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Harry Ayiotis

Lighting car interior at night time

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There are quite a few low cost methods. If you're not renting you can improvise using various 12 volr lamps plugged into the car. I've also use standard torches with diffusion taped over the lens. The problem is often attaching the lights to the car, using Magic Arms is one of the easiest methods, but it's something that can be improvixed.

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Harry,

 

What brand and model camera are you using to film the scene? To get the best results for this type of scene on a low budget, I would recommend using a very light sensitive camera that can shoot at a high ISO and still look fairly clean. Something like a Canon DSLR camera (60D, 7D, 5D) if possible. Your biggest challenge is not lighting the car interior, it is getting your background to read like something other than black. Scout for a location that has lots of street lights if possible. Also look for streets where people leave their front lights on. If your neighborhood is too quiet and dark, your background will go so black, you won't have a sense of where you are.

 

For cheap car interior lighting, I would suggest looking at a hardware store, home improvement center, or auto supply store for some LED work lights that are rechargeable. Depending on how long you will be filming, you may need to get twice the number of units necessary so that you can have spares on hand charging. If you can find something that plugs into the car - that would be even better. Just be sure to have someone standing by with "jumper" cables and another vehicle. It's easy to run down the car battery while setting your lights. The LED lights that you find will likely be on the blue side with some green spikes. You can try using some 1/2 minus green (magenta gel) if you want to remove some of the green. Or you can just let it go and white balance to the LED light - or correct in post.

 

I would suggest using one LED light per person in the car as a "base light" key. You could place them in the dash area shinning through the steering wheel up at the actor - or gaffer tape them to the visor area. To prevent the lights from looking too fake, I suggest setting a level that is underexposed quite a bit. Your lights will likely not dim - although some have a switch that cuts the light in half. You can knock down the intensity of the LED's by using small strips of ND gel or diffusion material - or both. I would start with a light diffusion as that will soften and spread the light and knock down the intensity. To get the right exposure for your camera and to balance your LED base lights, park the car near a bright background that you will be filming. Set your camera ISO and lens aperture to get a desired exposure for your brightest background that you are likely to film. Then have your gaffer test hold an LED light in different areas outside the camera frame until you like the angle of the light hitting the actor. If the LED is too bright looking as an ambient light, diffuse or gel it until it looks right (underexposed). Then gaffer tape it securely in place. This is a minimal lighting set up that should work well assuming you can boost your camera's ISO or gain.

 

If you would like your scene to be even more sophisticated, try adding an effect light. Purchase or borrow a powerful flashlight (torch in the UK). Something like a "Maglight" brand flashlight that the police use in the US. I prefer the rechargeable ones. Have someone drive a "lead" car just ahead of your picture car as close as possible. Have someone (other than the driver!) occasionally pan the flashlight through the picture car windshield at the driver or passenger as if it is an oncoming car's headlights. Using a flashlight that is closer to a tungsten balance will look more like a car headlight. This effect will add visual interest and realism to your lighting. Be sure to test the duration of the flashlight "headlight" to make sure you aren't blinding the driver in an unsafe way. Of course I would test all of these elements before the actual shoot day to make sure everything will work properly. If the flashlight isn't bright enough, you might be able to find a safety spotlight (similar to what police use) that will plug into a car lighter. Boating supply stores may also have something.

 

Hope these suggestions give you some ideas.

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Harry,

 

What brand and model camera are you using to film the scene? To get the best results for this type of scene on a low budget, I would recommend using a very light sensitive camera that can shoot at a high ISO and still look fairly clean. Something like a Canon DSLR camera (60D, 7D, 5D) if possible. Your biggest challenge is not lighting the car interior, it is getting your background to read like something other than black. Scout for a location that has lots of street lights if possible. Also look for streets where people leave their front lights on. If your neighborhood is too quiet and dark, your background will go so black, you won't have a sense of where you are.

 

For cheap car interior lighting, I would suggest looking at a hardware store, home improvement center, or auto supply store for some LED work lights that are rechargeable. Depending on how long you will be filming, you may need to get twice the number of units necessary so that you can have spares on hand charging. If you can find something that plugs into the car - that would be even better. Just be sure to have someone standing by with "jumper" cables and another vehicle. It's easy to run down the car battery while setting your lights. The LED lights that you find will likely be on the blue side with some green spikes. You can try using some 1/2 minus green (magenta gel) if you want to remove some of the green. Or you can just let it go and white balance to the LED light - or correct in post.

 

I would suggest using one LED light per person in the car as a "base light" key. You could place them in the dash area shinning through the steering wheel up at the actor - or gaffer tape them to the visor area. To prevent the lights from looking too fake, I suggest setting a level that is underexposed quite a bit. Your lights will likely not dim - although some have a switch that cuts the light in half. You can knock down the intensity of the LED's by using small strips of ND gel or diffusion material - or both. I would start with a light diffusion as that will soften and spread the light and knock down the intensity. To get the right exposure for your camera and to balance your LED base lights, park the car near a bright background that you will be filming. Set your camera ISO and lens aperture to get a desired exposure for your brightest background that you are likely to film. Then have your gaffer test hold an LED light in different areas outside the camera frame until you like the angle of the light hitting the actor. If the LED is too bright looking as an ambient light, diffuse or gel it until it looks right (underexposed). Then gaffer tape it securely in place. This is a minimal lighting set up that should work well assuming you can boost your camera's ISO or gain.

 

If you would like your scene to be even more sophisticated, try adding an effect light. Purchase or borrow a powerful flashlight (torch in the UK). Something like a "Maglight" brand flashlight that the police use in the US. I prefer the rechargeable ones. Have someone drive a "lead" car just ahead of your picture car as close as possible. Have someone (other than the driver!) occasionally pan the flashlight through the picture car windshield at the driver or passenger as if it is an oncoming car's headlights. Using a flashlight that is closer to a tungsten balance will look more like a car headlight. This effect will add visual interest and realism to your lighting. Be sure to test the duration of the flashlight "headlight" to make sure you aren't blinding the driver in an unsafe way. Of course I would test all of these elements before the actual shoot day to make sure everything will work properly. If the flashlight isn't bright enough, you might be able to find a safety spotlight (similar to what police use) that will plug into a car lighter. Boating supply stores may also have something.

 

Hope these suggestions give you some ideas.

 

 

I am using a Canon 5d MKII, thank you for such a thorough reply

 

I need a really cheap method, so i'm gonna go get some LED rechargeable worklights like you've suggested, and I really liked the flashlight trick as well.

 

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions!

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Grab yourself a couple of LED lights and place them where you think they will fit.

 

Now remember, when driving, cars are always dark, so a light source if to obvious will catch people's attention but for the wrong reason. Your best bet is the find a street with a lot of lights already there and film it there. Try to make it as natural as possible, base the scene around traffic lights, near sidewalks with Pharmacy's or big neon lights around them.

 

If you are filming with the Mark 2, don't push the ISO to high, the grain will kill you. Those Cameras are great for low light but in order to achieve great stuff from them in low light, they need a hand. Most people just bump up the ISO and call it a day, don't be that guy.

 

Good, luck.

 

Hope that helps.

Edited by alarconswaby

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