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Headlights on Cars at Night or Dusk


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#1 Dennis Kisilyov

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 03:54 PM

Headlights on vehicles are kind of birght, if you're shooting "night-time" supposedly they have a good chance of blowing out the film.

Is there any special trick/treatment. Like sticking in special bulbs or scrimming/tinting? When shooting "fake nighttime" outdoors.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 03:58 PM

Since I like lens flares and bright practicals, I generally never worry about headlamps unless the shot involves a car pulling up close to the camera lens and the headlight is just washing out the whole image because it's too bright. Trouble there, though, is that when you are close to the headlight, some tricks for darkening them don't work so well.

In wider shots, you can use some Rosco scrim or bobbinette over the headlights, you can use streaks & tips, and you can tape ND gel over them, which is what I usually do. If you tape it neatly enough, it holds up in a closer shot.

I think there are ways to put the headlamps on a dimmer but I've never tried that.
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#3 Tony Brown

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 04:27 PM

A pet subject. I do a lot of car spots

Spun glass works well as can some types of xmas snow in a can.

Like David I love flares..... but if this is the product we're talking about.......

Dimmers are essential on most car commercials, trouble is with so many units being xenons these days it gets harder. You'll need to pressure the production company to work with the car company / car prep and sparks to replace the xenon units with a dimmable source. Depends on the shoot, but if you feel its worth it stand firm. Nobody client side will thank you for blowing car shots out

A few inches in camera height can also make or break a shot if a car has xenons.......
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#4 James Erd

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 04:45 PM

I think there are ways to put the headlamps on a dimmer but I've never tried that.


Ah.. this is one for a former mechanic :)

If you don't mind the color shifting, you could put them on a dimmer similar to the kind that dims the lights in the dash, but it would have to be rated for more amperage. Most of it should be easy to set up though, as the socket on most headlights are easy to access, and most are the simple two or three prong type. It would cheaper to and more consistent to use some heavy duty ceramic resisters.

What I would like to have is some kind of varnish or shellack that could be sprayed on. Then there would be no cutting and taping involved. Also it would conform perfectly to the light.
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#5 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 05:33 PM

A good gaffer with lots of car experience will have dimmer units in his kit already.
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#6 chuck colburn

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 05:40 PM

There is device (basically a vaiable resitor) that is used with trailer brakes. It looks like two coiled springs with an adjustable slider across them. I have one under the hood of my truck and it allows me to fine tune the action of my in cab trailer brake controller. Since it is designed to handle the large current requiements of the electric brakes it would easily handle the amps headlights (even xenons) draw. Availble at any trailer store and I think they sell them thru J.C.Whitney too.
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#7 Tony Brown

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 05:43 PM

[quote name='chuck colburn' date='Mar 22 2007, 10:40 PM' post='162511']
Since it is designed to handle the large current requiements of the electric brakes it would easily handle the amps headlights (even xenons) draw.

In my experience xenons just die when you drop the voltage
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#8 Bruce Taylor

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 05:44 PM

A good gaffer with lots of car experience will have dimmer units in his kit already.


A word of caution here. As a current car mechanic, I would advise that you be sure you do not mess with the circuitry or bulb in a xenon headlamp! Standard headlamps are no problem, simple 12v dc circuits that are easy to access and dim to your heart's content. I would think that with a xenon headlamp you should be able to rig a standard quartz bulb in the area where the xenon bulb would be placed and power it (and/or dim it) with any 12v dc power source of sufficient amperage.
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#9 chuck colburn

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 05:49 PM

Tony and Bruce,

That's good to know about xenons. Not owning any new enough vehicles to have xenons in them I did not know this.

Thanks,

Chuck
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#10 James Erd

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 06:23 PM

I like the idea of just having a good gaffer around. It's the most versatile solution I know of. Though I am going to try some thing with painting shellac.
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