I thought it would be really cool to take you through car mounts, and we are going to Need for Speed my Lexus with some really cool and innovative car mounts from Matthews. To start, let’s take a look at Matthews Studio Equipment’s Freedom Car Mount. The idea is to make this rig as small and compact as possible so there isn’t a whole lot of weight. I’m going to show you how to make this powerful rig so that the top weight is supported right to the hood to decrease flexing in your mount.
Step 1: Prep Your Car
Before you even ever grab a suction mount, a grip head, or some rail, you’re going to want to prep your car so that it is ready to receive everything that you’re going to suction cup and rig to it. These suction cups are designed to not leave a mark, but I’ve had them where I’m out in the sun, we’re driving, doing a lot of car stuff, and as the sun bakes on these, it actually starts to pull the paint off. So you want to make sure you do this etiquette and prep before you’re ever going down the road of mounting your camera to a vehicle. Since this is my car, I thought I’d take extra precautions.
To prep your car, you’re going to apply Carpet Shield to the car. You can get a roll of this stuff at a hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes.
With the Carpet Shield, you can affix the car mount to your car because it has a very adhesive side to it. To apply the Carpet Shield, it takes a couple people. One person uses a squeegee to press the bubbles out from the wrap, another person holds the roll, and you get it to lay beautifully flat on the hood.
Lay it as flat as possible because if you have bumps in your Carpet Shield, the suction cup won’t adhere to it.
Step 2: Putting the Pieces Together
Now that your car has been prepped properly, you want to position your suction cups on areas where the hood is the strongest to ensure that your car mount is stable. I press on different parts of the hood to test which parts are the strongest.
Once you know where to place the suction cups, you’re going to first place your big suction cup.
We’re going to affix this right in the center because I want a nice two shot on the vehicle, so I can see both the passenger and the driver. I’m going to come down the hood a little and lower down into a position that so I can see out the rear a little and also the side windows, so that I can get that speed in the shot.
To apply the big suction cup, push on the silver button to suction the big cup down on to the hood.
To tell if you have the suction cup on tight, there is a convenient red line to help you. If you see a red line showing that means that your suction cup is not secured tightly. I’ll show you with a smaller suction cup. As we attach our suction cups, we will be checking to see that all suction cups are secure with no red line showing.
Next up, you have your rails. Here are two below, which screw together nicely. There are a total of four of these rails, so after you’ve attached the first two, attach the next two.
If you want to tighten them even more, get an Allen T-Handle wrench and screw them together through the little hole.
Here I have the two built rails, one in each hand.
With your two rails, you’re going to place them into the suction cup through the two holes and tighten the red knob on top. When you tighten the red knob, don’t crank it all the way down yet. You’re going to want to keep everything a little loose as you assemble the pieces so that it comes together easily. Once everything is in place, then you go and completely tighten everything; you go for the clamp down after everything has been put in the right position to bind it into place.
Now you’re going to want to have your quick release plate, the Ronford Baker plate, the baseplate, and camera battery power system assembled for your camera and mounted to your grip head fixture.
Then take this and slide it onto the rails. What this does is give me the ability to move the camera up or down the rail to any position on the rails. Once you have your position, lock it in by tightening the red knob.
With the black side handle, you can loosen this so that you can tilt and swivel the ball head to position your equipment at any angle you’d like. Once you have your position, tighten and lock it in place.
Let’s pause for a second and look at what we have before we move on to the next piece. We have our quick release ready to accept the camera, the adjustable head, and our big suction cup in place.
Expanding Our Footprint:
Now we are going to expand our footprint with a few more pieces of our Freedom Car Mount, starting with two smaller suction cups.
Each of these small suction cups has a grip head with a hole. The hole has a locking mechanism, and the grip head also locks.
You’re going to slide your small suction cup onto the rail where you feel you have a good, stable base. Then you’re going to push the white button until the suction cup is stable and there is no red line showing.
Notice that with the suction cup on correctly, there is no visible red line.
Now you’re going to secure the second small suction cup by doing the same thing, pushing the white button until the red line isn’t visible.
After I’ve pushed the button to secure the suction cup, the red line is no longer visible.
Bring down that grip head so that both are in the same position. Then tighten the red knobs on the grip heads to lock them into place.
At this point, this is when you’re going to want to go in and clamp everything down, so tighten all of the knobs so that they’re completely secure. Once you do that, your Freedom Car Mount is ready for your camera!
Then just snap your camera into your quick release.
Turn on your camera and adjust as needed to get your shot.
Using a Rota Pola:
For these kind of shots, there will be a lot of reflections from the car window. This is when the power of the rota pola comes in. The rota pola slides into the mattebox and has a wheel on the top of it, so you can dial in exactly how much reflection you want to disappear from the shot while you’re looking at the viewfinder.
These things are a lifesaver because they are quick to adjust. When you’re trying to physically rotate a 138mm round filter with your whole hand, it’s less convenient and slower to try and rotate it. It’s worth spending the extra money for this 4×5 rota pola, or to rent one, like I do.
Here I’m dialing in and dialing out the reflection. Take a look the monitor to see how the rota pola controls reflections. You can dial it so that there are a lot of reflections.
Or slowly dial the reflections out of the glass.
I’m never going to get the skylight reflection totally out, but it’s going to be ok because when we start driving down the road, we‘ll get at the right angle of the sun, and that’s when you want to be doing this.
Etiquette for Car Shots:
This brings me to the etiquette for any shots involving cars. For any kind of car stuff, orient the car in the direction you’re going to be driving. If you’re going to be doing rounders, there’s obviously times when the rota pola will look really beautiful with the light and times when it doesn’t. But you want to set your car up so you get the best scenario for your light and reflections. The etiquette of lining up and placing your car mount is putting the car in the direction you feel it’s going to be driving as well as within the light quality that you’re going to be shooting in.
Triangulating Your Freedom Car Mount To Make It Secure:
The Freedom Car Mount is still pretty top heavy in its current state. To add more security, we’re going to use these beautiful rods and micro grip heads for added support. The idea is to make this rig as small and compact as possible, so there isn’t a whole lot of weight. That weight up top conveys right to the hood, and if there’s flex in the hood, there will be flex in the rig.
First, we are going to start by screwing on our two 1/4”- 20 little rods.
When you screw in the 1/4” – 20 rod, screw in the top part until it stops.
Then screw in the bottom round part until it is tightened as well.
Then repeat this for the rod on the other side. This is what it should look like when it has been screwed in.
Now that those are both in place, we can bring in our beautiful rods and micro grip heads from before.
With your rods, you’re going to slide these over the small 1/4” – 20 rods, with the grip head side closest to the hood of the car.
Then you’re going to tighten where the rods slipped in on the top, as well as slide the grip heads into the horizontal silver rails.
The shot is stabilized, so I’m going to take off the external battery so that there is less unnecessary weight.
Now you’re ripped and ready to get your wonderful two shot.
Gear used on this shoot