Video Tutorial: How to Use a Vehicle as a Dolly System
Filmmakers have plenty of tools at their disposal — some more expensive than others. But sometimes, all you need is a car and a crew.
As an indie filmmaker, I’ve found that using my car as a portable stabilizer is incredibly useful. From simple setups to complex angles, cars are a great way to diversify your coverage on a budget in outdoor locations.
The following tips require proper safety preparation. I do not recommend using any of these shots unless you’re safe and secure and those around you understand the procedure. There’s no value in the shot if someone gets hurt in the process.
Through the Window
This setup is the simplest, and it’s one you’ve probably already used yourself. That being said, there’s still lots you can get from this angle. I like to capture wide establishing and voyeuristic atmosphere shots through the front and side windows of any moving vehicle. It’s great coverage for building scope and creating movement.
Out the Window
If filming through a window isn’t enough, try filming out of it. Out-of-the-window gimbal-work is one of my favorite ways to capture high- (and low) speed tracking shots of other vehicles.
If you’re feeling a little more confident with your vehicle video skills, then take it up a notch and film out the back of your vehicle. The trick is to dangle your camera low out of the rear of your car. This can capture some beautiful slow dolly shots, nice push-ins and even some detailed slider moves. SUVs, trucks, and vans are the best vehicles for capturing this type of footage. (Always make sure you’re properly strapped in place.)
Similar to filming out of the back, you can capture great footage from the side of your car with the sliding door open. I would only recommend you capture this shot with a vehicle that has a sliding door that locks open. This angle can get you some really nice fast paced tracking shots of people, animals, and landscapes.
The key thing to remember is that you don’t always need “film gear” to capture a cinematic shot. Most of the time, a creative solution is right at your fingertips — from using household items to borrowing your mom’s SUV.
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