Watch: How to Light a Car Commercial
Who ever thought selling cars could be this complicated?
We've all seen them: shiny cars flying through nature landscapes, promising simultaneously the dream of freedom and the dream of comfort. But what role does the cinematographer play?
Bill Bennett, ASC spent a day with students breaking down his process of lighting for car commercials.
Using a scaled-down car model, Bennett and his student crew use the following tools to create the effect:
- Two 10'x20' seamless muslin panels
- One 12x12' black
- Strip lights to light one panel
- Nook lights to light the other
- 4'x20' gel frames (warm on the right, cool on left side)
- Horizon light (black duvetyne hung on a pipe)
Parking the car in a front 3/4 position allows the camera to see half of the front and half of the side of the car—what many car manufacturers want to see. After the initial setup is in place, many small adjustments are made to perfect the quality of reflections. Using a bright flashlight, Bennett demonstrates how to find the source of any reflection problems you might be having (as he says, "Whether you're lighting a teapot or a car").
Measuring the light reflections with a spot meter allows you to pick up the exposure from the reflections of a car, whereas an incident meter would not give accurate readings. However, it's clear from the video that a good monitor with exposure tools is Bennett's light meter of choice. Also worth noting: when shooting the car itself, Bennett uses a 270° shutter angle.
For more informative videos like this, check out the American Cinematographer Vimeo channel.