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Drive-by Shooting: Using Your Car to Make Better Videos

Derek Beck
September 25, 2012 by Derek Beck Alum

Great filmmakers should never let a lack of funds get in the way of an epic project. If you're searching for a piece of equipment to give your film a polished edge, look no further than your garage. A car can supply that extra professional look without costing extra professional dollars.

Joining us today are Vimeo Video School guest professors, Neko Neko Films, a small indie film group hailing from Texas.

Using Your Car as a Dolly

From the Trunk
By filming out of the trunk, it's easy to achieve a smooth tracking shot without renting expensive equipment. All you have to do is pop open the trunk and set up your tripod! To keep your shot steady, try putting some heavy sandbags around the legs of the tripod.

From the Side Window
Just as you did when filming out of the trunk, use your tripod in the backseat to get a smooth side-dolly shot. If you don't have a tripod, we recommend using a bag of rice to rest your camera on the bottom of the car door's window frame. By doing this you can avoid some of the bumps that could come with resting the camera directly on the car door.

From the Front
Filming out of the front can be a little tricky. Basically, you want to tilt the tripod head sideways (to level the shot) and rest the legs of the tripod on the car door. Once it's safely mounted, frame your shot so that the front of the car isn't seen.

Out of Body Shot
It might be easier to recreate this effect if the vehicle you are working with is a truck. The basic idea is to shoot out of the back of the car with the actor in center frame. Make sure to keep the car out of the shot, if it's seen, it could ruin the effect!

Using Your Car for Practical Effects

Fake Driver
Have your actor sit in the backseat on the drivers side of your car. By giving your actor a circular prop to act as a steering wheel, you can frame your shot to make it look as if your actor is driving. Now, your actor can safely recite lines without having to watch the road!

Ditching Your Car
To achieve this effect without breaking some serious bones, you want to first film a car passing by, then, without moving the tripod, have your actor get in position on the far side of the street. As the car passes, have your actor roll and stand. Cut these two clips together at the right time, and it will look like your actor just ditched his car. Cut to a shot of a car door opening for a finishing touch!

Crashing Car into Person
Place your actor in a post-crash state and then slowly inch the car backwards. As the car reaches the actors mark, have them slide off the hood and stand up. As long as you reverse it, speed it up and add some crash sound effects, you should be able to achieve the effect!

Now that you know the tricks of the trade, go get those engines revving and put your car to use! And of course, don't forget to buckle up!


Soxiam Staff

I too thought this was an awesome lesson and wanted to reply to your comment on that.


I wonder if I can comment on this comment.

LetsMakeMedia Plus

Is it too late to comment on on these comments? These comments are some of the best comments I've ever commented on.

Seth Hodel

Yes, quality tutorial, quality comments.

Zach Carter

Nope, it works fine. Good job Vimeo. Great lesson!

Per Lichtman Plus

Glad that comments got enabled again - I've been waiting for days to lavish praise ;)

I enjoyed the tutorial a lot. I think that many people have tried at least one of these techniques, but I doubt many people have considered or applied all of them. On top of that, it is really great to see such clear examples and the video is very concise and clear.

I look forward to more such videos in the future!

As a secondary question, do you guys have any advice for people that live in more difficult filming environments (such as urban Los Angeles) in regards to applying these techniques without doing anything that might inadvertently distress or aggravate the local populace or law enforcement?

The last thing anyone wants is to do anything illegal, and it seems like these techniques are easier to do in a suburban or rural environment with low population density and fewer filming codes than in a stringently enforced urban one.

But I am certainly no expert. :)

Daniel Hayek Staff

Thanks for the kind words, when it comes to shooting in more crowded areas we can relate. We're based in NYC where space is always at a premium. If you can swing an empty parking lot try that maybe?

John French Plus

I have watched a lot of instructional videos about filming but this is so clear and easy to follow. Not too much information, just the right amount to be inspirational and make you want to try it yourself. Living in the country in UK it has given me ideas: quad bikes for fields? Invalid trikes for town pavements and parks? Keep up the good work folks.

Neko Neko Films

Thanks John! We tried not to fill it with too much film jargon. Just enough to make you want to whip your camera out!

Simon Martin

Awesome guys i loved it, who would of thought learning could be fun! legends

Bass Hookups

hahahahahahahahaha Best video everrr!!!!

Bernardo Cunha

When I think there's no more cool shooting techniques to learn, you guys come with this really really nice lesson! I'll try it as soon as possible. I've started to make videos this year and believe me, I already learned a lot with these lessons. And still learning. I don't know what my life would be without Vimeo. Ok, dramatic. Cheers!!!

Derek Beck Staff

Awesome! Thanks for the feedback and encouragement. We're still learning as well!


Cool Stuff guys....You Rock.!!!!!!...Hourray!!


Oh wow such a great idea! I never would of thought of that :D Thanks guys!


Buenos consejos! Gracias!

Michael McCarrey

Something I've always wanted to try. thanks for the ideas and inspiration. Should be great fun!


Video was amusing AND educational. Now I need an excuse to try it.

KoolWorldMedia Productions

Until now, I've only used my car as a tool to run over my ex's. Now I can channel that energy into something more positive!!!

Levi Stutzman

Does anyone know how the Intro with the Vimeo Video School banner animation was made. Was it made with Cinema4D or 3Ds Max, or was it made entirely in after effects?


Great tips and super hilarious too.


Great tips on doing action shots using a car. However, what if you have a car that won't budge if the doors are open - something the higher end cars are implementing now..

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