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No GoPro: Filming Without Compact Cameras

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The late, great, two-time Daytona winner Cal Rayborn receives some last-minute instructions from "On Any Sunday" producer Bruce Brown before heading onto the track for some on-board film footage.
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Brown makes a few minor tweaks to the camera gear attached to Mark Brelsford’s helmet. Brelsford earned his AMA National Number One plate in 1972.

There was a time not long ago when photographers and videographers (including members of motorcycling’s fourth estate) used the F-word a lot. They’d say things like “Film this,” or “Film that,” and then get on with the task of recording what needed to be recorded for their assignments. They said “film” because, well, their cameras used film to document what they were recording.

There were no GoPro-size cameras back then, either, so obtaining a rider’s-eye view from the motorcycle required strapping a bulky film-laden camera, plus triggering apparatus, onto the bike or rider. I remember as a staff writer for Cycle Guide magazine riding shotgun several times for photographer David Dewhurst to get some on-board images using his camera. He’d entrust his expensive Nikon to me by attaching it to the bike, and then threading a trigger mechanism to the left handgrip for me to manage while negotiating turns and such. Real state-of-the-art stuff back then. “We did this while running fast laps at Willow Springs and while clocking 160mph at El Mirage Dry Lake,” recalls Dewhurst. “Try advancing the film at 160mph and you can understand the difficulty involved.”

Then came digital photography, and practically overnight things changed. Eventually, use of the F-word died out. Digital photography brought with it sophisticated compact cameras, so we cleaned up our act in another way. Riders no longer have to attach huge camera bodies to their heads, as shown in these “film” images from the press kit for the 1971 movie On Any Sunday. Imagine the results that OAS director Bruce Brown could have produced with just one GoPro! MC

Published on Oct 8, 2015

Motorcycle Classics Magazine

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