Rig Shot Tutorial – Scottsdale Commercial Photography

 Rig Shot Tutorial

I came across a great article on FStoppers.com about rig shots (Doug Sonders should have a cool behind the scenes video coming any day now on his blog with the Green Hornet car).  What is a rig shot you ask?  Well, this is:

Car Rig Shot

Along with most of the covers on automotive magazines showing a car seemingly driving a million miles an hour with a blurred background and wheels while the body is razor sharp.  I was hooked on the technique and had to try it ASAP.  But first I had to buy some needed gear.

 Rig Shot Equipment

Basically you need to attach your camera to a long pole (boom) that mounts to the car.

Boom – I went with 1 ¾” 6061 T6 aluminum from Speedymetals.com.  I ended up with an 8’ length and a 6’ length with a 2’ 1 ¼” piece as a coupler.  I did not think upgrading to aircraft quality 7075 was worth the price premium.

Clamps – I went with Kupo Convi clamps (4 total).  Some folks choose to go with Manfrotto Superclamps.  In my experience they are essentially the same, although the Superclamps open about 1/8” wider.  The Convi clamps will attach to the boom.

Suction Cups – Avenger makes 2 very good and strong suction cups.  I grabbed 2 F1000 with swivel pins and 1 F1100 with a static pin.  You attach the cups to a flat spot on the car, prime the suction pump and by the magic of physics these puppies become FIRMLY attached.

Articulating Arm – You will also need a way to attach the camera to the boom.  I went with the Kupo articulating arm.  Manfrotto’s Magic Arm is also a good choice.

Camera/Lens – Wide angle lens is best.  Try to aim for at least 17mm equivalent on FX (12mm on crop sensor).  Depending on time of day, you will also need some type of ND filter.  Remember, we need to induce motion blur which equates to longer shutter speeds.

Rig Shot Setup

The setup is not too terribly difficult.  Attach $5k plus of camera and lens to the end of a 14’ long pole secured to the hood of an expensive car with nothing but suction cups.  Piece of cake.  Like a kid on Christmas with a new bike, I grabbed all my new gear and headed outside to the cul-de-sac for an initial test shoot.  The steps:

  1. Attach the first suction cup to the far side of vehicle on a flat surface, preferably along an edge of a panel.  Prime the pump until the red line is no longer visible.  Attach a clamp to the suction cup’s pin.
  2. Attach the articulating arm to end of boom with another clamp.
  3. Place the second suction cup on the near side of the car’s panel, but don’t prime the pump yet.  Attach another clamp.  CAREFULLY place the boom into far clamp first and then adjust the location of the second clamp/pump to match.  Tighten far clamp onto boom.  Tighten the near clamp onto the boom.  Prime the near suction cup.  The boom is now cantilevered out over the car.  If all goes well (and it should) then you are almost there.  If not, then you just scratched the crap out of the car’s paint job.  Nice going.
  4. The weight of the boom will want to pull off the first cup.  To combat this, attach the third suction cup about 1/3 of the way between first and second cup, staying closer to the first.  Tighten the clamp first, then prime the pump.

At this point, your setup should look something like this:

  1. Adjust camera settings.  I shot manual, 8s shutter at f/8, ISO 1600 with a 10 stop B+W ND filter. (I need to buy a 4 or 6 stop filter so I do not have to pump ISO).
  2. CAREFULLY attach your camera with remote release and wide angle lens (I used Nikon 17-35 f/2.8 with a B+W 10 stop filter on Nikon D800) to the mounting plate of the articulating arm.  You will notice the rougher you are, the more bounce you induce in the boom. (I have since installed a guy wire system in my boom to greatly reduce any flex.)
  3. Check the pump primes, if you see a red line re-pump.  I had to re-pump my far cup a few times during my first shoot.  Better be safe than sorry.

If you purchased quality grip equipment, your camera is reasonably safe assuming you installed everything properly, you are ready to shoot.  Do you have your safety crew in place?







Getting the Shot

 Once set up, double check your exposure and adjust as necessary.  Place the car in neutral (flat ground helps), and begin slowly pushing the car.  While the car is moving, have your helper (in this case, my 7 year old on roller blades no less), hit the remote.  During the 8 seconds the shutter remains open, the car travels about 10 feet or so.  Here is the shot from the camera (1×1 format) pre-Photoshop. 

After 20 minutes of cloning, patch-tool, content aware move, healing brush, and some good old fashioned painting, you have the finished shot.  Heck, you can even throw in some headlight effects. 

While this isn’t the best location for a rig shot, I was pleased with the outcome of my little test.  Next up, some REAL cars at a REAL location.



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