August 3, 2016

Watch: How to Light Car Interiors on a Budget

Lighting a scene is tricky enough, but add a metal box with four wheels into the mix and things get significantly trickier.

Shooting a scene in a car is pretty inevitable, which is why you'll want to know how the pros do it. But you may not have the cash that the pros have to do it the way the pros do, which is why you'll want to know how to do it cheap. In this video from Aputure, Cinematographer Julia Swain gives some excellent tips on how to light a car scene when you don't have the big Hollywood budget to do it all big and Hollywood-y.

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1vJ0y2PBBM

First things first: you need a place to shoot your car scene, and since you're probably not going to haul a car around on a trailer like they do on big budget productions, you'll have to find some kind of large, open space to shoot in, like a studio or warehouse.

Second is lighting. Swain uses quite a few lights in her demo, which means that, yeah, you might want to shell out some cash to rent a decent lighting kit.

'Drive' (2011)

However, if you're really strapped for cash and want to get a little DIY and creative, you can try rigging up some cheap clamp lights. Just keep in mind that you might have to tweak a few things to solve the additional issues that come up when you go this route.

For example, you might have to account for different color temperatures if you're just pulling a bunch of clamp lights out of your garage that have different kinds of bulbs. Also, bulbs found in most clamp lights aren't the most powerful things in the world, so just make sure that your key is powerful enough to get a proper exposure. Finally, keep in mind that incandescent bulbs tend to flicker on-screen, so you might have to change your frame rate or shutter speed to counteract it. 

Do you have any cool, inexpensive tricks for lighting a car scene? Let us know in the comments below.     

Your Comment

7 Comments

In this video I used a mini LED (10 € http://amzn.to/2aTVlf1) in the car, just to let the camera see the actress face.
For the external shots we used the street's lights and an Youngnuo YN600 for the people that come out from the car.

https://youtu.be/BYv3zwMLfds?t=2m18s

August 3, 2016 at 10:54AM

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Simone Salvatore
Filmmaker / Recording Engineer / Musician
204

Props on your posts lately! Good work!!

August 3, 2016 at 11:01AM, Edited August 3, 11:01AM

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Kyle Lamar
Director Producer DP
1194

This is a great tutorial and poses some great ideas for a controlled INT car shoot. I still prefer to get out and shoot on the street, since this still feels staged, but this might come in handy when conditions don't allow.

August 3, 2016 at 11:51AM

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Steve Yager
Filmmaker
276

I would love to learn how to light external scenes. Scenes set outside at night.

August 3, 2016 at 8:02PM, Edited August 3, 8:02PM

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Callaghan Capelle
Director/Writer
74

Or a day for night lighting scenario would be amazing

August 3, 2016 at 8:16PM

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Callaghan Capelle
Director/Writer
74

just toss a DSLR camera on the hood with a suction cup and drive around at night.. DONE

August 7, 2016 at 9:53PM, Edited August 7, 9:53PM

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Hunter Senftner
Director/DP/Editor
213

June 30, 2017 at 12:12AM

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