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How to Shoot Through Car Windshield


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#1 Jonathan Bryant

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 11:29 PM

I have a shot where we are towing a car. What is the easiest way to film someone through a windshield and get a good exposure. We will have a wideshot of the car as well as closeups. I like to have alittle reflection of the trees going by but still be able to see the talent clearly.

In the past I have used a circular polarizer, put a reflector fabric in the talents lap for the moving wideshot. Closeups we did still with a black panel to keep from having glare on the wideshield and I kicked in light from one side using a 1k tungsten light with diffused daylight correction gel and a 500 watt light bounced off a reflector as fill on the other side and added a hard 500 watt backlight.

Any tips will be gladly appreciated.
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#2 mrbill762

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 07:57 AM

I did a similar scene you need to decide if you want the talent to be seen or not.
If you do then you also need to decide how they will be lit.

We choose the driver to be dimly lit and the exterior to be properly exposed.
I used a PL filter and set the exposure to the days conditions. (Bright and sunny that day.)

What I achieved was a recognizable talent with a properly exposed exterior.

Do not forget to clean the windows and clean the dust off the vehicle interior!

If want to light the talent then some 12 volt Kino Flos or MR16 lights work well.
Don?t forget a reflector or two!

Mr. Bill




I have a shot where we are towing a car. What is the easiest way to film someone through a windshield and get a good exposure. We will have a wideshot of the car as well as closeups. I like to have alittle reflection of the trees going by but still be able to see the talent clearly.

In the past I have used a circular polarizer, put a reflector fabric in the talents lap for the moving wideshot. Closeups we did still with a black panel to keep from having glare on the wideshield and I kicked in light from one side using a 1k tungsten light with diffused daylight correction gel and a 500 watt light bounced off a reflector as fill on the other side and added a hard 500 watt backlight.

Any tips will be gladly appreciated.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 08 July 2005 - 11:57 AM

Shooting through windshields of cars, particularly the front one, is much trickier than one thinks.
Here are some common problems:

1. POLARIZER. Sounds good, but most of the time doesn't work very well. Why? Because the windshield is at a roughly 45 degree angle and reflects the sky. Try pointing a Polarizer stright up into a sky and you'll realize that you won't get much effect except at sunset or sunrise. And at sunset and sunrise you don't need the Pola to see through the window - 'cause then the skies are dark enough anyway.

2. REFLECTIONS. The reflections in the windshield act as an in-camera flashing of the neg. This means that the images can sometimes be almost impossible to match to other footage - there's simply not enough contrast in them. This I know from hard earned experience. Also, try to get some buildings or tree's reflected into the windshield to break up the reflections and get "through" to the talent.

3. FOCUS. Unless you have sophisticated remote focus and wireless videotaps, inform the talent that focus is fixed and that there isn't much leeway when it comes to head movement.

4. NEGATIVE FILL. I sometimes stick ND 0.6 film on every window of the car except the front and maybe the drivers side window (depending on where I want the light to fall on his face) to model the light. If I can, I try to light.

5. LIGHT. How many times have I stood there with a battery powered HMI Par that never, EVER, works? Bottom line is this - battery powered stuff NEVER works. That's just a natural law. Don't ever use it. Get a small genny in the boot and remove the lid instead. Or run off inverters from the car itself. But the best is to fight for a small genny - for some reason all the english speaking countries think that a genny has to come in a huge truck. They'll pretend they don't understand or have it, but fight for a small 1-2K portable generator - it will save the day because inverters never work properly either, you see. The Honda 20Ei (2000w) is a brilliant, small and silent little genny that isn't bigger than a suitcase. If your rental company doesn't have these, insist that they buy one or take your business elsewhere.

6. PLATFORM. Never put the camera on a platform that's independent from the car being towed - this looks like s**t. Even this I have from experience. The camera has to be on the actual car, or on the same patform as the car or you're asking for a re-shoot.

Edited by AdamFrisch, 08 July 2005 - 11:59 AM.

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#4 Remi Adefarasin

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Posted 10 July 2005 - 06:07 AM

I hate filming in cars because you quickly loose control of the look of your film. Towing the car means you loose more control. You can?t get near the actors. You might have to mount your camera on the bonnet/hood. If you shoot from the towing vehicle the image is often bouncy. Try and use a low loader or low insert vehicle so the action car & camera are on the same platform.

What can be exciting about car interiors for real (rather than green screen) are the random reactive effects you get. I mean shadows from trees or buildings, reflections from glass or occasional bounced moving fill from other objects like trucks or buildings.

I try not to over light as this would loose these natural bonuses. I do tend to have a soft frontal fill using HMI through frames or often HMI bounced of Poly/Beadboard fixed to a stable support like two 4x4 reflectors. If using a low loader or insert vehicle it can look good getting two of the team to randomly swipe a 2? shiny silver board across the actors faces. I?m talking of the 1½? foam filled construction insulation board with a soft silver on both sides. Polar?s do help and using a circular one allows the video tap to work properly.

Your idea of using white fabric on the laps is one I use too and also consider taping white fabric down the rear of the front seats. Even if there is no one in the back the car will get a swell of light when the sun hits the seat.

I love seeing reflections in the glass. If you have a grip team, an old trick is to have an ND frame made up that is wood or aluminium strengthened. This is mounted horizontally above the windscreen and would be either .6 or .9 acrylic ND. This allows natural light to pass through to the actors but deadens the reflection of the sky whilst retaining some natural reflections. It has to be wider than the glass unless your going tight.

It?s helpful having a remote iris control so you can gently adjust aperture when going into different brightness?s.

Using this approach allows me to shoot extra angles (e.g. side shots, parallel tracking shots) without a giant mismatch of the look.
Take care with the Polar on the side windows as these are mostly zone toughened and will show nasty patterns. Most windshields are laminated and therefore fine.

I hate filming in cars!
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#5 Michael Morlan

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 05:40 PM

1. POLARIZER. Sounds good, but most of the time doesn't work very well. Why? Because the windshield is at a roughly 45 degree angle and reflects the sky. Try pointing a Polarizer stright up into a sky and you'll realize that you won't get much effect except at sunset or sunrise. And at sunset and sunrise you don't need the Pola to see through the window  - 'cause then the skies are dark enough anyway.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Adam, I've had really good results with a polarizer on a windshield. Yes, of course, you're starting at a deficit with the sky's reflection, and removing the windshield would be better but, if you're stuck with it, the polarizer will get you a long way to removing that glancing reflection on the glass. One note, however. The winshield is curved, so the incident angle is changing, thus changing the effectiveness of a polarizer. If you want a wide shot through a windshield, expect the left and right edges to have the sky creeping back in when the pola is tuned for the center of the glass. Move the camera farther away. The farther you can get the camera back, the more the change in incident angle is reduced and the more effective the pola becomes.

Another thing to consider is a double or even triple net hanging over the windshield, although it's possible that the weave could become visible if it falls within the focus range of the shot.

Edited by mmorlan62, 13 July 2005 - 05:42 PM.

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