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Camberwell Guides: Shooting A Car On Green Screen

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Shooting a subject on green screen is relatively simple. People, unlike motor vehicles, tend not to have curved and angular edges, says Camberwell's Sam Parkinson...
These highly polished and rigid structures will reflect, refract, bounce and spill light off the green walls and show the kit and crew's reflections too. This article will help you combat some of those issues so you can seamlessly merge your background with the interior and exterior car shots.
The car's shapes and lines can cause all manner of headaches. Planning is key as no studio and lighting set-ups are the same. You may have to get creative with some shots; use them sparingly and plan for front and side shots out of sequence. Having to reverse a big Cadillac several times a day can eat up time.
Preparation is key. Shoot backgrounds before you start. This will give you the lighting conditions needed. When recording the background video, drive on a long, straight road, no direct sunlight, no sharp turns, clean, clear backgrounds. Remember continuity. Try a few different positions and zoom lengths so you have a library of footage.
Drive the vehicle into the studio but remember not to stretch cables across just yet as you may have to drive in and out for quick turnarounds, re-positioning and testing. Try to make your set up as wide as possible to allow enough space for your vehicle to manoeuvre. You may have to re-frame accordingly.
Light the green screen according to every shot. A good solid, sunny daylight set-up is a key light through the front windscreen, back light through the rear and a reflector on standby to the side, out of shot. This can easily be moved for different shooting angles and moved to simulate the changing light patterns you would get with moving cars. Also have a runner on hand to rock the car to give the idea of motion.
If the shot is a side view, close up past the passenger seat and then light the green wall with soft lights. This will reduce the spill. If it's a wider shot , then use the space lights and mask the car using poly board erected across the bottom of the space lights. This may require you to move the car away from the green cyc wall so you can ensure less spill and a more favourable position away from right underneath those glaring space lights.
Ideally you should be aiming to mask as much light from the car as possible and lighting the wall and the car separately on wider shots, you may need to daylight blue gel the cyc lights. There are many scenarios, so choose your shots carefully. No two shots will ever be the same and usually the best way to tell is to get a test shot on the car as soon as possible and light based on that framing. Closer shots will require less green cyc lighting time but more set up time for flagging reflections.
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