Race Car Video Setup

We all love racing and track day videos, but setting up cameras in our race cars is usually a last-minute rush job… Too many other things to do first! Sometimes we get lucky and happen to choose a good camera angle and settings, but more often we end up not seeing all of the action because our camera setup wasn’t optimal. So, after years of many of us learning the hard way and missing out on some awesome footage, here’s the stuff to remember:

What Camera to Buy

  • Anything that records 1080p and produces a .MP4 file should work, but cheap or off-brand cameras may not do as well under the high-vibration/shock/g-force conditions of motorsports. There may also be less options for mounting them inside or on a race car.
  • Smartphones can do the job, if you have a good sturdy mounting solution. Different phone models will have more wobble / jello-vision than others; this can become extreme on some, while being awesome on others. The TrackAddict app offers several features designed for capturing video at the track.
  • GoPro is the most common dedicated camera choice and they’ve proven to have great quality and reliability, while offering camera models that fit a variety of budgets. My advice: Rather than buying one expensive Black model, buy two of their budget-friendly models. Capturing the action from multiple angles is usually far more valuable and interesting than just the difference between 1080p and 4K.
  • 360fly makes nice single-lens 360 cameras, which is an easy way to capture more of the action, and to create a VR experience. I strongly prefer the 4K model over the HD… With 360 video, you need a lot of pixels to capture good detail.

Mounts and Accessories

  • Use at least a Class 10 or UHS-1 SD card from a reputable brand. Cheaping-out on the SD card is the easiest way to lose all of your footage.
  • GoPro mounts are expensive, but they work very well. I’ve had poor fitment with some of the aftermarket stuff, so read the reviews first.
  • If your camera has a standard tripod mounting hole and you want a suction cup mount, look at the Panavise Model 809. I’ve been using these for many years with great results.
  • The best smartphone mounting solution I’ve found (and I’ve tried many), is a Panavise 809 paired with a simple smartphone tripod adapter.
  • Make sure you have your camera mounting figured out before you go to the track. Rush jobs, zip-ties, and duct tape don’t often result in great video or optimal camera angles.

Where to Put It

  • The most exciting camera angles usually show the least.
    • Lower and closer positions (bumper or low-mid windshield) usually makes your videos look faster, while a higher position (roof or interior) can appear slower and further away from other cars, but it will show much more.
    • For Time Attacks and fast lap videos, the low and close camera positions help them feel more exciting.
    • Wheel-to-Wheel racing action can have excitement all over the place, so it could easily be worth compromising the camera position in order to show more.
    • If you want to study your driving or show other cars to your side, roof and interior cameras usually provide much more useful information.

 

  • Expect to replace your camera lens / housing if you mount it on or in your front bumper. You can get great video this way, but there are far more rocks thrown up on the race track than you may think!
  • Expect to lose your camera entirely if you mount it under your front bumper. The front suspension will compress and lower when you get on the brakes, and there are all kinds of things for it to hit at speed too.

 

  • Multiple cameras are great, if you’re willing to edit your video afterward.
    • The best videos use several cameras, and will switch between views to keep things exciting. Attention spans are short, and people get bored when there’s just one view shown for a long time.
    • Use these to capture the action from a variety of angles, and then afterward you can choose what you want to show and when.
    • Cameras outside of the car or near an open window may capture lots of wind noise, but if you have multiple then at least one of them is probably a cleaner audio source for you to use.

Settings

  • 4K is nice, but eats up storage space, camera battery, and takes your computer much longer to process. 1080p still looks great and is much less demanding.
  • 60 FPS can make videos feel more real than 30 or 24 FPS, but takes longer to process.
  • If your camera offers stabilization / OIS / EIS, you’ll probably want to turn that off.
  • Use Infinity Focus / Far Focus mode if offered. This helps the camera look through the windshield, rather than focusing on pits/marks/glare.
  • Make sure any exposure settings are suitable for your mounting position. If the camera is looking at both dark and bright areas, you don’t want the bright areas (like windows) to be over-exposed.
  • A GoPro roll bar or other interior view should start out with setting EQ 1 and see how that works out; the default EQ 0 will likely over-expose the windows.
  • WiFi control features can drain the battery faster, so turn that off if you’re not using it.

Data Overlays

  • Data overlays are a great way to make your videos more interesting and informative. Your viewers can see just how fast you really took that turn, how many G’s you were pulling, etc.
  • TrackAddict is an easy inexpensive smartphone app to record data and video at the track, which is useful for both driving analysis/improvement and making cool videos.
  • RaceRender is a full-featured data & video overlaying tool for your computer, once you already have some data and video recordings to work with. It’s what I use to make fancier or more custom data overlays, add logos, multiple camera views, 360 video, etc.
  • I created both of these products for the purpose of creating more exciting and useful racing videos, and they’ve continued to evolve over the years.

Links

TrackAddict

RaceRender

GoPro

360fly

Panavise 809 Suction Cup

Smartphone Tripod Adapter

Weston

Front4 Series Co-Director #73 White 1995 Acura Integra

Leave a Reply