Shooting Race Cars

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Bert    23

Hey Guys,

I am shooting my friend's Dodge racing on a track in a couple weeks. I have gotten permission from the track owner and discussing the logistics this Friday at the track. I ahem never done this before, so I have a bunch of questions. Has anyone shot a race before with a drone and do you have any samples I can see? Also, I will be using a Phantom 3 professional. I want a cinematic look an usually have been shooting at 24fps with a 50 shutter speed. I has been working good. However, when shooting these cars on a racetrack traveling over 100mph, should I shoot at 60fps? Will that be smoother and can I slow that down? I want my final piece to be 24 or 30fps. 

I am making a two minute video with a very basic storyline that this racing footage will go in. We shot very quickly last night for some scenes and put together a 40 sec trailer.... (that is not well done... just gives a feel for lighting and mood). We needed needed to convince the Race track Manager to let us fly and have  peak of what we were doing. 

Anyway,  any advice would be appreciated on how to shoot fast moving cars on a track. Tale look at my trailer, but don't comment on the jerky camera movement, music or the shot cuts... it was for a rough idea to the beginning to the vid. 



Thank you!


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3 minutes ago, Alan Perlman said:

@Christian Tucci, is this something you could weigh in on?

Yup! When I was a student at Corvette Performance Racing School last summer we played around with some drones and the track.

Unless you have a big and super fast drone, you obviously will have a hard time keeping up with the car, so most of the best shots you should focus on is setting the drone up at the inside of a corner on a turn and then use the gimbal to track the car going into and out of the turn. You can also do some simple moving shots with the drone moving from the inside to the outside of the turn as the car drives through it. This can be done with the drone high up or low down. A particularly cool view is looking straight done at the track and then the car suddenly comes into frame, drives the turn, and then heads out of frame. That is a view you can't really see any other way other than with a drone or helicopter.

As far as camera settings go, I would shoot with a higher frame rate so then you can do some stuff with slow mo (if you use a high enough frame rate). Even if you aren't going to do slow mo, the higher rate will give you a sharper image. But, if you want a little bit of motion blur to really bring out the fact that the car is going fast, you would want to shoot at a lower rate of course.

Cool video here and be sure to post the footage you film at the track, would love to see how it came out.

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Christian's tips are spot on. High fps from the inside of a turn really low to the ground gives extremely good results (but beware of sun glare if early morning or late afternoon), and the straight down view over a turn is one of my favorite techniques.

Another extremely handy technique I've used for dirt bike races (I can keep up with them speed wise using a P4 or I1 Pro but they're not as fast as what you're filming and so not sure how useful this will be for you) is 'semi-autonomous' flying. Using Autopilot (Litchi may be able to do this too but I'm not sure), I create predefined paths (waypoint mission) alongside the track or where I want the drone to travel. I then set both the 'position on path" and "camera orientation" modes to manual, and the max flight speed to the max (can set slower speeds per waypoint near curvy parts of the track but it's not needed). This way, when I run the mission: the Y axis of the left stick controls the position of the drone along the path (also lets you control speed since full stick up is full speed and half stick is 1/2 speed etc), the Y axis of the right stick controls the camera pitch, and the X axis of the right stick controls the camera yaw (on the I1, on the P4 it controls the aircraft yaw). I also set the C1 button to 'disengage' so I can abort at a moments notice.

Keep in mind that even the slighest accident of a high speed drone filming high speed vehicles has the potential of causing a major catastrophe and/or high chance of fatality. When designing your paths, safety needs to be your number one concern. Remember that GPS is only accurate to 30' so imagine a 30' wide pipe that runs down your path and consider that your margin of error (make sure that there's nothing that intersects that pipe). You should also stress test it when there aren't any cars on the track to see how the drone behaves with your turns at high speed.

Additional key things to consider:

  • The waypoint altitudes are relative to take off height, so you'll want a designated take-off/landing zone so that the drone takes off from the exact same true altitude each time.
  • Drones can fly MUCH faster horizontally then they can vertically. Always keep that in mind if your waypoints change altitudes (which can be nice if done right but take extra safety measures if you plan on dropping it down low),

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Lplot    0
On 9/28/2016 at 10:25 PM, Bert said:

However, when shooting these cars on a racetrack travelling over 100mph, should I shoot at 60fps? Will that be smoother and can I slow that down? I want my final piece to be 24 or 30fps. 

You mean you wanna make a "slow-motion video"? I think that may be a good idea.

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