December 28, 2015

How to Light a Nighttime Car Scene with 2 Lights & a Couple of Camping Lanterns

There are tons of shooting situations that are a little tricky to light, and one of them is shooting a nighttime scene inside of a car.

Shooting at night means you don't have the natural light of the sun to use as a key, which means you're going to have to get your hands on some lights. However, your setup doesn't have to be elaborate or expensive. Our buddies over at Film Riot give a great tutorial on how to light a car scene at night using three or four lights. 

The entire episode has a bunch of great lighting tips, but if you want to watch just the car lighting bit, you can skip ahead to 5:25.

The lights Ryan Connolly and his team use are:

  • Aputure Light Storm LED (backlight)
  • Can light (key light)
  • 2 camping lanterns (fills)

You can pick up a can light, or a clamp light, at any hardware store for $10 to $20. (I have a bunch of these in my garage and they work to light almost anything.) The Energizer camping lanterns are great because they're LED, they run on batteries, and some of them even fold up so you can take them anywhere. I've found that the little fill lights I use have just kind of come into my possession mysteriously -- like, I don't remember ever having bought them; they were just in my light bag one day. (Awesome.)

Now, the backlight used in the video, the Aputure Light Storm LED, is going to cost you a pretty penny at $700, but LED panels come in all shapes and sizes, so you're sure to find one that can do more or less what you want at a price you can afford.

In the end, you can, and kind of have to, make do with what you've got, and if that's 3 cheapo clamp lights and one of those tiny LED headlamps (another one of my mysterious lighting acquisitions), then just make sure you get gels, dimmers, and other inexpensive accessories that will help you at least control the light you do have.     

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For a comparison: Here's what cinematographer Mike Gioulakis did in order to light a key scene for the 2-million horror hit "It Follows" http://filmmakermagazine.com/93629-we-didnt-have-to-add-too-much-creepin...
The take-away from the comparison is that you can achieve believable/interesting/dramatic lighting even on a super low budget case.

December 29, 2015 at 4:49PM

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Stel Kouk
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