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Lighting Cars

Published : 26th July 2004


I tried the archives, but surprisingly did not find anything on the subject...anyway, I'm shooting a commercial involving several product shots, and two cars. They will be shot in a stage, so obviously natural light is impossible...The client and director are very concerned about the cars looking their best and don't want excessive hot spots or reflections. The outside of the car is the important factor, the inside is not vital.

I have never shot a car before, so I would appreciate any pointers.

Thanks, and greetings

Carlos Valdes
Motion Control Operator + Cinematographer



What color are the cars? Are they stationary or on a turntable?

Here's some advice from veteran DP Bill Bennett who has done some really amazing work on car commercials :

"Shooting cars is unique in that you don't light the car, you light things that you reflect on the car, or you find places where there are things that are reflected on the car surface. If you take a car on stage and try to light it with hard light, it will look horrible, because of the reflections on the surface of the car. So you create big coloured (for white or light coloured cars) or white sources (for black or dark coloured cars) that have big bounce areas. You have to make them huge, at least 40 x 60, because surfaces of a car are curved. Maneuver them around andreflect them into the surfaces of the car."

Wendell Greene
Cinematographer - Los Angeles



>What color are the cars?

>So you create big coloured (for white or light coloured cars) or white >sources (for black or dark coloured cars) that have big bounce areas.


As far as colors go...the client has still to decide between silver coloured and black...however, either would work fine with this advice you have quoted. They are static, and we will have the camera on a dolly on a semi-circle track.

Thank you for your prompt advice.

Greetings from Mexico

Carlos Valdes
Motion Control Operator + Cinematographer


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