We've Come A Long Way Baby!
I remember those two days all too well... I was operating for a Clear Channel commercial where I had to not only have my hands and feet in the ad (doing a little acting), but I had to operate the helmet camera with a 16mm Arri strapped to my head. And to keep the camera stable, there were a series of bunjee cords and straps that pulled the extra weight even harder down onto my head making it somewhat "easier" to operate. However, a compressed vertebrae would have surely ensued if this had been a long term job! You can see the spot here on YouTube.
Who would have thought that just a few years later, we would have the ability to pretty much strap a camera to anything and anywhere, including on top of your head without resulting in visits to the chiropractor! On the Clear Channel Commercial, we had only three setups over the course of two days including intermittent road blocks of the 110 freeway with a process trailer. I bring this up because I recently wrapped up operating on one of the F-Type Jaguar spots (starring 49ers Colin Kaepernick) with cinematographer, David C. Smith, who is an expert in car rigging and multi-camera shooting. These were long form commercials that were shot entirely in one day with numerous setups and various forms of DSLR and GoPro style cameras. The cameras of choice were Panasonic GH2 DSLR cameras and Replay cameras (Replays are similar to GoPros, but personally I think much better for this style of shooting).
The Jaguar spot was also covered with two handheld Panasonic HDX cameras for all of the dialogue scenes that were not driving. But the hero cameras were the Panasonic GH2s. Inside the car, three GH2 cameras were rigged on the windshield to get the reality style coverage the spots were going for. They were also the cameras used for the slider beauty shots using a very simple slider called the F&V Slider. I've used this slider before, and although not as flawless as the Cineped, for small DSLR run and gun, it does the trick. In addition, the GH2 stabilizer is superb. I actually did several shots of GH2 handheld out of the side window of the passenger van to get those profile views on the PCH of the F-Type. The stabilization held up quite well even though I was holding it out the window at full speed.
Another tool used by David for many of his car shoots are ReplayXD cameras. Although they weren't used in this particular spot, when rigging in places that you can't even fit a GH2, or in a place that you know it's going to get hit, they are perfect. It's aluminum housing can withstand an explosion...literally. We actually blew one up on a show last year and the camera and footage survived! Unlike the GoPro, it doesn't have that "jello-cam" look that you often get when bouncing around. All I have to say is, I wish we had had this little guy when we were doing the Clear Channel commercial!
I'm just incredibly thankful that if I'm ever asked to operate a helmet camera again because they need my hands and feet in the shot, there are options like GH2 and Replay XD cameras that will work beautifully as well as save my neck!