Peninsula Drive, Safely

As much as my video captures a lovely “winter” Sunday on the Monterey Peninsula, it is also a test piece for my newest piece of kit — the GoPro Suction Cup. Yes, a suction cup. This little gizmo is going to end up being the most fun bit of hardware I own because for as long as I’ve been shooting video, I’ve wanted to shoot weird driving angles.
Back in college for our final television direction class, we shot a soap opera and I had the directorial responsibility for the last episode, which had three deaths. To make matters even more complex, the three independent writers drafted the same death for all three and they needed to occur within a show window of 20 minutes. The dialogue gave me 10 minutes to work with, so how does one fill 10 minutes of non-speaking death scenes with footage? With creepy camera angles shot from within a car!

Back in the day, broadcast SD cameras weighed 20 pounds, cost $25,000, required a monstrous tape recorder (we were shooting on U-Matic 3/4″) and couldn’t be mounted on anything less than a seven pound tripod. I dreamt of having a Hollywood car rig, but instead I wedged a tripod and camera into by VW and shot a night driving scene at a 30 tilt — not because I wanted to, but because I couldn’t get the rig to sit upright in my car. Fast forward a quarter-century and the little suction cup enables me to strap a $300 GoPro Hero3 HD camera to just in front of my passenger side mirror. For the first time, I can capture the weird angles without the fear of putting myself into financial ruin if something goes wrong.

Strapping a camera to the side of my car is easy, but for anyone who has ever watched Mythbusters or any Hollywood stunt program, safety comes first. So for all people who are attaching cameras to cars, trucks, poles or other places where they could break away and fly into the air, please think safety first. When I took my car out, I knew I would hit speeds around 65mph and with a headwind, the net speed on the mount at times could be around 75-90mph. So once the camera was mounted to the car, I took a strap and tied a safety line between the camera and my mirror. That way if the suction cup failed, the camera wouldn’t go flying into some else’s windshield. Yes, I’d probably scratch my car, but that is a small price to pay for averting serious injury. So to filmmakers and videographers everywhere, professional and amateur, think about getting your shot and at the same time, think about safety.