Just Like Top Gear or The Grand Tour

Monaro Interior with camcorders

As many know, I have an affinity for the popular TV show “Top Gear” – well to be honest, what I call the “original” with presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, not the current version.

Fans of the show will know the history; in the 17th season (I think it was) Clarkson apparently gave one of the crew a smack around the chops, admitted to it, was laid off and Hammond and May followed suit, stating they were a “team” and therefore couldn’t be broken up.

The trio then went on to create “The Grand Tour” after being lured (allegedly) by Amazon Prime, and this is now in Series 3, with a 4th in the pipeline.

For those that have no idea about the shows and these three, I suggest you check it out as despite its car-based themes, it is a very funny and politically incorrect show that happens to be superbly scripted and brilliantly shot.

And this is where this article really starts.

Quite a few years back, I watched an episode of the original Top Gear, and in this, Clarkson, Hammond and May found what they called the “Best Driving Road in the World” – a section of tarmac from Davos in Switzerland to Stelio in Italy. Right there and then and being a car nut myself – I vowed to one day drive that road.

2 years or so later I did. Now, I wanted to film this from the car, just as they did, and so performed some investigation of what Top Gear used to achieve the results they did, and was lead to a UK based company, that oddly and coincidentally was called Hague Camera Supports.

I stressed then, and I reiterate now, they are absolutely no relation to me despite my heritage also being of the UK.

If you look at their website, and its companion site Cameragrip, you can see the company makes a shedload of different types of mounts, dollies, cranes and so forth. Upon enquiry, I was advised that Top Gear used specific suction and headrest mounts, both of which I purchased, and used on the European trip.

From that point onwards, my interest in getting new and interesting shots from a car has been piqued. Since then I have taken footage from drives across the country from Queensland to Western Australia, Perth to Sydney and back again, through Victoria, up to Exmouth WA and many more. At times, I have also bolted a 360° camera to the roof of Jacqui’s Suzuki Grand Vitara 4WD. Doing this, we  shot what we believe is the first ever 360° degree footage of the Nullarbor.

Today, I have a selection of mounts permanently in the Monaro, along with audio recording and remote controls. The original Hague suction mount is nailed on when necessary, as is a set of Kayell suction points used to mount a Joby Gorilla Pod. Audio is captured by a Sennheiser Memory Mic.

The whole lot is controlled remotely from a Samsung Galaxy 4 Note phone, and recently, I have been playing with a Chinese knock off Android tablet (with less than stellar results it has to be said)

360 view of inside the caruse your mouse to scroll around

Cameras I use and shown in the attached photo include a baby Panasonic camcorder. (on the headrest mount) a GoPro Hero 4 on the passenger windscreen facing inwards, a GoPro Hero 6 on the centre windscreen point forwards (there is also a standard no-name dash cam which is always running), and a Sony DSC RX0 on the driver’s side windscreen facing inwards.

When I use the Hague suction mount, there is a Panasonic HC-PV100 attached. For 360° degree shots, we have used a 360Fly (so-so shots) and a Ricoh Theta V (which is superb).

I also have a G clamp mount that can be attached to the rear spoiler and this has had a bunch of different cameras over time include GoPros Sony Action Cams and the Ricoh Theta V.

As well as the fun factor of creating and editing the subseqquent footage, there has been a practical aspect to this exercise, albeit by accident..

A few years back on the Gold Coast, the side of the Monaro was driven into while on a roundabout near Robina, and the woman driving claimed it was all my fault. I subsequently received a very large repair bill for what was in effect a minor scratch to her 4WD.

However, at the time of the prang, I had three cameras running as a test, and they caught the whole thing! This of course proved it was not my fault at all, and the whole thing was dropped. (I also used ProDAD’s Heroglyph and Mercalli software to make a reconstruction of the crash to add to my case by the way).

One thing I have learned from this exercise; if you intend to take shots from a moving vehicle, don’t skimp on the mount quality. It just isn’t worth it when you have a precious camera as its cargo. The cheapies just don’t cut it, and will cause vibration at best and break apart at speed at worst!

As such, I can vouch for those from Hague Camera Supports / Cameragrip with confidence.

And if you are interested, the image of the inside of the Monaro was taken with a VUZE 360°/180 camera / camcorder, rendered using their software and then placed into Vegas VR Studio 365 to get the full 360° degree effect you see here!

As an aside, I now have all footage taken over the years neatly catalogued in Kyno’s media management software, so at any time I can simply search for “Car footage, Alps, Panasonic, Nullarbor  360° or Exmouth” for example.

In-car footage from the Sony RX0 mounted on the driver side windscreen (click to play). Other images show various Panasonic cameras  –  on Hague / Cameragrip mounts.

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