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Night Exterior Car Beauties

Heath Orchard

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Hi Everyone, 

I'm working on a job right now that is going to require me to shoot some car beauties at night at Willow Springs Raceway north of LA. A million people have probably shot there but it'll be my first time. The initial budget for this shoot was very reasonable and I had a good size crew to accomplish what I thought we'd need. But for some reason the budget has suddenly been slashed dramatically and I'm now looking for inspiration on how to make a rare vintage sports car look beautiful at night without the resources for a traditional top light source as my base. My G&E crew went from 6 to only 2 people overnight and I'm struggling to switch gears in my mind. I've lit cars before and I generally have an understanding of what the pitfalls are. I'm more looking for ideas and inspiration on how to make this look really interesting and still have some wow factor. Thanks in advance for any advice. 



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13 minutes ago, David Mullen ASC said:

How can you be expected to light a night exterior with a 2-person grip & electric crew?  I mean, that's like a few Litemats on stands at best...

Better'n lighting a night exterior without a 2-person grip and electric crew, which is where I'd generally be.

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It's just that there is no way to safely get lights very high or armed way out as a high backlight without a crew to make sure nothing falls over in a wind. I'm not sure I'd even put a Litemat 8 on a menace arm with only two people on the crew -- one would be stuck holding onto the base just in case, let alone assembling the thing. Maybe there's a building or stadium seat arena where a bright light could be placed.

Maybe a balloon light? Not cheap...

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I regret, the one real safety SNAFU for which I was responsible involved an 8-by-8 diffusion going over in the wind on a terribly undermanned shoot. We got away with it, but - embarrassing.

I think the approach in that situation is, as you suggest, to find somewhere to do it that helps. I'm looking at pictures of Willow Springs and there doesn't really seem to be that much there other than the track and some low-rise maintenance and admin buildings.

One thing that springs to mind is that a lot of episodes of Top Gear used some trick techniques - bordering on the cheesy at times, but still - to make cars look pretty without a huge package.

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The first thing I would do is explain to the producers that they've made the job impossible.  

If you still want to do it, then it will have to be some unusual look, like edge lighting with quasar tubes, or find a location that has a big white wall you can light up for a clean reflection on the car.

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