Every new RV road test we do for Rollin’ On TV calls for a variety of video shooting styles and equipment. A simple walk-around at a dealer is fairly straightforward, using bare minimum gear, while a full-on multi-day road test evaluation brings out a larger pile of hardware. Our recent Gulf Stream Vintage Cruiser trailer test was a good example of a more complex shoot.
We make frequent use of a GoPro sports camera. This enables us to capture some really fun point of view, or POV, footage that’s not as easily done with our larger main camera. The GoPro, a Hero 4 model, can shoot what it looks like to be seeing the trailer moving behind the truck, the driver’s POV forward, an in-cab view of the driver while driving, a look down the wall of the trailer forwards towards the truck, and so on.
We use large video-grade industrial suction cups plus a variety of rods, clamps and grip heads to position the GoPro in a variety of fun places. It’s an interesting challenge to figure what view we want to shoot, then work out a mount to securely grip the camera in place.
In use, after positioning the suction cup, a grey plunger on the unit is repeatedly pushed in until it pumps the air from the cup, creating a partial vacuum and holding the cup securely in place. A red line on the plunger reveals when the suction needs to be pumped up a bit more. For the record, we’ve never had one of these setups fall off. We typically start the camera in a visually interesting place, drive for 5 minutes or so, then shut it off. The footage makes terrific B roll for the show.
We wanted more ambient light inside the Vintage cruiser so we covered the large picture window with a shower curtain liner, which is a really cheap diffuser, and aimed a 650 watt quartz Fresnel light into it. This helps create a warm, diffused glow inside the trailer.
Moving to the trailer interior we find ourselves working in some pretty tight spaces, especially when it’s a compact, lightweight model. The RV has more than enough room for its intended purpose but toss in a camera and tripod, light(s) and extra crew and things get cozy in a hurry. Widely-adjustable tripod legs are a blessing inside a tight RV when two legs may be on the floor while one is supported on a countertop.
In this photo, director and camera assistant Marv Leake is manning the camera to shoot my standup chat at the front of the trailer. We use a Canon C100 with an EFS 10-22mm wide angle zoom lens that lets us shoot amazingly broad images inside these tight spaces. On the table we’ve set up a battery-powered Amaran Aputure AL- 528-W LED broad light, bounced on the ceiling, for a bit of extra fill. The LED fixture is terrific for adding light without the risk of roasting the ceiling or cabinets with a much-hotter quartz light. We typically use all of the RV’s interior lights as the main light sources so the interior looks, on video, as it would when in use.
The LED lights used by most RV manufacturers are a blessing for photography because they’re usually almost the same color balance as the exterior light, so it’s easier to make a proper adjustment between the inside and outside light. If the schedule allows, we prefer to do outside campsite shooting early morning or late evening, or both. This results in smoother, more pleasing lighting that helps avoid the bright sun splashes contrasting the deep shade areas.
This shot finds Pam pondering her crossword puzzle in a morning view. Shooting to include the two foreground trees adds a lot of depth and texture to the scene. We usually like having the campfire smoldering in a low fire so the drifting smoke adds interest. Burn restrictions meant we couldn't have an open fire this time.
We also shoot campfire scenes after dark and come up with some pretty decent results. First, we adjust the camera ISO to about 6,000 to 8,000. The C100 handles this type of high ISO very nicely, although we use 640 ISO for most other daytime shooting. The battery-powered LED light is set up to provide general illumination for the RV and the fire.
We also use a Coleman type gas lantern as an extra light source, which also looks appropriate for a campfire setup, and add some aluminum foil on the side of the globe towards the camera so the light doesn’t blast back into the lens but instead is aimed where we want it.
Yes, we get some interesting looks from our campground neighbors when we’re shooting after dark with all that light glaring around.
The Vintage Cruiser road test will be appearing in a future edition of Rollin’ On TV.