Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Lighting Interior Of A Stretched Limo

I'm working on a production that is based on and around a stretch limo. I haven’t seen the car yet ( arrived only yesterday from overseas). From the photos that I have seen of the interior there isn't much in the way of installed lighting fixtures. I have at my disposal an array of equipment from the "pocket par", 200w and kino’s and a 12v/220v 1000w invertor.

Can any one suggest, possible stand alone lighting set ups interior day, that I can use to light the passenger section of the limo, the is no and on the windows yet.

The limo is here for a week then continues to Europe for the rest of the shoot, so the setup has to travel as well.

Simon Belfer
Gaffer Tel Aviv, Israel


You didn't mention what style or look the project demands, or even the type of project, so it's tough to really make recommendations.

A stand-alone lighting setup - by this I'm guessing you mean one that doesn't need to be maintained, or altered when changing angles. In a limo this is tough if not impossible - there's never enough space, even in a stretch to hide the lights for multiple angles. I'd think that trying to build the lights into the architecture of the limo might prove fruitless unless you could get enough ND to make the small lamps, say, 24 watt HMI par units or single kino tubes, effective. ND helps, until someone has to open the door, and enter or exit.

Then the outside will blow out, especially on tape. Of course, the darker you make it outside, the more likely you'll see reflections in the windows. Altering the vehicle, perhaps installing a huge sunroof with a translucent shade that pulls over it to create a soft top light, sounds like it might be out of the question.

Make sure you get someone to install the ND on the windows so that you can use the small HMIs and perhaps a Kino Flo Diva Light. A couple of those 24 watt HMI units might prove useful to help create contrast once you've established some sort of base level, whether it be built into the architecture in some way, or placed near camera.

The pocket par is a great light for this especially with the Chimera - but the Kino Flo Diva 400 and Diva 200 are really great because they're dimmable, and dimmable at the lamp head. The Diva Light would plug right into your inverter.

What I often do is use a magic arm on a baby plate nailed to a pancake to hold the light - this often helps me get the light over the seat or some place that might be tough to place it. A low baby stand works too - sometimes it's better. Often the light ends up on the floor so that it's not seen reflected in the window.

You didn't say wether you're shooting film or tape.... Dimming the Diva Light alters the color temperature, but the advantage is that it's fast, convenient, bright for its size and type, and all one unit - no messy cables.

Another idea would be to tape/velcro/bailing wire/otherwise affix as many kino flo tubes as you can to the ceiling - I mean at least 2 4' 4-banks and maybe some 2' types as well. This will let you alter the light level at the ballast without changing the color temperature, and evenly illuminate the interior. You could still use the other light next to camera to fill in the eyes of your subject.

I haven't mentioned putting any lights outside because I'm assuming the limo will drive around, and I assume therefore that you can't have anything outboard in traffic. Also, these ideas might not work for a drama or action piece - in those cases I might try to find a way to use more direct light instead, or perhaps more available light, or try to put the car on a process trailer or at least tow it from another vehicle so that it's easier to control the lighting.

I didn't mean to ramble on so much, but I guess I really like lighting cars....

Ted "likes a challenging lighting setup" Hayash
Los Angeles, CA


You didn't mention if you were doing exteriors as well. A setup I've used is to tow a small trailer with a “put put” generator on it. You can then fix a 2x4 to the roof -in front if you're shooting backward or in back if forward. You can then shoot the light of your choice thru the window on to your talent. Usually if you're restrained in your 2x4 length, you can take it in most traffic situations.

Marty Mullin
Los Angeles

One trick you might try is to get a couple of those so-called "million-candlepower" 12-volt searchlights and plug them into the limo's cigarette lighter sockets (undoubtedly each socket has its own fuse or breaker, but you might check that). Then bounce one off the ceiling about halfway between the camera and the subjects, and play with the positioning as needed.

Then tape some white paper to an out-of-frame window and bounce the second searchlight off it. That should motivate its direction. You could also use both lights that way and forget about the ceiling bounce.

If you're aiming any lights from outside into bare windows from less than about 30-50cm away, use Kino Flos rather than quartz lights, or the heat may crack the glass.

Good luck!

Dan Drasin
Marin County, CA

I would suggest using, together with ND and CTO gelling the windows, small enclosed compact fluorescent lamp battery operated lanterns (or torches, whatever you want to call them). There are some very inexpensive ones (I bought them for about $10 each at a supermarket) by Osram, called Dulux Mobil, in 5 watts and 3 watts lamps fixtures.

They are lightweight (even with batteries - ordinary R-6, four and two respectively), so you can Velcro them unobtrusively (no grip equipment, no cables) to the inner surface of the Limo wherever it best suits every shot and reposition them very easily. They give 4,200 ºK light with a CC 25G tint. 5 watt ones provide some 25 ft-cd at 0.5 m. / 7 ft-cd at 1 m. 3 watt ones deliver about 12 ft-cd at 0.5 m.

You can also build for them inexpensive gel holder/barndoors out of black semi-rigid plastic sheet fitted with Velcro and filter them also inexpensively with small (3"x2") pieces of gel. I just found these fixtures at the time I was facing the need for lighting a night interior of a cab in movement for a very low budget video production with a relatively run & gun Dogme flavour for which the director wanted a real looking lighting, what, for night scenes meant sodium vapour lamp yellow light. These fixtures appeared as a God's send.

Of course, they are not the answer in case there have any interior shots in which either the door or the windows of the Limo have to be opened in daylight.

Arturo Briones-Carcaré
Madrid (Imperial Spain)

For car interiors, I've just stripped the tubes out of a kino 4 ft. 4 bank and gaffer taped them to the interior of the roof.

The kino raises the interior light level up just enough to keep the view out the windows from blowing out. Also, if you place two tungsten balanced tubes on one side and two daylight balanced tubes on the other side, it looks like sunlight is coming in on the side with the tungsten tubes.

Jessica Gallant
Los Angeles based Director of Photography
West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List

Doesn't anyone use GAM stick-ups anymore? These little guys can take 125 watt 12v bulbs and plug into a lighter and can be bought for $35 bucks or rented in kits for $6 bucks.

If you can't find one, you can make one real easy out of lamps you purchase in an auto store and some aluminium wire. Maybe I'll write an article about making portable lighting equipment like a stick up on my website.

Walter Graff

Walter said:

>Maybe I'll write an article about making portable lighting equipment like >a stick up on my website.

Yes! Please do! I've made a couple of Cig-Lighter lights. They're pretty… skanky…but they work. I'd love to see what you've come up with.

Roderick Stevens
Az. D.P.
12 On / 12 Off!

>I've made a couple of Cig-Lighter lights. They're pretty skanky

I dated a German girl in 1979. Her dad was one of those old school German craftsman. He worked at a sheet metal facility. I gave him a drawing once of a reflector unit that looks exactly like the Stik Up. Anyway he made me anincredible unit that I wanted specifically for a car.

A few years laterwhile working at Silvercup Studios, I sold the unit for $100 bulks to someone who thought it was an amazing idea. A few years later GAM came out with the Stik up. To this day I always wonder...OK, I'll make a couple of portable fixtures out of common material and write an article on my website along with the other noise there.

Walter Graff
HellGate Pictures, Inc.
New York, NY 10028

I for one would love to hear which of the excellent solutions proposed the original poster actually implemented...

Ted Hayash
Los Angeles, CA

Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.