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Neil Orman
Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 15, 2016 at 9:47:07 pm

Any suggestions on the best way to illuminate the inside of a car, for a daytime shoot inside a big SUV with tinted glass? It will just be me doing the shoot. I'd appreciate any thoughts on what lights to use, how to make it look natural, and how I can do it as one person. It's for a promotional video in which I'm trying to convey the idea of luxury like a car commercial.
Much appreciated,
Neil


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Nick Griffin
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 16, 2016 at 3:39:36 pm

Light Panels makes smaller battery powered dim-able LEDs. We have one that's about 3 x 6 inches and another that's about 5 x5 inches. They probably make other sizes besides their 1 x 1 foot models of which we're now using 3. Several of the small ones strategically placed would probably help you get even lighting. If the windows are tinted you REALLY need something dim-able to balance out.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 19, 2016 at 6:31:58 pm

Is the car in actual motion?


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Bill Davis
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 22, 2016 at 8:25:15 am

So you are mostly lighting the surfaces inside the vehicle like the dashboard and cabin upholstery? Do you need to see the environment outside?

The biggest issue in car interior shooting is camera mounting position and movement, if required and getting broad, soft even sources in place to put soft highlights and appropriate shadows where they are wanted.

Car interior rigs can get kinda complicated for these reasons

Might be best to get some small but strong LEDs and lots of white (interior active bounce) and black (exterior cutters if you need to shoot this outside) foam-core and try an all interior bounce approach.

That's probably where I'd start.

Good luck.

Creator of XinTwo - http://www.xintwo.com
The shortest path to FCP X mastery.


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Neil Orman
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 28, 2016 at 1:01:01 am

Thank you very much, Bill, Mark and Nick for your responses!

Bill: This is for a promotional video on an armored transportation service used by foreign visitors like diplomats who need extra protection. It's supposed to illuminate an attractive couple's experience as passengers in the SUV, which is as luxurious as it is secure, and also highlight the fit, security-minded driver, who will pick them up on an airstrip and take them to an embassy. So I'm trying to illuminate the back seat, where they'll be be doing things like watching TV, drinking champagne (is that illegal in a moving car?), and show the driver too. For all three actors, I plan to show both their faces and the car's luxurious interior - I'm kind of at a loss as to what to show there, other than the TV screen! - and I hope to shoot it from at least a few angles. Let me know if anyone has experience with this type of thing. By the way Bill, I understood your whole response except one portion, where you wrote:
'Might be best to get some small but strong LEDs and lots of white (interior active bounce) and black (exterior cutters if you need to shoot this outside) foam-core and try an all interior bounce approach. '
I know what bounce is, and foam-core, but wasn't dead sure what you meant here. I think you meant using only bounce to illuminate the actors - is that right? Also, for what would the black foam core be used?

Mark: I was thinking the car would be in motion, unless it would be easier to somehow fake that? And if so I'm wondering how that would be done? I know they do it in movies and TV all the time, or at least they used to.

Nick: Thank for your helpful response as well!

The long and the short of it is, I haven't done much of this kind of lighting and could use any advice, particularly on the car interior stuff, but really how to effectively light something like this as a one-man-band. In addition to the car interior scene, there is the scene where the driver picks up the couple on the airstrip, and the one where they enter the ambassy. Is it foolhardy to go without a crew of any kind? Do I need some kind of big rig to ensure good, even light on the actors?

Almost my entire lighting experience is video interviews! So I'm certainly open to bringing on a crew person if necessary.

Thanks again,
Neil


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 28, 2016 at 1:47:21 am

Vehicle in actual motion complicates things a lot. You have options: towing the vehicle, vehicle on a "process trailer", Vehicle in controlled studio environment with scenery added in post thru greenscreen and rotoscoped composites. This is all common stuff but not *EASY* stuff to do, if this is your first time.

My first recommendation is to storyboard literally every shot of this first, and then extrapolate what the lighting setups can or must be. Which shots can be faked in the studio, which need to happen live in real time, on location.

From the storyboard you will be able to design the lighting needs for each shot and create a budget. You will also discover which shots ar affordable to do and which might have to be dropped for time and budget reasons.

For example, in your script or creative treatment, you might start out with a head-on shot of the rich couple sitting in comfy first class airplane seats... then dissolve to a nearly-identical matching shot in the back seat of the armored SUV. From there, you could go to a shot looking in thru the front window, past the near face of the driver, who himself is checking out the couple in his rear-view mirror, as they give him the high-sign to pull out from where he's been parked. That perhaps cuts to a wide external shot of the fancy plane near a hangar, and the limo car pulling away. that frames the context of your overall narrative, which is: continuity of comfort and service and safety. Next, inter-cutting between detailed go-pro-shots around the wheels and bumpers of the car in traffic, you see it handle a bump or pothole, as we cut inside to that shot of the couple, not feeling a thing. Then side shots of them showing window views of the Town as they're heading to wherever. Next, the headlight and bumper pull into XCU, then the camera cuts to wide or pulls out to reveal the couple leaving the SUV and walking into whatever - an embassy, a hotel, what-have-you.

But to light it, you need to first plan out every shot to figure out what kind of gear and what placement, can get the effect.


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Neil Orman
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 28, 2016 at 6:54:10 pm

Wow Mark, I really appreciate your great and detailed suggestions here!! This is an enormous help and I'm grateful!! I will certainly take your advice here on planning and storyboarding every shot, to determine the lighting needs.

The moving car issue is one with which I've been concerned, but you've really highlighted why it needs a lot of planning. Looking at the options, I wonder if I'll be able to access a studio environment, or grapple with the technical complexity of things like greenscreening and rotoscoped composites (although I'll certainly research that option!). I was especially intrigued by the idea of towing the vehicle, as I expect one of their SUVs might be able to tow the one in which we were shooting.

A special thanks for your great ideas on shots for the video. I especially liked the idea of 'inter-cutting between detailed go-pro-shots around the wheels and bumpers of the car in traffic [and see the SUV] handle a bump or pothole, as we cut inside to that shot of the couple, not feeling a thing.' I've actually never shot with a go-pro before and this seems like a great opportunity, and your story idea there is great.

Just let me know if there is further feedback from anyone. Some of the things I'll be researching are the moving car issue you highlighted, and those potential go-pro shots.

Thanks again Mark!!!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 28, 2016 at 7:44:53 pm

Any lighting you use inside the car has the potential to be reflected in the windows. One item that may help would be to shoot the couple's interior shots with a small camera at the center of a ringlight with a lot of diffusion. I've seen DIY versions where someone glued a spiral or two of white xmas tree lights onto a reflective foam core board, then cut a lens hole thru the center and used that as the keylight/front light for their fashion shots.


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Bill Davis
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Sep 29, 2016 at 3:31:44 am

Neil,

I was imagining the type of typical "Dashboard from the back seat" beauty shot that we constantly see in car commercials.
When you're doing those, art directors like long strips of highlights rather than point sources, which means you need to bounce light off larger apparent sources so that the shiny stuff on the dash picks up larger bright strips instead of small highlights.

(this is also why today, you see more car spots with the ENTIRE interior as a CGI replacement. Telling the rendering program to lose a lighting instrument but keep it's output is only possible in virtual space!)

Your "couple in the back seat" probably needs a totally different approach.

Is there a skylight or moon roof in the limo? If so you can pull that and put a large soft source overhead and that will probably do the trick. If not, you're just going to have to set the shot you want, then think about how to get the interior light level up without having lots of shiny spots in all the reflective stuff. Cars have a LOT of that, not the least of which are the windows surrounding everything. Sometimes small cameras on long mini-jibs can help. If the lights your using are reflecting off the interior glass, being able to lower or raise the camera a few inches might just fix a shot.

But it's not the easiest space to get nice results in, particularly if you want to sell the idea that the car and the people in it are aspirational, beautiful and always perfectly lit.

Good luck.

Creator of XinTwo - http://www.xintwo.com
The shortest path to FCP X mastery.


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Neil Orman
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 3, 2016 at 2:27:20 am

Thanks very much for these insights, Bill. And just to answer your question here, I don't believe these SUVs have sunroofs or skylights, and I'll verify that with the client. In case it's useful to you or others to see the VERY dark interior with with which I'm working, I attached a picture. Let me know if seeing this affects advice on how to light the interior to capture the couple in the backseat. Heightening this challenge my client wants to use an African-American actor for the male in the couple, which to me might not be the best choice given how dark it is already. But let me know if anyone has thoughts there.
Much appreciated,
Neil



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Neil Orman
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 3, 2016 at 2:34:43 am

Also I checked with the local rental house about available battery-powered LED lights, and they have Lite Panel 1x1 Astra lights and Lite Panel MiniPlus Brick lights. Any brief take from anyone on those lights and how they'd work for something like this?
Thanks, Neil


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 3, 2016 at 5:10:18 am
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Oct 3, 2016 at 7:52:48 pm

You wanna do this right? Step one: cut the car into a rear and front half. Next buy a second car, cut that one in longitudinal halves. Light your scenes as you like.

I'm basing what I'm describing on the script ideas I presented earlier; regarding a morph shot from comfy luxury airplane seats, to the same couple, now in the back seat of the armored transport. Then there's a shot looking forward to the driver, one from ahead of the driver looking back at the couple, as he's adjusting his rear view mirror, one shot of the female passenger admiring passing scenery, looking up thru the side window. All this will be inter-cut with go pro shots of the car exterior while it drives, later.

I think what I'd do in this situation, (car in the garage but looking like driving), would take several steps.

I'd put blue screen material on the inside of the side and back windows. You're going to add outside traffic shot from a pickup truck bed with 3 go-pros a night or two before this shoot. Blue screen the front window when shooting POV from rear passenger seat to the driver. I prefer blue to green in this case due to spill color issues, and the blue chromakey may work in a dark nighttime shot where a green would be more easily spotted.

The interior of this thing is NOT as big/wide as a limo, so I'd choose a wide lens with a little bit of fish-eye to make the interior feel larger.

I'm going to shoot the front-facing rear seat shot first, from the front, looking back between the two front seats in a short slow zoom or dolly/slider shot of about a foot... and the setup is all about that. Front seats will be pressed forward to the limit, to make the rear compartment look bigger.

What they wear inside will have a great influence on the lighting: an all-white suit and dress will bounce a lot of light around, and reflect on the glass, where a black suit and dress will suck up light and make it hard to define contours and shapes. Aim for something in-between, some autumnal colors would be nice against black leather, and maybe moderately shiny fabric can help.

Blue screen the rear window with flat matte paper on the inside of the glass. Outside is easier but doesn't treat interior reflections. Also have on hand several yards of the most useful yet undervalued tool in the world: flat black cloth. Cover the outside of the windows with the cloth if you lack chromakey materials. Cut a hole in the cloth for the lens to shoot at glass windows without leaving outside reflections. An adjustable polarizer on the lens is also important. Black cinefoil and black foam core are also good friends to have.

I'd take the real driving footage from the pickup truck, and play it on a video projector, out of focus, shining it into the car from a window that's out of shot, over the shoulder of the camera POV. Alternately, some multicolored and white party bulbs on a stick could be waved past the window to cast the fleeting lights of passing storefronts, ads, headlights, street lighting, etc. Be sure the direction of the light sweep is correct based on travel direction and camera angle... don't make a continuity error here.

For a base light, the LED panel, practically sitting on the male passenger's knees, with a lot of diffusion on it, and the adjustable output dialed down to a very low setting. What still photogs call a "butterfly or book setup". A reflector card clipped to the ceiling bounces that lap light to fill the front of the face. Angle of the lap light will need to be adjusted. If there's room between the seats, the lap light can go there. You will set an f-stop and scope levels for the faces, lock the iris, then adjust lighting until the shot looks good. Tube lighting vertically on the front door pillars or the front headrests with diffusion and "squeezers" to adjust levels.

A stagehand or two will ever so very gently bounce the car bumpers up and down, randomly. Make it subtle: you don't want to slosh their drinks or whatever, and the car is supposed to have a fancy suspension.

The newbie mistake to make when shooting people with dark skin is to throw additional light on them. What you want instead is to shine a light that glances off the skin, revealing texture and dimension with highlights and darker shaded areas revealing contour. You also want the light to penetrate the outer skin layers and bounce back out. You can try a gold or silver foil reflector card on the window side and bounce light to the face from the foil.

A shot from outside the "moving" car, window up, passenger staring up and out at the city: Shoot this with a large black "tent" of cloth enclosing the window and camera lens. Add the go-pro footage as a reflection layer at low opacity with some blur, afterward, and you can control the opacity of the window, almost like doing a rack-focus shot, to convey security within, adventures outside. Same deal on the front windshield outside on the hood shot. Don't forget to flip the reflected background when you composite it.

Use one of the go pros with a macro lens and do some close up "flying" shots over interior details of the car: nice upholstery, wood paneling, etc. to inter-cut later. A tracking shot of an arm on the armrest, perhaps wearing an expensive watch and cuff links...? CU Shot of woman's calves and her expensive designer shoe, "stepping into security and luxury"....? And the door closes on the shot as a cut or wipe, with a solid thunk sound effect of the armored door. You're showing images and using sound to convey the message, not just words.

You may have to remove a side door to get lighting and camera into the profile shot area... this is not usually so hard to do, if you check the manuals first. You'll have to disconnect an electrical harness and the hinge pins. Maybe bring an auto body guy with tools for this.

Put the go-pro wide angle cam on a short stalk clamped to the front bumper, low-angle, about three feet ahead of the bumper. Drive on a controlled non-traffic area like a parking lot or airport taxiway.

Put it all in a blender, wait for the CLIO invitation.


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Neil Orman
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 4, 2016 at 2:07:57 am

Wow Mark, that response was like a FRIGGIN' MASTERS CLASS! Thank you for another wonderful and detailed set of suggestions, for which I'm EXTREMELY GRATEFUL!

If I may I wanted to ask you about several parts of this:

'I'd put blue screen material on the inside of the side and back windows. You're going to add outside traffic shot from a pickup truck bed with 3 go-pros a night or two before this shoot.' WHY ARE THREE GO-PROS NECESSARY HERE? Blue screen the front window when shooting POV from rear passenger seat to the driver. I prefer blue to green in this case due to spill color issues, and the blue chromakey may work in a dark nighttime shot where a green would be more easily spotted.

The interior of this thing is NOT as big/wide as a limo, so I'd choose a wide lens with a little bit of fish-eye WHAT'S THAT? to make the interior feel larger.

I'm going to shoot the front-facing rear seat shot first, from the front, looking back between the two front seats in a short slow zoom or dolly/slider shot of about a foot... and the setup is all about that. Front seats will be pressed forward to the limit, to make the rear compartment look bigger. THIS IS JUST GREAT, THANKS MARK!

What they wear inside will have a great influence on the lighting: an all-white suit and dress will bounce a lot of light around, and reflect on the glass, where a black suit and dress will suck up light and make it hard to define contours and shapes. Aim for something in-between, some autumnal colors would be nice against black leather, and maybe moderately shiny fabric can help. WONDERFUL, THANKS!!!

Blue screen the rear window with flat matte paper on the inside of the glass. Outside is easier but doesn't treat interior reflections. Also have on hand several yards of the most useful yet undervalued tool in the world: flat black cloth. Cover the outside of the windows with the cloth if you lack chromakey materials. Cut a hole in the cloth for the lens to shoot at glass windows without leaving outside reflections. An adjustable polarizer on the lens is also important. Black cinefoil and black foam core are also good friends to have. HMMMMMMMM

I'd take the real driving footage from the pickup truck, and play it on a video projector, out of focus, shining it into the car from a window that's out of shot, over the shoulder of the camera POV. I WAS A LITTLE CONFUSED HERE. DID YOU MEAN PROJECT THIS FOOTAGE INTO THE CAR DURING THE SHOOT, OR SUPERIMPOSE THIS ON THE BLUE CHROMAKEY PORTIONS IN POST? SORRY. Alternately, some multicolored and white party bulbs on a stick could be waved past the window to cast the fleeting lights of passing storefronts, ads, headlights, street lighting, etc. Be sure the direction of the light sweep is correct based on travel direction and camera angle... don't make a continuity error here. MY HEAD JUST SPUN COMPLETELY AROUND LIKE LINDA BLAIR, BUT GREAT STUFF. I'M NOT SURE I'LL BE ABLE TO BRING THE CREW AND LOGISTICS TOGETHER FOR SOME OF THIS, BUT YOU'VE INSPIRED ME TO MOVE A LOT FARTHER IN THIS DIRECTION.

For a base light, the LED panel, practically sitting on the male passenger's knees, with a lot of diffusion on it, and the adjustable output dialed down to a very low setting. What still photogs call a "butterfly or book setup". A reflector card clipped to the ceiling bounces that lap light to fill the front of the face. Angle of the lap light will need to be adjusted. If there's room between the seats, the lap light can go there. You will set an f-stop and scope levels for the faces, lock the iris, then adjust lighting until the shot looks good. Tube lighting vertically on the front door pillars or the front headrests with diffusion and "squeezers" to adjust levels. JUST GREAT, THANKS SO MUCH MARK!!

A stagehand or two will ever so very gently bounce the car bumpers up and down, randomly. Make it subtle: you don't want to slosh their drinks or whatever, and the car is supposed to have a fancy suspension. WOW.

The newbie mistake to make when shooting people with dark skin is to throw additional light on them. What you want instead is to shine a light that glances off the skin, revealing texture and dimension with highlights and darker shaded areas revealing contour. You also want the light to penetrate the outer skin layers and bounce back out. You can try a gold or silver foil reflector card on the window side and bounce light to the face from the foil. TERRIFIC.

A shot from outside the "moving" car, window up, passenger staring up and out at the city: Shoot this with a large black "tent" of cloth enclosing the window and camera lens. Add the go-pro footage as a reflection layer at low opacity with some blur, afterward, and you can control the opacity of the window, almost like doing a rack-focus shot, to convey security within, adventures outside. Same deal on the front windshield outside on the hood shot. Don't forget to flip the reflected background when you composite it. MY HEAD SMOKING A LITTLE ON THIS ONE TOO, AS THIS IS SO FAR BEYOND ANYTHING I'VE DONE BEFORE.

Use one of the go pros with a macro lens and do some close up "flying" shots over interior details of the car: nice upholstery, wood paneling, etc. to inter-cut later. A tracking shot of an arm on the armrest, perhaps wearing an expensive watch and cuff links...? CU Shot of woman's calves and her expensive designer shoe, "stepping into security and luxury"....? And the door closes on the shot as a cut or wipe, with a solid thunk sound effect of the armored door. You're showing images and using sound to convey the message, not just words. FANTASTIC.

You may have to remove a side door to get lighting and camera into the profile shot area... this is not usually so hard to do, if you check the manuals first. You'll have to disconnect an electrical harness and the hinge pins. Maybe bring an auto body guy with tools for this. GURGLING SOUNDS.

Put the go-pro wide angle cam on a short stalk clamped to the front bumper, low-angle, about three feet ahead of the bumper. Drive on a controlled non-traffic area like a parking lot or airport taxiway. JUST GREAT, THANKS MARK!

ULTIMATELY, I LOVE EVERY ONE OF THESE SUGGESTIONS. I PLAN ON EXECUTING EVERY ONE OF THESE I CAN, ALTHOUGH I'M NOT SURE HOW MANY I'LL BE ABLE TO DO OF THE ONES INVOLVING BLUE-SCREENS, MULTIPLE CREW MEMBERS, REMOVING DOORS ETC GIVEN THE DEMANDS OF MY DAD JOB AND OTHER PROJECTS. I PLAN TO BRING ON AT LEAST ONE PRODUCTION ASSISTANT. BUT I'M CERTAINLY GOING TO TRY TO DO AS MUCH OF THIS I CAN. I'VE GOT ABOUT 3 WEEKS BEFORE THE SHOOT, AND I'LL KEEP IN TOUCH ON WHAT HAPPENS HERE, AND THE END RESULT. I AM EXTREMELY GRATEFUL FOR ALL OF THIS, MARK. VERY MUCH APPRECIATED AGAIN!!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 4, 2016 at 3:30:58 am

Q:WHY ARE THREE GO-PROS NECESSARY HERE?
A: each one will be "mapped" to a corresponding side or rear window view in post, that's why the blue screens. I suppose you could make do with one, and drive the same area of street three times at the same speed, accelerating and slowing and stopping the same exact way, but gopros are cheap to own and cheaper still to rent in quantity.


Q; I WAS A LITTLE CONFUSED HERE. DID YOU MEAN PROJECT THIS FOOTAGE INTO THE CAR DURING THE SHOOT, OR SUPERIMPOSE THIS ON THE BLUE CHROMAKEY PORTIONS IN POST?
A: I meant that you project live motion video on the set, playing it off the interior and their bodies and faces as if they were disco lights at a dance club....only not as vivid. Todd terry gives an example of placing a huge high def flat TV screen up against the car window and just playing captured driving POV video into the interior shot while shooting. it *can* work! In your case, if you can't get the video projector, put lights on a piece of wood or plastic pipe, and physically move it across the window, over and over, with some variations in how it is held, and variations in timing. it will create the effect of the outside world's lights coming in. Another way this used to be done was a hand-held pair of spotlights to simulate car headlights passing.

Watch how this kid does it:




or this guy





or





or





or





or





or... you get the idea.




Most of this isn't hard, or even all that expensive: just time-consuming and demanding in detail of execution. Don't try to keep it all in just your head; document everything out on paper with drawings. Being able to show the cast and crew storyboard shots of every angle will help everybody share and execute your particular vision. Taking some stills into photoshop and playing with layering and opacity effects on the windows will help you figure out some things for effects. Even more so in AfterEffects or Apple Motion, either of which is fine for this job.


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Neil Orman
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 5, 2016 at 7:39:54 pm

Mark, thank you SO MUCH for this great feedback and the WONDERFUL links!!! This is extremely helpful and very much appreciated!!! It's fascinating to consider the different approaches. It seems like access to a spacious garage is pretty important for most of them. Just let me know if you or others disagree there. I'm about to talk to my client, and plan to ask him if has such a space available. I myself don't have a garage. Just let me know if you or others have feedback there. And just to make sure I'm not misunderstanding one other point, how important do you consider access to a flatbed or pickup truck for the footage of the world/road passing by? Or is it just as good to hold the camera on a pillow, like one of these videos suggests, outside a normal car window? Then for the go-pro shots, I would just clip the camera on to his SUVs in the select spots.
Thank you so much again!!!
Neil


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Neil Orman
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 5, 2016 at 7:42:27 pm

Sorry, and I DO understand what you said about the go-pros showing the different angles etc. Just checking how important it is to have a flatbed/pickup truck for that, as I'm trying to gauge if certain elements could be dispensed with to simplify this.
Thanks, Neil


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 6, 2016 at 7:50:27 pm

I'm sure you could mount the go-pros on the roof of any car; you have to extrapolate what I say a little. Use those links as a start and do some more homework on your own... I feel that if I give you any more advice, I'd need to start invoicing you.


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Neil Orman
Re: Lighting interior of a car?
on Oct 7, 2016 at 3:00:11 pm

I hear you Mark! I didn't mean to abuse your generosity - my apologies there - and am very grateful for your tremendous feedback and suggestions!
Have a good weekend, and thanks so much again.
Neil


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