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Driving With Equipment

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#1 Afton Grant

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 06:37 PM

I purchased my vehicle long before I purchased my equipment, and needless to say, it's not exactly a production vehicle. Toyota sedan to be exact. I've worked out a system that actually accommodates my equipment. It's tight, and it's a pain to load and unload, but it works and will have to continue doing so until I can afford a new vehicle.

I currently have two large Pelican cases and my folded cart in the back seat. I recently realized, should I ever be in any sort of head-on collision, I would have over 100lbs of gear flying toward the front seat at a rather fast pace.


Even SUV's, vans, minivans, and station wagons have the potential for unsecured cargo flying all the way to the front. I'd like to know some of the restraint solutions some of you have come up with - especially those of you who also are forced to carry equipment in the back seats.

The larger vehicles definitely give more options for safety modifications. If and when I do get myself an SUV or similar, I'll probably install some sort of cage in between the front seats and the cargo area that is anchored to the floor. For now, with my sedan, I'm going to look into modifying the seat belts, or replacing them with cargo straps to hopefully secure, or at least slow down anything with the potential to become a missile. Has anyone else tried this?

Safe driving,
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#2 Brant S. Fagan SOC

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Posted 25 September 2006 - 06:39 AM


While we all enjoy modifications as much as life itself, I would recommend a simpler and far more dramatic solution. Consider a pickup truck with a bedliner and cap. Most caps are now available with seriously tinted windows, too.

All, if not most of the large ungainly cargo can be stored and safely transported within the confines of the bed and covered to prevent peeping eyes from studying your loot. A side benefit of this arragement is that you no longer have to listen to cases bumping and grinding but also your cart is safely behind a wall of steel and glass between the bed and cab. Also, you can use a load restraint bar in combination with strapping to confine your cargo to the bed area.

Another nice feature of the truck is that you may choose a unit with four wheel drive. Maybe not the most pressing feature for our breatheren to the south, but surely a fine feature for those of us in the northern latitudes.

Production also may feel better about adding you to a permit when you say you need room for your "Steadicam truck" near the camera truck.

This solution has worked rather well for me for the past decade. Enough that when I have to load my gear into a van or SUV, I loath to listen to the gear jostling about behind me, just waiting for a chance to BASE jump onto my head.

Just my .02...


Brant S. Fagan, SOC
Steadicam/Camera Operator
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#3 WillArnot


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Posted 26 September 2006 - 04:08 PM

I would 2nd Brant's sentiments.

I have a 4 x 4 Nissan Frontier 4 door crew cab, with a short 5 ft bed, and it works fantastically.

I get 10 cases plus my magliner on top in the back bed. Then I still have a full 5 seater cab in front that feels like a real car. For all you family folk you can keep half the truck feeling somewhat family friendly and seperate.

The short bed means I don't have to bust my knees up to get up to the front of the bed. And means I can still park in a NYC parking spot!

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#4 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 08:56 PM

Toyota Tacoma here. Will has a great point about the short bed. I have a regular bed, but no extended cab (in order to park in NYC) and next time around, I will definitely give up the extra room in back for a more livable cabin (plus good point about the knees).
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#5 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 26 September 2006 - 10:32 PM

I'm in the pickup club as well. I used to have a Nissan Pathfinder, but I much prefer my truck. I have a double cab Toyota Tundra with a Tonneau cover over the bed so no one ever knows what's in there, unlike the SUV. The short bed is a good idea....where were you a couple years ago Will?
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#6 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 09:49 AM

Dodge Grand Caravan for my work vehicle.
Bought new one in 2005 and will get another new one in 2007.
Take out the back most seat and basically everything fits behind the middle
In the event of an accident, nothing is stacked higher than the middle seat.
I do place a few items on the floor behind the driver and passenger seat (DSD vest for one)
but it would literally require the item to fly straight up THEN forward before hitting my head.
Nearly an impossible proposition.

Prior to 2005 I used different trucks.

I switched to the minivan for several reasons.
1. Though a pickup truck can have a bed shell put on it, you pay at least $1000 for a good one
and then it still does not have an alarm on it.
2. The pickup bed's tailgate sits MUCH higher than the low load in floor of the minivan. This makes it
immeasurably easier to load and unload the minivan than it does the pickup truck.
3. Unless you buy a large pickup truck, the smaller ones (like the Tacoma) don't meet the 6000 lbs GVWR the minivan does, therefore it doesn't qualify the 100% tax write off as a work "truck". My 2005 minivan was a 100% tax write off for me in 2005, and I'll do it again next year after I sell my 2005 and get a 2007.
4. If it's raining outside and you need to get to a piece of your gear, you get wet getting out of the pickup to get to the back of the truck. In the minivan you can get to your gear without ever getting out
of the vehicle.
5. Insurance....minivans are cheaper to insure than pickups....at least with my auto policy.
6. There were other benefits too I just can't remember them right now and I have to go
and get ready for work.

Oh, quickly, if you are still worried about any gear flying around in a minivan, you can
always get one of the dog barrier gates installed that will not allow any gear to get to the front of the

Take care all.
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#7 James Puli

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 10:13 AM

G'day all.

I can currently get all my gear in the back of a Ford Falcon station wagen with my magliner also. Now this isnt very safe, without my cargo barrier in, which i have to take out to fit the magliner in.

I am currently looking at the Volkswagen Transporters or Mercedes Vito or Sprinter vans. The ones I have been looking at have 5 seats (rear 3 are removable) and there is a moveable cargo barrier which i can place either behind the pasanger seats or behind the front seats. Its a bit of work to swap around, but I have found I can get all my gear behind the pasanger seats, and theres enough leg room between the passanger and drivers seats for my magliner to be on its side and my rigshaw which i strap to the cargo barrier.

Still looking at how i can put all my gear (in boxes if possible) on the magliner and roll it up ramps safley into the back. Thats my next home project. Hopefully while leaving the back seats in.

But most guys here in Aust use station wagens, custom setup vans or shelved out 4x4's.

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#8 WillArnot


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Posted 30 September 2006 - 11:24 AM

In UK you might say "The dog's bollocks"... here in the US that would be like saying "the shit", or "da bomb"...

... terribly expensive, but any kind of configuration you can dream up. Mr. Puli - check out the mods on the Sprinter vans if you are leaning in that direction.

Check out the 'Gallery' link at top of page. Actually the 'Dogs' link has some ideas that might lend to our gear (nothing to do with it's bollocks!).


... and if you have running water, a small microwave oven, a fridge and electricity installed, you can write it off as a second home!

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#9 Steve Fracol SOC

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 01:58 PM

I have the full size Dodge Sprinter.

For those of you that might own more than just a Steadicam Pkg like myself. You might need more room.

I have 2 Steadicam pkgs, Full VariCam pkg, Head, Sticks, Geared Head, Full Documentary Lighting pkg with custom cart that also handles 6 C stands flags-nets, etc. Lots of STUFF.

Not every job is the same for me. Sometimes only the Steadicam gear goes out. Sometimes the whole PKG goes out (those are great days!). On occasion they use my Sprinter as the Camera Truck for the smaller 35mm gigs because you can stand up in it and a loader can build a great (out of the weather) loading table, etc. All the gear fits great in the large 158" wheel base Sprinter. Noise is an issue but not when the truck is totally full and all the gear/carts are strapped down. When driving it empty you need to take some Aspirin before you leave the house. Also when empty talking on the phone is very hard.

I base home in the Midwest (Kansas City area)and I drive up to 12 hours to gigs. I love being able to toss what I want to take in the Sprinter (including my bike) and just go. It is not like packing for airline travel. I travel by Air about half the time so all my gear is airline readys as well.

It also gets 18mpg city and 20 mpg highway. 5-cyl Merc. Diesel. It is HUGE and a bit of a pain to park, will not fit in parking garages, etc. I would not want to use my truck in LA or NY but works well in the Midwest.

I am in LA right now (without my van) but when I get home I will take some photos and post them for you guys to see. I know an LA Jib guy that has the Tiny version (short wheel base, 138" I think) of the Sprinter and he loves it while working in LA. That size might be a good option for the LA/NY based operators.

Sprinter is not right for everyone....

Steve Fracol
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#10 JobScholtze


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Posted 30 September 2006 - 03:09 PM

:rolleyes: Mercedes Vito van, all the room i need and more, with special made sticker :P
How i LOVE that sticker.
Pic 1
Pic 2
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#11 Brett Manyluk

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 04:22 PM

You're right... that's a cool sticker. B)

I went with a Dodge 4x4 quad hemi with a topper. Plenty of room to hold everything and lots of power to pull a trailer if you need more. One cool thing about most modern quad cab trucks is that the back seat usually will fold up and a metal floor folds down. Then you have a ton of room to store road cases in the cab (which is generally more secure than the topper). I can fit my entire package back there, leaving the box for lighting gear and carts (or whatever...).

I did go the extra kilometer (sorry, mile) and install a big after-market alarm. One thing I learned which may be of note to anyone else doing the same is that the generic shock sensor that comes with every alarm system will rarely trip if the glass is shattered. When experienced car thieves break in (particularily on toppers) they use a sharp glass breaker and the glass will pop without setting off the shock sensor. You need to add glass break sensors to your alarm package that are tuned to the frequency of the shattering glass. I also recommend adding contact switches and a flashing LED to the topper hatch as well. At the very least it will "look" more impressively alarmed and perhaps convince the thieves that your truck is too much trouble for a quick job.

Mind you, nothing is as effective as finding a safe place to park.

Hope this helps someone.

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#12 James Puli

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 03:50 AM

Its all about right place right time Will. Just found a 2nd hand Merc Vito van in perfect condition. And it was even owned by another cameraman who has maintained it VERY well and has done most of the mods already (removable seats, barriers etc).

Great gallery on that website. It has given me some more ideas on what I can do with the van.

J "Sometimes we get lucky" P
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#13 David George Ellis

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 09:38 AM

I own a 2002 Chevy Astro AWD. Barely looks crammed with all my gear. I fit individual cases for sled, vest, arm, batts, vid. assist, ditty, vehicle mount, tools, stand and Magliner JR. I took the 3rd row seat out and the only thing that peers over the 2nd row is the strap from my Klassen Vest case. I can also fit my emergency car fix duffle bag and an enclosed 12" subwoofer.

This thing comes ready with an HD factoy hitch and DTS system for plugging in lights for trailing. The AWD takes me over sand dunes, snow and mud. I did get stuck in the dunes in Little Sahara, Utah by nearly going over a 10" t-bone drop-off coming to a complete stop at the top of the dune. I intend on doing a 5" lift and adding off-road tires to help me get over all terrain without bomb sweats (Don't worry Alec, I promise not to tip over).

Since I love the road trip, I also carry my tripod, a 3-chip video camera in case and AKS, 35mm SLR, bookbag, cooler, luggage, CPU with AKS, food and a random AC or DP. They especially love my Sirius Satellite radio, high ride and uber-tinted windows. She fits in Manhattan traffic and parking is suprisingly easy. Good torque on the streets and passing power on highways. Gets 20-25 MPG and rides solid like a friggin tank. And I haven't even begun to do the roof rack as well as the hitch attatchments like an India Mount.

Another plus is that it has (4) 12v cigarette adaptors (3 in front, 1 in the trunk), so I can charge or power just about everything with a 300w inverter. I gotta say, it's a pretty popular van on exterior location shoots, almost too popular, and I can never imagine owning anything other than that. Since starting in film, I've gone thru 4 cars, this being my 5th and final. I would rather keep fixing it than replace it.

Anyway, my final analysis is that the 2000-2002 Astrovan with AWD is an awesome rig. Very reliable, goes and fits just about everywhere for work and play and, looks cool in a sandstorm.



P.S. To add a classic touch, this thing came with a CD/Cassette Radio. The cassette player is great for plugging in an adaptor to get crystal clear sound from my i-pod. Screw the FM transmitter, and I didn't want to pay extra for the mini plug adaptor. And did I mention panty-dropping leather seats? I did now and just did.

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#14 JobScholtze


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Posted 04 October 2006 - 11:59 AM

Very cool car David.
Impossible to pay for it here in europe, there just to expensive( roadtax ).
Again, cool stuff
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#15 Guido Lux

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Posted 05 October 2006 - 11:36 AM

I think for us european guy the T5 is the way to go!I just got mine 4 weeks ago and I have to say, I will not go back to anything else!Its got enough room for all the gear and 4 people!And after a few minor mods it even is cool looking!It also has enough power for the autobahn!!

Guido "always loved the A-team" Lux

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