So, you wanna make car videos? Are you planning on shelling out your life savings on the best camera on the market to get sweet, sweet slo-mo footage? If you are, this gift guide is not for you. This is for those of us who want the best bang for our buck in terms of production equipment.
To make a video, you’re going to need a camera. To make a car video, you’re going to need an action camera. (A car of some sort is also helpful.)
Sure, you can use your phone or DSLR, but I know an action camera will have a better chance of surviving the inevitable fall off a speeding vehicle, which can happen. Manufacturers like Kodak, Vivitar, and Panasonic all make their own versions, but GoPro has always been the frontrunner and still is.
It’s a great time to buy a GoPro because they updated and simplified their entire lineup of cameras just a few months ago. Now, your options are limited to the Hero5 Black edition, or one of two “Session” cameras, which are basically the normal Hero5 Black without a screen. And trust me, you’ll want the screen.
Unfortunately a microSD card, the device needed for the camera to actually record, isn’t included with the purchase of your new $400 GoPro HERO5. So that means you’ve got to buy one. I recommend this SanDisk option, which is fast enough to record in every format the GoPro Hero5 offers, and big enough to not immediately run out of space after you press record.
Because the GoPro is so small and powerful, battery life isn’t that great. One will last you a few hours of shooting (depending on what mode you’re recording in), but having a second one charged and at the ready is always a good idea.
Since making car videos requires strapping a camera to the car, you’re going to want a good mount. Fun fact: GoPro does not make a good mount—it’s shit. But this one from RAM is excellent, because you can adjust the entire apparatus by using one knob. The downfall is you have to purchase the GoPro adapter separately (linked above), but the upside is being able to use this as a normal phone mount when you’re not using it for your GoPro.
A polarizing filter is a little trick to make the footage from your GoPro look a little bit better. It’s a simple device that slaps onto the outside of the lens, and while that might not seem like much, it cuts some of the reflection you’d normally see when filming a shiny vehicle. It’ll make the colors in the vehicle’s surroundings a little bit richer, too.
The Hero5’s audio quality is better than that of the previous Hero4, but nothing will be as good as a dedicated, external mic. I zip-tie mine to the case of the GoPro to keep everything contained in one unit. Don’t forget to buy the adapter to make it work with your HERO5 (Hero4's don’t need the adapter.)
Because cameras require a bunch of screws, cables, and small accessories, you’ll want somewhere to hold them to keep everything tidy and accessible. I’ve found the capabilities of a plain tackle box far exceeds that of a purpose-built case that’s made for a GoPro. Buy one with adjustable dividers so you can customize it to fit your specific needs.
This kit is $339 because it includes last year’s base-model camera and a bunch of cheaply-made accessories. This is the kind of thing I’d recommend for my little cousin who really wants a GoPro, but doesn’t have any idea what to actually do with it. Plus, you’ll look like a hero giving someone 100 individually-wrapped presents.
This polarizer provides the exact same benefits as the HERO5 polarizer I mentioned earlier in the gift guide, just for last year’s model, the HERO4.
In the world of making videos, we are only scratching the surface in terms of production equipment, but this list will at least get you started. After all, according to our friends Jeremy Clarkson and James May, it’s the story (not the visuals) that make a great car video.