Continuing on from Part 2 and as a prelude to Part 4, which will be about planning, I thought I’d cover how I intend to get all the video footage I will need for what will hopefully become a short movie. I’ve already discussed one aspect of how I intend to achieve this in my story about my new ‘action cam‘ and in this part I’ll cover the additional tools that I’ve put together so that I can get as diverse and as comprehensive a coverage of the things that we do on our Cruises. Since our Cruises involve a wide variety of environments including highways, dirt roads, rough tracks, river crossings, and then camping in varied bush settings including High Country huts, I have to consider the numerous ways in which I can cover those potential scenes, especially while on the move. It’s all part of the planning and, to do that, I’ve come up with various solutions.
The bullbar mount is going to be very useful for giving a forward point of view when going up or down rough tracks, or crossing rivers and other interesting places. It provides a nice clean view of the terrain in front of you without any distractions that you might get from a dash mounted camera that shows up dirty windscreens etc. Of course I’ll still have my dash cam as a potential source of video footage, as that’s on all the time and can capture stuff when the TG-5 is used elsewhere. And I’ll get much better quality with the TG-5 than what I managed out of my rather miserable action cam. I’m kind of glad that the action cam died, as I might have continued to use it for a lot longer than it deserved to be used.
One of the things that I do want to explore further is video from within the cabin, to show what’s happening inside the vehicle as well as outside (a bit like what you see in race car footage), giving some balance to what the front camera is capturing. My earlier attempt at positioning a camera in-cabin worked out OK, but unfortunately I had focus issues that are now hopefully solved. However, the mounting system wasn’t ideal, as it interfered with gear I had in the back seat and footwell, plus it made things difficult when I needed the larger tripod. So a new solution was required. To that end, I bought some extruded aluminium channel that was surprisingly cheap, some complementary bolts, brackets etc and managed to cobble together a camera frame. It’s something akin to what you would have made with a Mecanno set, but it’s turned out to be quite a sturdy setup, easily as solid as was the tripod. It also installs and removes in seconds.
Capturing forward and in-cabin footage is one thing, but as I’m often leading a trip, there’s many a thing happening around me. On interesting sections of track, I stop where it’s safe and leave room for the following vehicle/s, and then take photographs of the following vehicle/s coming up or going down. What I plan to do is set up one or two of the cameras on my tripods to take video of the vehicles while I take photographs at the same time. By placing the cameras on a tripod in different locations on a track, I can get varying perspectives of the vehicles coming towards or moving away from me. I have a wireless remote release for one of my cameras, which I can locate further away, and the other I can just turn on and let it roll until turned off. Obviously all of this would be a lot easier with a second set of arms arms and legs, but that’s not likely to happen. Another option that I’ve created is a rather tall tripod mount using my monopod to extend the tripod height to allow me some elevated footage at camp, with the TG-5 becoming a kind of static drone.
The final setup that I’ve put together is a rear camera mount so that I can get footage of the vehicles following me where it’s not opportune to stop and set things up, and even at other times such as when crossing a river to show the receding shoreline. But mostly this will be used on tracks that aren’t overly challenging where vehicles can follow fairly close to each other. Both options will give a different perspective to that of videoing vehicles from a static position and hopefully something that can add interest to the overall video. A rear mounted camera can also provide interesting footage on longer straight sections of road/track, where the convoy can be seen stretching out. Mind you, on dusty tracks that’s not likely to happen, as you generally can’t see anything behind you as you’re travelling along and the vehicles are usually stretched out for quite some distance to allow the dust to settle.
One item that I have pondered and which I noted in Part 2, is a handheld gimbal for the TG-5. But when I’ve researched this, gimbals designed for cameras in the 300g-400g +/- bracket are impossible to find. Gimbals (starting from around $600) for large cameras such as DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are everywhere and smaller ones (starting from around $140) for the likes of small action cams and mobile phones abound. But when it comes to compact cameras, it’s a wasteland. Now this is really odd, as there are numerous owners of compact cameras such as the Olympus Tough TG-5, Sony RX100, Panasonic LX100 and many others who would eagerly own a gimbal. So what does the most well known drone maker, DJI, do as it enters the handheld gimbal market? They create a mallet aimed at selfie-taking millennials who most likely wouldn’t be seen dead with such a cumbersome device. Is this an opportunity missed?
Anyway, I’ve produced a short video compilation of some testing of the camera mounts and, yes, I know it’s not perfectly synced, but this is only for illustrative purposes (it really is difficult to get it spot on). Firstly, the in-cabin mount works very well, with some vibration on rough gravel roads (mostly removable in post-production), but very little vibration, if any, on slow going rough tracks. The front camera mount has already been tested and continues to work well and the rear mount also proved to be very effective. However, even travelling quite slowly to minimise dust, the rear camera still got a fair ‘dusting’ after a few hundred metres of driving. On the rough tracks, it’s not so bad, but it confirms that getting footage while travelling at anything but a walking pace on dirt roads will have the camera completely covered in dust within seconds. I’ll also have to put a sock or something on the mount itself to keep the dust out, as I don’t want to bolt and unbolt the mount all the time.
So that’s basically the vehicle mounted video camera setups that I’ve put together and with the usual tripod mounting options, I think I’ll have quite a range of video outlooks available from which to edit when it comes to post-production. Ideally, having two ‘action cams’ that could be mounted at the front and rear of the vehicle would offer the most flexibility, but that will have to wait for another day. And someone mentioned getting a drone. Where does it end? In any case, I’m looking forward to what I can achieve with the simple gear that I have. Part 4 will be about the most important part of movie making.
Update 1. I thought I’d add a note to this post, as I was almost going to buy another action cam that was on sale at Aldi, but then deferred, given the issues that I’ve had with these cameras. I’ve approached the seller of the action cam, after I realised that it failed only a day or so after 12 months of ownership (actually less given that the first camera was replaced due to the WiFi issue) to see if i could get a replacement. Anyway, I made a short video to show the seller what was going on and, after doing so, I discovered that the camera would work perfectly when connected to a computer, so there was clearly an issue with the camera’s micro-SD card reader circuitry. Thinking about it, I now suspect that must be the problem that I had with the first action cam and the Sony, given that they have all exhibited the same sort of problem. I’ll update as things develop.
Update 2. It took a while, by the seller replaced the action cam with an updated model, a 4K version. When I received it, I set it to 1080p 60fps and tested it out. Was I disappointed as the quality wasn’t good at all. So I then set it to 1080p 30fps and tried again, with a totally different result, finally some good quality. So I thought I’d give 2.7K a go and then 4K (I can view both using Power Director) and was pleasantly surprised to find both options exhibiting great quality. But I still can’t get WiFi to work. The camera on start up shows a Sports XDV logo and I’ve installed the XDV app and when I try to connect, I keep getting a timeout. When I look at the WiFi Settings, it says that the phone is connected to the camera. It’s really frustrating, but at least the camera works.