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Rig photography – It`s OK to talk about it.

Even if you’ve not heard the phrase “rig photography” before, you’ve almost certainly seen examples of it. It’s the technique used to capture those images of cars speeding down the open road you see in adverts.

Only it’s not half as dramatic as it looks. The cars aren’t speeding for starters. They have a long metal boom attached with a camera on the end and they are being pushed to minimise vibration.

It doesn’t sound like rocket science or witchcraft but for some reason, almost nobody involved in rig photography will discuss their particular method of mounting the camera to the car, let alone show pictures of their rig.

Why? I have no idea. To me it’s like being cagey about what tripod I use, or what shoes I prefer to wear when taking photographs!

And on that note, Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, version 2 of my rig. I say version 2, but I am not sure my first attempt, comprising B&Q suction cups, a pole I found in the shed and duct tape, even warrants a number. This ones made from slightly better quality kit.

2x Manfotto/Arri LF.1000.A Pump Cups: These 6″ suction cups are the core of my rig. Because the bases are flexible rubber, they cope well with the curvature of car body panels and they won’t just let go suddenly like cheaper suction cups. The red line around blue pump button only appears when the cup is loosing grip and is your cue to tap the button a few times to restore full suction. The spigot adjusts to any angle via a heavyweight ball & socket joint and slots perfectly into the next time on the list. Make sure the cup is clean and you wont mark the paint work either.

3x Manfrotto Superclamps MN035: Basically THE clamp. Built like a tank and designed to work with all manner of standard lighting and photo kit. Press the button on the side and push it down onto the pump cups spigot and it won’t come off. Tighten the thumb screw to stop it rotating.

 

Turning the lever on the side opens and closes the jaws which can grip onto and tube or pipe up to 50mm. Be careful not to over tighten or your crush it. It even comes with a little plastic wedge that will allow you to clamp it onto flat objects like doors, tables and shelves. Seriously useful for mounting anything anywhere, especially when used with a:

Manfrotto 244 variable friction Magic Arm: This articulated arm with a pivot in the middle and ball & socket joints on either end (all tightened by a single knob in the middle) lets you position pretty much anything in almost any way you like. Even NASA use these things on the Space Shuttle program. In the case of my rig, I have a SuperClamp on one end and a camera mounting plate on the other.

 

So that’s 2 pump cups to hold the rig to the car, 2 clamps to attach the boom to the cups and a magic arm at the other end to give some freedom in positioning the camera. Simple, and when assembled and installed it looks like this (and yes, that is an aluminium painters pole acting as the boom! It’ll be replaced in version 3).

The final 3 images show the final the setup, the RAW image as captured and final post processed image from today’s tests.

Not the most exciting rig shot, I’ll admit, but it does show what can be achieved with off-the-shelf kit costing just over £100

18 Comments

  1. Joachim Næss

    Nice post. I’d love to make me a rig, but I never seem to get around to it. Knowing what equipment it takes sure is a start. Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  2. Dimer

    Great post!

    You said it cost you just over £100. Where dit you buy the parts?? My local photography store quoted me £350.-

    grt,

    Dimer

    Reply
  3. Oli

    Nice setup! Do you drive the car along at 5-10mph and use longer shutter speeds?

    Reply
    • Simon

      Yep, preferably about 2 seconds, but it’s best to push the car with the engine off to minimise vibration. The results are worth the funny looks from passers-by.

      Reply
    • Paul

      Hey Oli/WEX

      Arrived here from the link in your mailer (Great article Simon), but to buy all the bits from WEX is £268.68 (with MN143 not MN244 Magic Arm as you don’t stock it).

      Seems a lot more expensive than the suppliers the article recommends, why not do a rig bundle offer?

      Paul

      Reply
      • Simon

        To be fair to WEX and their pricing, some of my parts were acquired via the magic of eBay

        Reply
  4. Marvin pryce - Jones

    There is 1 vital Manfrotto item missing from this set-up!

    Safety Bond(s) – a wire strop approx. 1 metre in length that you secure one end of loop to your camera, the other to the vehicle.

    Then if for some reason the rig becomes detached from the car the expensive camera is not strewn all over the road.

    You wouldn’t get a Pro photog or Cameraman using this set-up without @ least 1 Safety Bond!

    From Ex Manfrotto, TV & Film Lighting Sales Manager, now a professional photographer.

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

    Reply
    • Simon

      Hi Marvin.

      If you attach the bond to the car and the rig fails, the camera would swing down and slam against the car. My camera is insured and I’d much rather it hit the deck than a clients car.

      And nine times out of ten I have hold of the camera strap as I walk along next to the car – this is done at a slow walking pace remember.

      Reply
  5. Marvin pryce - Jones

    The rig will probably damage the clients car if it fails anyway.

    Personal choice, but you won’t find a TV or Film cameraman/lighting using a rig without a Safety Bond.

    Reply
    • Simon

      But the rig won’t fail in that way. That’s the reason for using quality kit and checking it between shots. Even if both cups fail simultaneously, the rig would simply tip downwards at the camera end, where I am standing, ready to take any weight.

      Besides, there is simply nothing to affix to the safety wire to as the camera is at least 6 feet from the car and a typical car isn’t 6ft tall.

      TV or film is very different – You’d need to be moving at speed to get the same effect. With rig photography you are just pushing the car along and using long shutter speeds.

      Reply
  6. Marvin Pryce - Jones

    Also you advocate the use of the Varaible Friction Arm Mn 244.

    Which again you’ll find most would use the Magic Arm Mn143.

    Variable Friction can under sustained vibration can loosen & move. Whereas the Magic Arm is “locked” in place with a spring loaded elbow.

    Again personal choice.I would use the Varauble Friction Arm on static camera positions.

    Only going on what I see used on most Film & TV sets. Differnt schools of thought & experience?

    Reply
    • Simon

      I’ve used the Magic Arm too, but I find it a bit hard to handle when making slight compositional tweaks to the camera position.

      Definitely a different school of thought here. Like I said, I’ve I was shooting video whilst moving at speed, things would be very different.

      Reply
  7. Marvin Pryce - Jones

    I must state here Simon this is in no way critical of the choice or use of the Manfrotto kit you use.
    Just my personal opinion of having sold this kit in the UK for a lot of years & my experinces with end-users & only intending to point out alternatives.

    I am also not expressing the views or opinions of Manfrotto UK or Gruppo Manfrotto or any of their agents or distributors.

    As I have said, if it works for you great, as it obviously does.
    Just pleased you use & recommend quality kit, such as Manfrotto.

    Reply
  8. Paul

    It might have been wise to mention that the rig is intended for a vehicle with it’s engine off and being pushed by hand in the body of the article, not as a footnote in the comments section!

    Reply
  9. nick

    Paul.

    When i read the article the second paragraph said “and they are being pushed to minimise vibration.”

    That is not a footnote in the comments section.

    Reply
  10. arri magic arm

    nice work !!!!!!!!!

    Very good idea! Congratulation!
    arri magic arm is use franckly..
    and handle is easy operate

    Reply

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