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Rig Shots 3: A brief history of rig shots


John Jovic

John G. Zimmerman, an inventive and successful American sports photographer, was a pioneer in the use of motorised remote cameras since the early '50's. Possibly one of the earliest rig shots is an image he shot in the 1950-60's (not certain about the date) where he attached a motorised remote controlled camera to a biplane whilst performing various manoeuvres such as rolling ("Photographing sports: John Zimmerman, Mark Kauffman and Neil Leifer (Masters of contemporary photography)", Thames and Hudson, London, ISBN: 0-500-54032-2) for more about John G. Zimmerman.

Warwick Kent (Australia) has been shooting rig shots for Australian publications since the early 90's (see 'Professional Photography in Australia', January 1993, front cover and page 26. Rig shots have been popularised in the motoring print media by the photographers and artists from British magazines such as CAR and EVO since the late '90's when the techniques where still 'top-secret'. The popularity of rig shots in editorial markets predates the use of digital cameras so initially rig shots were shot on film and were usually shot in such a way that the rig was not visible and therefore would not require removal using Photoshop. This usually meant that a part of the car was not visible in the image because it had the rig attached to it. This is still a popular option because it significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to create the final image, however, it is not as dramatic as images which show the entire car in the image, ie full car rig shots. Full car rig shots are very popular and make for dramatic images but they also require potentially significant post production to remove the rig from the image.

Rig shots themselves are not a recent phenomenon, only their wide spread use in motoring print media. Elaborate and extremely expensive rigs, some times called advertising rigs, have been used to create still advertising images for much longer than we have been seeing these images in popular motoring magazines. Some rigs are made from exotic materials such as Carbon Fiber and some can have a glass section which is designed to allow easier rig removal from the final image. These rigs are usually attached to the chassis of the car from below. You can hire them, and the people that operate them, for many thousands of dollars per day.

Rig shots have also become quite popular in TV car advertising in recent years and these days rig shots are the norm rather than the exception. Although their use with video is a little different to still cameras the way the rigs are used to attach equipment to cars is often identical.



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