How to shoot Hollywood-style car chases at home in your garage

Sep 19, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to shoot Hollywood-style car chases at home in your garage

Sep 19, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Whenever I see Paul E.T. has posted a new video, I get quite excited. He doesn’t post often, but when he does, it’s very revealing. He goes in-depth into how Hollywood does its magic, breaking down the techniques.

Sometimes, it’s also a tutorial… of sorts. Or a “How I did this” sort of thing. His newest video is one such video, recreating a Hollywood-style car chase in his garage with a couple of RC cars, a projector and a great big TV screen.

Not your usual virtual production

It’s a virtual production, in a way. But this one has no fancy motorised platforms, motion tracking, camera tracking or real-time rendered graphics from Unreal Engine. That’s far outside of Paul’s budget, not to mention the space limitations of his garage and the power limitations of his computer.

What I find particularly interesting about this video, which is sort of a how-to, is that it’s also Paul’s complete journey from inception to final production. We see each of the challenges he faces along the way and how he overcomes them.

Not no-budget, but super-low-budget

Paul does have something of a budget for this video. It’s not a massive amount, but he does spend a decent chunk of it bringing this production to life. Paul spends just under $1,500 Australian (~US$975) picking up a couple of RC cars, a new (bigger) TV and some other bits.

It sounds like a lot of money, and it is, especially for a one-off personal project (very) short film. But some of these are things you may already own at home. And while there are potentially ways to save money here, you’ll have to make more compromises on the look of the final result – as Paul did with his production.

Challenge yourself!

It’s great to see the thought process Paul goes through with something like this and the evolution of the whole concept from start to finish.

The only real tell-tale sign that these aren’t full-size cars filmed on the option roads are the pixels projected onto the tops of the cars from the top-down projector. But this can be solved with a higher resolution projector and some slightly modified camera angles.

It’s a great exercise for us all to tackle at some point. Not specifically faking a Hollywood car chase, but the general concept of challenging ourselves. Think of a concept you’d love to learn how to shoot. Something you’ve never done before that you feel might be beyond your capabilities just a little bit.

Then, go try it.

Tackle each problem as it comes up and try to overcome it. Whether you’re a photographer or a filmmaker, one of the biggest duties you’ll perform is as a problem solver. So, find the problems and get to solving them.

You’ll be surprised which techniques might translate to something else. Just getting into that problem-solving mindset alone makes it a very valuable pursuit.

Also, be sure to check out the rest of Paul E.T.’s videos on his YouTube channel.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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