't even notice if you do it right.
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Old April 20th, 2007, 11:18 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Xiaoli Wang View Post
All of my friends tell me that it's not worth it and that it's probably unsafe.
Not to mention illegal. But they're absolutely right.

Quote:
Would I be pulled over if the police saw passengers in the car in tow?
On public surface streets? Most likely yes. And ticketed.

Refer to Texas State Transportation Code, Chapt. 545, Operation & Movement of Vehicles.
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Old April 20th, 2007, 11:29 PM   #4
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Okay, after doing a little more research, I've concluded that this probably isn't a good idea. You guys have confirmed my initial thoughts.

Thanks for the advice. I will look into doing green screen or car mount solutions.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 01:52 PM   #5
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Here in the UK, it's illegal to have passengers riding in or on any kind of trailer. One way I might consider doing it, depending on where I needed to film it (ie if I could do it on a private road and therefore not subject to road traffic laws) was this.
Get an A frame, then the car can be towed exactly where it needs to be, and the distance between that and the towing vehicle will remain the same. It will be controlled by the towing vehicle. Here at least, it wouldn't be illegal for there to be one person in the car being towed, and I'm confident that many police officers would turn a blind eye to an extra person being in the car. It would depend on whether they were routine patrol officers or traffic police, who know which specific motoring offences to look for. If you were able to find a private road, and if you were able to satisfy yourself on the safety aspects of doing it this way, it might be worth having a go.

* Edit - Another way that might be safer, would be to put the car on the back of a recovery truck. At least like this, it isn't being towed and I suspect may be legal (I'm sure it is ok here). One disadvantage would be that it may make the car further off the ground than is desirable, although you could mitigate this by removing the wheels. (make sure the car is chained / anchored down so it can't slide off the back of the truck).

** even more edit . . .

Could you use a right hand drive car ? That way you would be able to film from where the driver of a LHD car would normally be.
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Last edited by John Westbury; April 21st, 2007 at 01:59 PM. Reason: Another thought . . .
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Old April 21st, 2007, 05:03 PM   #6
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A green screen is way to go.

Here's a car chase we filmed for our weekly web series:
http://colonelcrush.com/movie/index/00030301

We did that over a 12 ft (wide) x 8 ft greenscreen that we made by painting drywall on 2x4s. And we used the stock chromakeyer in Vegas, which is quite primitive.

For lighting we bought a number of fluorescent lights that we mounted close to the screen - above and below. We used more neutral lights for the foreground.

We're shopping for better chromakeying software, but the basic Vegas kit got the job done.
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Last edited by Jon Fairhurst; April 21st, 2007 at 09:27 PM.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 07:35 PM   #7
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That was rad Jon

Loved it
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Old April 21st, 2007, 09:40 PM   #8
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That was rad Jon

Loved it
The credit really goes to my son, Nathan, who wrote and directed it. I'm kinda the producer, since I fund it, and I compose the music, and added all of the car sounds and other audio effects.

At the time I thought, "Crap! A car chase scene? For our no-budget web series?" I had been figuring that we would write things to be fast and simple. But, hey, he pulled it off!

Audio is another reason to do this over a screen. We could record all the dialog clean, without any wind noise. We had to add the car sounds after the fact, but unless you mic the exhaust and tires on separate tracks, you'll need to do this anyway.

For the car sounds, we parked the cars away from any buildings, and put a mic a couple feet from the exhaust - offset at a bit of an angle. We then recorded each car separately, at steady state, accelerating quickly and slowly, decelerating, etc. We then cut it up on the timeline as needed.

We had to EQ each car to make it seem more macho - lots of bass boost. I also had different EQ for inside shots, close shots and long shots. Finally, I set the levels, and panned the car sounds as the camera angles changed.

If you listen closely, the car sounds are so-so, but they're good enough to support the action.

Expect our next Microfilm Monday at noon PST. It's a trailer for our upcoming Microfilm, "Snakes on a Car".
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Old April 21st, 2007, 11:28 PM   #9
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all the tow shots i've done - had city permits , on low/student budgets they'll let you get by with only one officer (motorcyle ) to lead the camera car ( otherwise it's 2 or more depending on scenes) ...
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Old April 23rd, 2007, 11:47 AM   #10
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Go green screen!
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Old April 23rd, 2007, 03:27 PM   #11
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Shooting on low loaders is commonly done. Here's some safety info from the UK.

http://www.buckscc.gov.uk/bcc/get/as...ng_highway.pdf

Certainly with any filming on the road you need police permission. In the UK this applies to low loaders with people inside the car being carried. In the US you might need a permit. Certainly you'll to check your insurance cover.

You could should also shoot with a bonnet mount and concealed lights (a mini kinoflo is great) inside the car. I've done this loads of times and it works extremely well, just make sure you have safety straps on the camera and the camera mount.

I'm assuming you're shooting night scenes here, so the important point is to keep the lighting levels low to match the exterior street lights.

Another alternative is back projection using a video projector - this works well with night car scenes. This method has been used on a number of big productions.

On the move, the big problem is hiding the sound recordist - the car boot or trunk if you're not towing is best. Close the car windows to keep exterior sounds out and record a buzz or atmos track to cover car background level mismatches between cuts.
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Old April 24th, 2007, 11:22 AM   #12
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For the cheapest solution...

A friend was shooting her project that was of an AFI program, so she had a real DP, real actors etc.
This was a few years back before all this stuff could be done on the desktop with green screen.
There was a scene of a family riding in a car and night and arguing etc.
The DP framed the shot so that the corners of the fenders were out of frame and crew at the corners pushing fenders a little to give the car that swaying motion.
Then way in b.g. he had someone with two flashlights mounted to a board move behind the car as he motioned to them.

Watching the scene, it looks just like a car moving down the road in the night, with a car headlights on the road behind it...

There are certainly more advanced ways to do it, but if push comes to shove...
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Old April 24th, 2007, 11:32 AM   #13
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The DP framed the shot so that the corners of the fenders were out of frame and crew at the corners pushing fenders a little to give the car that swaying motion.
Then way in b.g. he had someone with two flashlights mounted to a board move behind the car as he motioned to them.

Watching the scene, it looks just like a car moving down the road in the night, with a car headlights on the road behind it...
This works extremely well for country road shots. There have been slightly more complex rigs for passing street lights. Moving street light reflections in the windscreen or side windows help sell the shot, together with a small amount of low frequency vibration applied to the camera.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 10:26 AM   #14
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Brilliant!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reid Bailey View Post
Then way in b.g. he had someone with two flashlights mounted to a board move behind the car as he motioned to them.
Very nifty idea for the car headlights. Imagination is the most valuable tool for the low budget production.

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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:26 PM   #15
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Every large budget movie I've been on:


#1. They have a rig attached to the side of the car and they just drive the car.

(MOST of the movies you see now a days with shots coming into the winshield where you can see the winshield and they are driving through a city or town is shot this way.)

#2. They use a front whell tow dolly and just raise it a few inches off the ground, that also lets the actor turn the wheel and so on.

#3. Close down road, make sure you have good insurance and go film.

Few GOOD links on this

http://www.videouniversity.com/carshoot.htm

AWESOME LINK BELOW!!!

http://www.freshdv.com/2007/01/fresh...eo-review.html
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