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Car Ad Photography (how to?)


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#1 Cian Daly

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 06:07 PM

Hello to everyone at Cinematography.com

This is my first so I'll give a little about myself. I'm a graduate from a tiny film school in Ireland with 16mm training and video training. I'm currently attempting to break into Irleand's similarly tiny film industry. Or more like Ireland RED industry, the way things are going .
I am currently working with a local theatre company as their general "video guy". My main duties are that of a lighting cameraman. I need to shoot a static image of a sports car, something like a subaru imprezza (see attachment), against a black backdrop. The budget is low, and my city, Cork, has one rental facility that caters towards micro-budget stuff, and no studio facilities to speak of. So I'm considering using a warehouse with lots of skylights and erecting a black backdrop, as I've been told that cars are mainly lit from overhead by soft light such as through a silk for the main source, and then have their lines and curves built up by smaller sources such as kino flos/diva lites. Any input from someone with experience in this field would be greatly appreciated.
I'd also like to clear something up for myself: The lighting jargon varies from country to country, so when people say diva light, that's what I call a kino flow, which to me means a two or four tube fluorescent daylight balanced light that opens like a book, also known as a book light. What is the most commonly used term for this type of light, as I have been using the term kino flow.

My thanks in advance, Cian Daly
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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 11:35 PM

Hello to everyone at Cinematography.com

This is my first so I'll give a little about myself. I'm a graduate from a tiny film school in Ireland with 16mm training and video training. I'm currently attempting to break into Irleand's similarly tiny film industry. Or more like Ireland RED industry, the way things are going .
I am currently working with a local theatre company as their general "video guy". My main duties are that of a lighting cameraman. I need to shoot a static image of a sports car, something like a subaru imprezza (see attachment), against a black backdrop. The budget is low, and my city, Cork, has one rental facility that caters towards micro-budget stuff, and no studio facilities to speak of. So I'm considering using a warehouse with lots of skylights and erecting a black backdrop, as I've been told that cars are mainly lit from overhead by soft light such as through a silk for the main source, and then have their lines and curves built up by smaller sources such as kino flos/diva lites. Any input from someone with experience in this field would be greatly appreciated.
I'd also like to clear something up for myself: The lighting jargon varies from country to country, so when people say diva light, that's what I call a kino flow, which to me means a two or four tube fluorescent daylight balanced light that opens like a book, also known as a book light. What is the most commonly used term for this type of light, as I have been using the term kino flow.

My thanks in advance, Cian Daly



Hi, Cian. Cork, eh? Do you know Rory O'Riordan? I worked with him in November here in the states. Great guy and a very good clapper loader.

Cars are one of the more complicated things you can possibly light because it's not really about throwing light but about placing reflections.

One thing you might consider is doing it outdoors. Lighting a full sized car, in my limited experience watching from camera-side, is most often is done with about a 20x20 silk (or larger/more of them) on a daylight studio here in Los Angeles where there is a cyc wall in open air outside.

Is going outdoors and building the backdrop there a possibility? If you could, would you have the grip equipment and crew to safely soften that great an area?

If you could get outside but couldn't have a sufficient grip crew, perhaps you could do it outdoors on an overcast day. Since your background is black, an overcast day would pretty much be the ideal lighting conditions.

As for the kino question, a diva is a type of kino fixture. It has 4 u-shaped tubes in a 2-foot long housing and has the ballast attached to the back of the housing. You can't take the tubes out like you can with other kino flo fixtures. Here in the states, a pretty common term for the regular kino fixtures is fatboy (4 tube, 2 foot) and fat man (4 tube, 4 foot). The alternate I hear a lot is just 2x4, 4x4, 2x2, etc. as a short cut for "two foot four bank", "four foot four bank", and "two foot, 2 bank."

Edited by Chris Keth, 07 March 2010 - 11:39 PM.

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#3 Chris Keth

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 11:40 PM

Here is kino's page for the diva light. You can see the ballast attached to the back of the fixture and the skinny u-shaped tubes.
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#4 Cian Daly

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 12:10 AM

Hi Chris

I haven't come across Rory but it's good to know that there is life for an Irish clapper/loader in the states as that is my plan, all green card issues aside. regarding shooting outside, we won't have the grip equipment or crew to safely rig a silk of that size. I could consider rigging the backdrop outdoor but Irish weather changes every fifteen minutes. Any warehouse we use will more than likely be vacant and in a quiet area which means we could shoot in the car park and use the warehouse as a back up if it rains. Out of curiousity, how large was the source that you were shining through the silk, or was it sunlight? The largest source I can get my hands on in Cork is a 1200watt HMI, not enough really.
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#5 Serge Teulon

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 09:20 AM

Hi Cian,

As Chris has said it all about reflections.
You can have a wide soft top light source, bounce your side lights in to material like poly boards and control the shape of your reflection off the poly. Black material is your shaper....if that makes sense.

Daytime outdoor stuff can look cool but means that you have more to control in your environment and that can be a big job.
The other option that you can think of is a blacked out studio environment. Which leaves you to focus on getting the reflections without the need to control lots of different parts of your environment.
The guy's who shoot cars get paid a shite load of money because it is, like make up, a specialised thing. Once you are known as a car dp you will always be pigeon holed as such.
But that's not to say that you can't add it to a show reel to show off your diversity.

Good luck and have fun!
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#6 JD Hartman

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 01:21 PM

You want to light your overhead diffusion material evenly, as you have already realized a 1.2 HMI won't be sufficient. You could build a very large "coop light" as described in the Harry Box, Set Lighting Technicians book and light it with multiple tungsten 1k nook light pointed downward. Any method which will light the diffusion evenly will work, multiple photofloods, multiple household light bulbs, etc. Lighting and Grip is all about thinking creatively and problem solving.
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#7 Cian Daly

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Posted 11 March 2010 - 04:42 PM

Thanks everyone for your advice with this, it's been invaluable. Cian
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