How to Film a Scene in a Car

In television and film, scenes in cars are a staple and so common you could be fooled into thinking it’s easily done and with one technique. Well, that’s not the case.

I have never shot a scene or any sort of video in a car, and I hadn’t given it much consideration. From time to time I’d notice that shows or films had unbelievable interior shots where the outside of the car is obviously green screen, or the actors spend so much time clearly not driving that you know it’s on a trailer. But other than techniques for ensuring everyone is safe and the shot is as cost-effective as possible, there are a number of considerations I hadn’t thought of.

Firstly, I hadn’t thought about the number of issues that are created by shooting somewhere so confined. Anyone who has ever shot in a room that’s too small — video of photography — knows it’s a horrible problem. One obvious solution when shooting in small spaces is to use a wide or even ultra-wide-angle lens, but that causes a lot of distortion if you’re too close to the subject. As Wolfcrow explains, one of the ways many cinematographers, directors, and DoPs get around this problem is by using anamorphic lenses, which give a wider field of view without compromising the look of the people.

Another difficulty that now seems painfully obvious is using multiple cameras. If you’re shooting a scene in a vehicle that has multiple people in it, you want to use multiple cameras. Not only does this offer you more interesting shots by changing angles, it can also be necessary to the story and dialogue. The issue is, you need to hide the cameras from all shots, or you will need to shoot every part separately which can be time-consuming and expensive.

Have you ever shot a scene in a car? What are your best suggestions?

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