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Reflections In Car Windows

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I have a question about shooting through the front window of a moving vehicle. I have tried this a couple of ways so far, but haven't yet gotten the results that I am looking for.

One method was to place a 4x4 black flag over the window to block out all reflections so that I could clearly see the two actors sitting in the front seats. They were clearly visible (with some battery powered lighting), but it looks a little unrealistic to me without the reflections.

The other method was to dial the reflections out as much as possible with a polarizer, but the filter has a limited effect on the curved glass. I liked this much better, but at times it was still a bit of a strain to see the actors through the reflection of the sky. I chose a street with tall buildings and trees to give nice dark reflections to see through, but there was still a lot of bright sky obscuring the actors.

How can I minimize the reflections without getting rid of them entirely? I am looking for some kind of net to put over the window, but wouldn't a regular single or double net be visible in the reflection? Some sort of thin, fine woven black fabric (translucent) would seem to do the trick, but it would be difficult to rig it so that it is not visible flapping in the wind.

Any suggestions? If this question is a bit below the "pro" benchmark, forgive me.

Erin Harvey
Los Angeles based cinematographer
(in Paris shooting my first feature)



Erin Harvey wrote :

>"...shooting through the front window of a moving vehicle...dial the >reflections out as much as possible with a polarizer, but the filter has a >limited effect on the curved glass...

You can improve the ability of a polarizer to reduce or eliminate reflections from a windshield, even a curved one, by positioning the camera so that it faces the centre of the reflection from the glass at a 33 degree angle incident to the plane of the glass. Then be sure that the camera is far enough from the glass so that most of the reflected light, from left to right, is as close to that 33 degree angle as possible. Pull the camera as far back from the glass as you can (retaining the angular relationship) and zoom in to obtain the desired framing- the farther away from the glass you are, the greater the chance that reflection across the entire windshield will be controllable.

Of course, as usual, you can easily see this yourself by holding the polarizer close to your eye, and move back and forth relative to the glass while rotating the filter- you will soon find the best position to place the camera and the limits of what the filter can accomplish for any given situation.

Ira Tiffen
The Tiffen Company
Hauppauge, NY 11788



Erin Harvey writes:

>How can I minimize the reflections without getting rid of them entirely?

This is a perennial problem that doesn't lend itself to a universal fix. It is a problem that has vexed experts and with the downsizing of vehicles, it's not getting any easier. Car rigging can be a very complicated affair.

It may look like a camera was simply stuck on the hood of a car, but a great deal of time and effort and frustration may have gone into it to make it look easy, including Camera cars and process trailers.

Some amazing work has been done with a cameraman strapped to the hood and hand holding the camera on a sand bag. The police usually frown on that sort of thing these days.

Anyway, here are a few simpler suggestions.

Obviously reflections depend a great deal on the time of day you are shooting, the direction of travel vs. the sun, the angle of the windshield, whether or not it is tinted, the color of the interior of the car, and the angle of the camera relative to the windshield. Tinted windshields are a real pain, and are often replaced with clear windshields.

A crew experienced with this type of work is a tremendous asset as is getting the right car to begin with..

Try to rig the camera in the same conditions in which you will be shooting -- time of day, direction of travel, etc. This will can save a lot of heartburn when you start to shoot. Be sure everything is really ready when the time comes to shoot

If you can, spend some time observing cars driving around to see if you can see the driver easily and why.

Lower light -- early morning or evening -- is generally better than midday. Sidelight or backlight is likewise generally easier to control than front light. The angle of the windshield -- make, model, year of the car -- can make a tremendous difference, if you have any choice. Lowering the camera by rigging closer to the front end and using a longer lens can help a great deal

A car with a light coloured interior and a dark exterior is the easiest to light, but often the hardest to find.

>I am looking for some kind of net to put over the window, but wouldn't a >regular single or double net be visible in the reflection?

Not necessarily. Not if it's large enough and out of focus.

>Some sort of thin, fine woven black fabric (translucent) would seem to >do the trick, but it would be difficult to rig it so that it is not visible >flapping in the wind.

Yes, that's part of the adventure of shooting cars

You will probably get the best results using a combination of all of these techniques. If you do use a polarizer, don't use it on maximum.

Check out some films with car shots, they may not be as good as you remember.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



This reply is probably a little late, but I thought I'd post anyway. One of the best ways to keep reflections in a car windshield is to rig ND Perspex overhead, as a shelf from the edge of the car roof extending over the bonnet/hood of the car. As you can get the whole range of Perspex in varying sizes & densities just have a selection of each on the day. Just try to make sure that when you rig the frame that supports the ND you do it in way that you can change the sheets quickly.

Another trick is to try & find a tree lined road or avenue to shoot on; it helps to break up those perfect blue sky summer days that we get here in Ireland every summer. Gives a little more life in the windscreen

Hope this is of some use.

Regards,

James Mc Guire
Gaffer / Dublin