You are viewing ddelapp

Poor Man's Process, Illustrated (Poorly)

« previous entry | next entry »
Oct. 26th, 2006 | 12:25 am

I thought I'd stumbled back in time when I walked in on them shooting this method last week. About 20 crew members were manipulating odd light contraptions and reflectors around this car in an elaborate, choreographed dance. There was a strong "Old Hollywood" vibe -- no green screen, computer trickery here. Just good, ol' fashioned movie magic.

Poor Man's process is a film making method for shooting an in-car scene, without all the trouble and expense of filming an actual car ride. You know the shot: looking over the hood of a car through the windshield at two characters chatting as they drive through the night, street lamps and car headlights twinkling in the background. This process recreates the visual experience on a sound stage.

Here is a rough diagram of what I saw. Click for the larger version:



A. These contraptions created the background, as seen through the rear windshield. Headlights mounted on rolling stands, with black cloth draped between them, served as cars. Crew members hid behind the draping and slowly moved these lights back and forth. To create the illusion of depth, smaller flashlights were used on the rear carts. Next to them, a separate cart with red lights simulated tail lights. The whole setup was wired to a box (B.) where a technician (who apparently in this picture is a young child) dimmed and brightened the lights to give the impression of brakes flickering on and cars turning. Behind these carts were Christmas lights draped over a black stand -- they were the "distant, twinkling city lights".

C. Two stands set back from the car held an amber lamp pointed at an angled, rotating mirror. At timed intervals they'd turn on, and cast moving light on the faces of the actors. They create the impression of passing street lamps.

D. The car itself was surrounded by white foam core (G.) which reflected powerful lamps on either side of the car. The grips manipulating those lamps would start turned away from the car, their light off. The lamps (also timed) would turn on, and they would then pass the beam over the foam core. The bounced light would create the impression of a passing light source, such as a store. Once the beam reached the rear end of the foam core, the lamp would turn off, and the grips would return to their first position.

E. Two cameras were pointed at the car. When I saw it, both were on dollies. Since then, I've read that it is common to have a camera on a steadicam unit, so I showed both here. The goal is to create the impression that car is moving over a road. A steadicam operated camera moves slightly, helping to avoid a static picture.

F. This is probably my favorite part of this setup. A long piece of wood is place under the rear axle of the car, then run over a wedge behind the bumper. One grip's job was to drape himself over this lever, ducked down so as to not be seen by the camera, and slightly bounce the car at random intervals. This made for a very realistic effect, seen on camera in the natural reation of the performers. Perhaps the lowest tech solution, and the most effective.

H. Very impressive was the large light on a jib arm, suspended 15 feet above all this. The arm could rotate back and forth, passing the light length-wise over the car. A large diffusion box attached to the front of the light. The grip on the jib arm would start with the light off, held in front of the car. The light would turn on, and he would rotate the light in a wide arc over then past the car. At the end of the arc, the light would turn off, and he'd return it to its original position. This would create the impression of a street lamps passing overhead.

I. Not really illustrated here, but there was a small light inside the car, illuminating the actors. It was very subtle though -- none of the "glowing dashboard" effect sometimes seen.

J. This is really part of the A. grouping, but it was so large I thought it'd be worth mentioning separately. Behind all those carts and hidden crew members, there is a massive, translucent photograph. Imagine the biggest, blown-up picture you've ever seen. Now imagine something 10 times larger, draped from a curtain rod 40 feet up. These enormous photographs are used for backdrops, often seen through windows on sets (i.e. brownstones, apartment buildings, sky scrapers from the 80th floor, etc), and lit from behind. For this night scene, then used only one small light, and pointed it at a portion of the photo. This created a bit of color for the background and added depth behind the other, brighter lights.

If you'd like to see the final results of that day, the episode of Help Me Help You they were shooting is titled "The Sheriff", and is currently scheduled to air on January 9th, 2007. Michael Price was the Director of Photography on the shoot.

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {13}

(no subject)

from: evan
date: Oct. 26th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC)
Link

You should make this into a wikipedia entry.

Reply | Thread

Devon DeLapp

(no subject)

from: ddelapp
date: Oct. 26th, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC)
Link

Not a bad idea.

Reply | Parent | Thread

13fingers

(no subject)

from: 13fingers
date: Oct. 26th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)
Link

I love that you did the illustration yourself.

Reply | Thread

(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: Oct. 28th, 2006 09:24 am (UTC)
Link

I worked on a very similar set on a music video, although the lighting rigs weren\'t as complicated. There was a cool little \"police car\" rig, though, with rotating blue and green siren lights.

You can see the clip here: http://www.syndicatefilms.com.au/bleeders.mov

Reply | Thread

Devon DeLapp

(no subject)

from: ddelapp
date: Oct. 30th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)
Link

That police rig looks really good, but what is with this driving on the left thing? ;)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Great Job, Share It!

from: anonymous
date: Oct. 30th, 2006 07:08 pm (UTC)
Link

You should send this post out to DVGuru.com, cinematical.com, etc. get yourself some free publicity for site (career).

Reply | Thread

<Title>

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 24th, 2006 06:36 am (UTC)
Link

[url

Reply | Thread

<Title>

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 25th, 2006 12:28 am (UTC)
Link

[url

Reply | Thread

Katherine

(no subject)

from: kitanaor
date: Dec. 27th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Link

Oh, wow. That is great information. I'll be looking for that car ride if and when they show that episode.

Reply | Thread

<Title>

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 29th, 2006 03:26 am (UTC)
Link

[url

Reply | Thread

<Title>

from: anonymous
date: Jan. 11th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
Link

[url

Reply | Thread

What about the DP

from: anonymous
date: May. 10th, 2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
Link

I worked on that episode as an AC and i think it's strange that there is no mention in the article of the DP. Michael Price shot that show.

Reply | Thread

Devon DeLapp

Re: What about the DP

from: ddelapp
date: May. 10th, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)
Link

That's right; Michael was great. I initially thought of the post more as a generic guide than capturing a specific day. But now that you mention it, Michael does deserve credit here. I'll update the entry to reflect this.

Reply | Parent | Thread

/ DevonDeLapp.com
Journal - Indiana Jones, and the Last Crusade (1989) The Journal of Devon DeLapp - Poor Man's Process, Illustrated (Poorly)

You are viewing ddelapp

Poor Man's Process, Illustrated (Poorly)

« previous entry | next entry »
Oct. 26th, 2006 | 12:25 am

I thought I'd stumbled back in time when I walked in on them shooting this method last week. About 20 crew members were manipulating odd light contraptions and reflectors around this car in an elaborate, choreographed dance. There was a strong "Old Hollywood" vibe -- no green screen, computer trickery here. Just good, ol' fashioned movie magic.

Poor Man's process is a film making method for shooting an in-car scene, without all the trouble and expense of filming an actual car ride. You know the shot: looking over the hood of a car through the windshield at two characters chatting as they drive through the night, street lamps and car headlights twinkling in the background. This process recreates the visual experience on a sound stage.

Here is a rough diagram of what I saw. Click for the larger version:



A. These contraptions created the background, as seen through the rear windshield. Headlights mounted on rolling stands, with black cloth draped between them, served as cars. Crew members hid behind the draping and slowly moved these lights back and forth. To create the illusion of depth, smaller flashlights were used on the rear carts. Next to them, a separate cart with red lights simulated tail lights. The whole setup was wired to a box (B.) where a technician (who apparently in this picture is a young child) dimmed and brightened the lights to give the impression of brakes flickering on and cars turning. Behind these carts were Christmas lights draped over a black stand -- they were the "distant, twinkling city lights".

C. Two stands set back from the car held an amber lamp pointed at an angled, rotating mirror. At timed intervals they'd turn on, and cast moving light on the faces of the actors. They create the impression of passing street lamps.

D. The car itself was surrounded by white foam core (G.) which reflected powerful lamps on either side of the car. The grips manipulating those lamps would start turned away from the car, their light off. The lamps (also timed) would turn on, and they would then pass the beam over the foam core. The bounced light would create the impression of a passing light source, such as a store. Once the beam reached the rear end of the foam core, the lamp would turn off, and the grips would return to their first position.

E. Two cameras were pointed at the car. When I saw it, both were on dollies. Since then, I've read that it is common to have a camera on a steadicam unit, so I showed both here. The goal is to create the impression that car is moving over a road. A steadicam operated camera moves slightly, helping to avoid a static picture.

F. This is probably my favorite part of this setup. A long piece of wood is place under the rear axle of the car, then run over a wedge behind the bumper. One grip's job was to drape himself over this lever, ducked down so as to not be seen by the camera, and slightly bounce the car at random intervals. This made for a very realistic effect, seen on camera in the natural reation of the performers. Perhaps the lowest tech solution, and the most effective.

H. Very impressive was the large light on a jib arm, suspended 15 feet above all this. The arm could rotate back and forth, passing the light length-wise over the car. A large diffusion box attached to the front of the light. The grip on the jib arm would start with the light off, held in front of the car. The light would turn on, and he would rotate the light in a wide arc over then past the car. At the end of the arc, the light would turn off, and he'd return it to its original position. This would create the impression of a street lamps passing overhead.

I. Not really illustrated here, but there was a small light inside the car, illuminating the actors. It was very subtle though -- none of the "glowing dashboard" effect sometimes seen.

J. This is really part of the A. grouping, but it was so large I thought it'd be worth mentioning separately. Behind all those carts and hidden crew members, there is a massive, translucent photograph. Imagine the biggest, blown-up picture you've ever seen. Now imagine something 10 times larger, draped from a curtain rod 40 feet up. These enormous photographs are used for backdrops, often seen through windows on sets (i.e. brownstones, apartment buildings, sky scrapers from the 80th floor, etc), and lit from behind. For this night scene, then used only one small light, and pointed it at a portion of the photo. This created a bit of color for the background and added depth behind the other, brighter lights.

If you'd like to see the final results of that day, the episode of Help Me Help You they were shooting is titled "The Sheriff", and is currently scheduled to air on January 9th, 2007. Michael Price was the Director of Photography on the shoot.

Link | Leave a comment | Share

Comments {13}

(no subject)

from: evan
date: Oct. 26th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC)
Link

You should make this into a wikipedia entry.

Reply | Thread

Devon DeLapp

(no subject)

from: ddelapp
date: Oct. 26th, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC)
Link

Not a bad idea.

Reply | Parent | Thread

13fingers

(no subject)

from: 13fingers
date: Oct. 26th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)
Link

I love that you did the illustration yourself.

Reply | Thread

(no subject)

from: anonymous
date: Oct. 28th, 2006 09:24 am (UTC)
Link

I worked on a very similar set on a music video, although the lighting rigs weren\'t as complicated. There was a cool little \"police car\" rig, though, with rotating blue and green siren lights.

You can see the clip here: http://www.syndicatefilms.com.au/bleeders.mov

Reply | Thread

Devon DeLapp

(no subject)

from: ddelapp
date: Oct. 30th, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)
Link

That police rig looks really good, but what is with this driving on the left thing? ;)

Reply | Parent | Thread

Great Job, Share It!

from: anonymous
date: Oct. 30th, 2006 07:08 pm (UTC)
Link

You should send this post out to DVGuru.com, cinematical.com, etc. get yourself some free publicity for site (career).

Reply | Thread

<Title>

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 24th, 2006 06:36 am (UTC)
Link

[url

Reply | Thread

<Title>

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 25th, 2006 12:28 am (UTC)
Link

[url

Reply | Thread

Katherine

(no subject)

from: kitanaor
date: Dec. 27th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Link

Oh, wow. That is great information. I'll be looking for that car ride if and when they show that episode.

Reply | Thread

<Title>

from: anonymous
date: Dec. 29th, 2006 03:26 am (UTC)
Link

[url

Reply | Thread

<Title>

from: anonymous
date: Jan. 11th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
Link

[url

Reply | Thread

What about the DP

from: anonymous
date: May. 10th, 2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
Link

I worked on that episode as an AC and i think it's strange that there is no mention in the article of the DP. Michael Price shot that show.

Reply | Thread

Devon DeLapp

Re: What about the DP

from: ddelapp
date: May. 10th, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)
Link

That's right; Michael was great. I initially thought of the post more as a generic guide than capturing a specific day. But now that you mention it, Michael does deserve credit here. I'll update the entry to reflect this.

Reply | Parent | Thread



Home / Archive / Design / Contact / RSS / Atom
Copyright © 2001-2010 Devon DeLapp. All rights reserved.