Back in August Fifth Door Films took on the lighting and rigging of the feature film Dick Licker by Brady Hall. Dick Licker is about a young boy named Richard trying to prevent the marriage of his mother to a man with the last name Licker, thus his name changes to Richard Licker, and we all know the name Richard has a shorter version. The script was hilarious! We were interested from the get go.
There were quite a few driving scenes, including action shots of people throwing things at each other and diving out of cars. The first shot we set up was a basic car mount.
The shot involved three actors, two in the front seat, one in the back seat. A frontal mount is a very simple mount, but holds many variables. First, we needed to include the entire front interior in the frame. The use of a wide lens meant moving the camera as far back as we could. As you can see the camera hung a bit off the front hood. You want to test if the panels were flimsy before deciding where to place the suction cups. A flimsy hood makes an unstable camera if the cups are placed improperly. Done correctly the hood of the car could fly off given the weight of the camera. Therefore, always add a ratchet strap to strap through the camera. Meanwhile, I like to line the fender with painters tape to avoid scratching the paint. You should ratchet the mount firmly, but not tight. If you go too hard you risk damaging the car with pressure, which would actually make the mount less secure. For those producers reading, they will sigh in relief knowing we take these things into consideration.
Next is to consider the cinematography of the shot. As you look around you notice the windshields picking up the refection of the sky. To kill this reflection we took a top floppy 4×4 solid flag. The advantage of a top floppy is you can drape it over the back of the car. Of course a 6×6 is a really good fit, but I found a 4×4 usually gets the job done— and faster. It’s also easy to add a couple arms to the mount to carry the end of this flag without jeopardizing it’s integrity. Inside the car we needed a hint of light on the actors. Rosco makes a light kit that plugs into the car for this exact purpose. They are great but expensive. In this indy we took a car inverter, plugged in a couple kino tubes, and attached it to the dash. Below is the result of the shot.
Our second mount aimed at the driver’s side window. We needed it to see beyond the driver, into the car next to him with the actors exchanged shouting with each other. There is a very specific mount for just this purpose called a hostess tray, but I stuck to my method. Car doors are usually pretty flimsy so you should be careful where you place the suction cups. The back two arms are usually trickier. I don’t like attaching cups to rolling windows, they are not sturdy, and you wouldn’t want to go low because you want some leverage on the back. For this reason, I extended a longer arm going out to a non-rolling window. Though the increased length isn’t ideal either so I reinforced with another arm as seen below on the right.
We decided to add a fifth arm attached to the top of the camera just for a tad more security. Since the scene was driving away from the sun, our finishing touch was a piece of foam core in front of the side mirror to bounce off some natural sunlight onto the driver. Thus achieving the shot below.
Our third mount was in interesting one. We had to show a stunt man diving out of a moving car. Our DP, Sam Graydon wanted to position the camera towards the upper back corner of the SUV. With any side mount, you typically have to stick out the mount for a good shot, while limiting the mount as much as possible to minimize liability to other motorists. The window on the back was sturdy enough for the mount so we attached two cups to add some leverage, the same for other side, but went towards the bottom of the car.
Add a ratchet strap! Usually it’s not required, but it never hurts to be cautious and make the producer feel better. That is, until he sees the stunt man does the tuck and roll. Of course, there was another man in the car controlling the wheel. Here is the shot:
These were all basic car mounts, but achieved great shots that you see in many movies. Once you do a few of them, you’ll find that they don’t actually take much time to set up. However, even with all the details mentioned in this post, I would not recommend anyone to just go out and do them without experience. Takes a lot of practice and working with someone who has done this before. I’m grateful that at Fifth Door, we have a good grip crew to do this safely and with great efficiency!
Find out more information on the movie Dick Licker here