Even a replica of a movie car can be an expensive purchase, especially if it requires modifications to resemble its silver-screen counterpart. The half-million-dollar start of Doug DeMuro’s latest video, though, wasn’t designed to be in front of the cameras. Instead, the modified Porsche Cayenne is the camera. The camera car, to be precise.
Watch Doug DeMuro describe how a Porsche Cayenne becomes a camera car
The Porsche Cayenne in Doug DeMuro’s video is used by Los Angeles-based Advent Films to shoot a variety of projects. The team has worked with major OEMs like Honda and Aston Martin in the past. And the responsibility of filming falls to the crew of the Cayenne modified by Industrial Digital.
It’s unclear precisely which Porsche Cayenne model year ID chose to build the so-called ‘Arm Car.’ But based on the interior and exterior, it appears to be a 2016-2018 base model. So, under the hood is a 3.6-liter V6 with 300 hp and 295 lb-ft linked to an 8-speed automatic, Autotrader reports. And that’s paired to a standard AWD system. However, while the powertrain is essentially stock, the rest of the luxury SUV isn’t.
Firstly, this Porsche Cayenne is completely matte-wrapped. Not just the body panels, but the wheels, brake calipers, taillights, and headlights, too. However, unlike some matte wraps, it’s not there purely for looks. Normal automotive paint would throw colored, sparkly light on whatever the camera crew is trying to film. The matte color prevents that. But, to keep the Arm Car street-legal and street-safe, the headlight and taillight sections are removable.
Secondly, there’s the giant maneuverable camera arm on the roof. It’s attached to the Porsche Cayenne’s roof rail mounting points, and despite its size, only weighs about 500 pounds. The system also has a special cable system that lets it rotate 360° as many times as deemed necessary. It’s also water- and weather-proof, has a 16’ max-height, and can dip well below the ground surface.
Plus, its adjustability makes filming easier and less time-consuming than, say, sticking a lone camera operator in the trunk. And it has a special mounting system that isolates the attached camera—which is interchangeable—from road vibrations.
Inside is all the gear needed for a full filming crew
Normally, the 2016-2018 Porsche Cayenne only sits five people. But the Arm Car has seating for six. And it needs that extra seat to accommodate every film crew member and the necessary gear.
As standard, the 2018 Porsche Cayenne has navigation, a power liftgate, and lane-keeping assist, MT reports. Options included active air suspension, heated and ventilated 1st– and 2nd-row seats, carbon-ceramic brakes, and active anti-roll bars, Automobile reports. However, the Arm Car’s extra equipment makes its interior “look like getting into a police car,” Doug DeMuro reports.
The Porsche Cayenne has multiple wireless headsets for the crew, a radio handset to talk to people outside, and even a device for live-streaming to YouTube. That last part is critical in the current COVID-19 pandemic, as it means the client doesn’t have to sit inside the Cayenne. There’s also a remote-control device with a connected monitor for the crane operator in the passenger seat.
Speaking of monitors, each person in the car has their own camera-feed-connected monitor, including the driver. The driver-side rear passenger is the client, while the actual camera operator sits in the passenger-side rear seat.
As for the passenger in the cargo-area-mounted seat, they specifically control the camera focus. The cargo area also houses all the equipment and cables for the camera feed, which comes into the Porsche Cayenne via a specially-designed Plexiglass window.
What’s it like to drive a Porsche Cayenne camera car?
Normally, this modified Porsche Cayenne doesn’t drive long distances. To move it from one project to another, the crew remove the camera and tow the SUV. Otherwise, the crane arm would get in the way and possibly get damaged. But for the Doug DeMuro video, the camera and the crane stayed in place.
Driving such an expensive and hard-to-replace vehicle is, to quote Doug DeMuro, “terrifying.” It’s also a rather unique experience. The crane makes the SUV effectively longer. And with the camera attached, it requires a high degree of precision and effective team communication. Hence all the headsets.
Luckily, the Porsche Cayenne turns and grips better than a vehicle its size and weight should, Autoblog reports. That, along with its AWD and ground clearance, is why Industrial Design chose a Cayenne as an Arm Car.
It’s not the only high-speed camera car
However, the Porsche Cayenne is by no means the only performance vehicle turned into a camera car.
MotorTrend, for instance, modified a Subaru WRX STI to film its videos. Admittedly, it doesn’t have a movable crane arm. But it still films well at above-100-mph speeds for a fraction of the price. And thanks to a Cobb Stage One tune, the ‘STInister’ goes 0-60 mph 0.8 seconds faster than a stock STI.
But that’s just the start. Camera operators sitting in modified Porsche 911 front trunks helped film Ronin’s famed car chase, Road & Track reports. Capturing video of the Bugatti Chiron and Nissan GT-R Nismo required using another Chiron and GT-R, respectively, R&T and Automobile report. If you want to film motorcycles, you call in a Caterham Seven camera car, R&T reports. And then there’s the 201-mph Lamborghini ‘Huracam,’ The Drive reports.
Used cars can also make for excellent camera cars. There’s been a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII and a BMW E39 M5 camera car, R&T reports. And filming Need for Speed required using a 625-hp Ford Mustang with a custom roll cage and rear glass hatch, The Drive reports.
No wonder movie budgets are so high these days.
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