Blockbuster! Experimenting with film making and a 66 year old tempremental Star.

Like many others I find myself drawn to videos posted on YouTube and Facebook relating to various Land Rover activities.  Examples over the Winter that stick in my mind are the Defender towing a ‘wake surfer’ along a flooded lane.  It even made the BBC News and for once was not critical of Land Rover driving habits!  Others have shown us Land Rover TV adverts from the 1960’s, various Camel Trophy events and rather too many ‘fails’ drawing on our voyeuristic nature of wanting to be entertained by others' misfortune.  What has made all of the recent films possible of course, is the rise in ownership of smart phones and pocket cameras capable of producing remarkable quality in both still photos and videos.  This, in conjunction with simple editing packages offered in most software bundles and quick upload features on web sites has democratised film making away from the specialists and into the hands of anyone willing to have a go.

On a crisp January morning I thought it was time to stick my neck out and attempt my own short film about an afternoon's green laning in my 1948 Land Rover.  In preparation I watched a few YouTube videos made by professionals to work out what they had done that made theirs more entertaining.  Putting it very, very simply it boiled down to using different camera angles, quick cutaways of, say, a gear change and not making any shot longer than about 4 seconds.  In my kit bag I had a new GoPro (Christmas present to self!), my old Lumix point and shoot camera and a tripod.  To facilitate different camera angles I had a couple of simple clamps and a piece of wood about a metre long.

By the time I had coaxed the Land Rover into action, loaded up a few simple green lane essentials and topped the tank up with a tenners worth of petrol it was nearly 1 o’clock and a good hour later than I would have liked, but we were still in with a chance of 3-4 hours out in the fresh air.  Jo filled a Thermos with hot chocolate and we headed south into Northamptonshire where I know of a few interesting lanes, mostly tarmac minor roads, but a couple of B.O.A.T’s that should provide entertainment.   

What I had underestimated was how much time setting up the camera/wood/clamp aparatus would take, but once established we did a few minutes of film from one viewpoint, then changed to a fresh one.  After an hour we had about fifteen minutes worth of country lane footage, but I knew this would be a bit repetitive so as we pulled onto the first track I moved the GoPro into a position where its waterproof housing would be put to the test as we approached a Ford, the water level swelled by all the recent rain.


Driving straight through it, the water was nowhere near soaking the camera, but I thought the effect would probably be satisfactory and asked Jo to drive through a second time while I filmed the same scene from off the bridge with the Lumix, guessing that I could edit the two together.  I have to admit there was a lot of guesswork going on and I knew I was shooting a lot of video that would be binned, but thankfully memory cards hold masses and I had plenty.

We ventured into some woodland where I noticed that the low sunlight coming through the trees looked pretty good so we again mixed one camera on the Land Rover and me trying to hide behind a tree with the other to capture Jo driving past.  Aware that previewing the results on the camera for the Lumix, or on my iPhone for the GoPro would use valuable battery power - already depleted by the cold weather, I just hoped we would have enough material to cobble together something worth watching.

Our next planned track was closed with a locked gate and looked far too muddy to attempt in one vehicle anyway, so we pressed on towards Naseby - which in 1645 was the scene of the decisive battle of the Civil War.  Feeling more confident I clamped the GoPro to the front bumper, or cross member to give it its true title.  As this was positioned on the extreme left, I asked Jo to keep an eye on it and shout ‘STOP’ if it looked like falling off!  It didn’t and I managed to go through quite a big puddle that soaked everything, but should have recorded a good shot.  On into Naseby village and a stop in the centre for hot chocolate sitting on a bench making the most of the last rays of sun.  We would have to head more directly back home after this for two reasons; a film shot in the dark, whilst it could be evocative, was not what I was after and more importantly the alternator is not working on the old 80 inch!

As if to punish my lack of maintenance the old girl refused to start so before I flattened the battery I whipped out all four sparking plugs and started to give them a good wire brushing while Jo amused herself by exploring Naseby and found we had broken down 5 metres from the source of The River Avon!  Within 15 minutes we were away with the camera mounted on the centre seat back to film cutaways that I could use to break up chunks of road and track film if they were looking a bit long.  Pausing briefly to film the sun setting behind the 80 inch for possible use as a ‘The End’ clip we rushed home only having to use the feeble Butler headlights for the last 15 minutes.

Eager to see the results I downloaded everything and started editing all the clips using material from both cameras that with a few tweaks were indistinguishable in quality.  It was all a bit quiet and I realised some background music was required to liven it up a bit.  Searching through my meagre selection for anything copyright free I found some tracks passed over to me by a Moroccan friend from his USB stick to my Laptop as we bounced around the Atlas Mountains in a Toyota Land Cruiser last year!  This music is a friend of his playing his Gimbri as they sat around a fire out in the desert one night.  Not quite the right sound for Northamptonshire, but evocative of travel and safe to use without infringing copyright.

Within an hour the edited version was taking shape, but I realised that starting it with us driving over a hump backed bridge as seen from the top right of the windscreen was not a suitable start to a film.  By the time I realised this it was 10 o’clock at night and apart from this glaring omission I had finished.  There was nothing for it but to dress up in the same clothes and shoot an introduction in the garage.  Putting the Lumix on my tripod and recording several takes I had enough material to finish the film before uploading it to YouTube at about 11 o‘clock, or bedtime as we call it here.

It made a completed video of 2 minutes, which I felt was about the right duration to hold interest. From leaving home to uploading the finished result took just 10 hours which is pretty quick considering the learning curve.  The cameras worked well and the piece of wood and two clamps were all that was needed to elaborate on camera angles, plus the whole adventure was good fun and gave the old 80 inch a bit of an outing.  An added bonus was that in the style of Top Gear ‘discovering’ the source of The Nile, we 'discovered'  the source of The Avon.  Not bad for a £10 Adventure.

Box out.

You can see the results on Toby’s web site: - follow the ‘videos’ link, or search YouTube using the tags ‘1948 Land Rover’, ‘Northamptonshire’ and ‘Thermos Flask’!


Toby-1. The Arctic equipped 80 inch with sheepskin seat covers and a blanket.

Toby-5. The first experimental camera angle was right out on the drivers side to capture Toby’s right elbow and the front wheel.

Toby-11. This camera position was to capture the water rushing under the camera and around the front wheels.  It worked!

Toby-14.  The Ford was about a foot deep.  Enough for a good splash, but with a firm base there was no risk of getting stuck.

Toby-18.  A Thermos flask of hot chocolate was all the £10 budget would run to.  Perfect on a cold January day.

Toby-42.  Most amateur film makers have the camera facing forwards, but this view showed both Toby and Jo, plus the rolling Northamptonshire countryside.

Toby-43.  Smile you’re on Candid Camera!  Fortunately there was never a ‘Fail’ moment.

Toby-45.  Perhaps the most risky position given that the old Land Rover was doing about 20 mph, but the clamp held firm to get a dramatic puddle shot.

Toby-49. With the camera mounted on the middle seat cutaways were easy to get of changing gear and swapping from high to low ratio.  These break up long shots to make them a bit more interesting.

Toby-50.  The clamps proved to be remarkably versatile camera accessories.

Toby-54.  Just 15 minutes were required to remove, clean and replace all four sparking plugs.  All part of the fun of running an old Land Rover.

Toby-55.  The pair ‘discovered’ the source of The River Avon in Naseby, Northamptonshire - according to this small monument dating back to 1822.

Toby-57.  A familiar site that always gets offers of help from other users of old cars.  Thankfully not needed on this occasion.

Toby-58.  The battlefield at Naseby.  A pivotal point in the Civil War with a decisive battle on this very spot in 1645.

Toby-70.  ‘As the sun sets slowly in the west’ to quote the old Cowboy films, its a dash home before the battery goes flat.

Toby Savage. Jan 2014
07785 902530

reproduced by kind permission of Classic Land Rover Magazine.