Poor Man’s Process Done On The Cheap
By Robert Long II
Poor Man’s Process has been around since at least the 1960’s if not longer. It is a clever way to get actors talking in a car footage without resorting to expensive camera-mounted car shoots or going with the less-than-convincing rear-projection method. It also does not require green or blue screening, so the post production required for it is minimal. The most widely used shot for this technique is looking over the hood of a vehicle through the windshield at two actors exchange dialog as they travel through the night, street and city lights and car headlamps visible in the background. The independent filmmaker can recreate this visual illusion in a garage or even parked outside at night.
First, if shooting in a garage, have the wall behind the car draped in black cloth. Over this hang Christmas lights; these act as the night time city lights for your scene.
Next, you will want several grips outfitted with small apple crates painted black. Notch out two areas of the side facing outward on the crate; this is where two powerful flashlights will sit. These represent car headlights. Some of the grips can have their flashlights with red gel material over the lenses, to simulate tail lights. With the grips outfitted in black clothing, they can pass back and forth behind the car to suggest other traffic on the road. Even more effective lighting can be accomplished if the grips used Halogen work lights (bought at a hardware store) instead on flashlights for the scene; I can guarantee that they will resister better on the screen.
During a simulated night time shoot, you will need a light within the car to illuminate the actors in the vehicle interior. This is usually mounted low on the dashboard in-between the performers. Try not to go overboard with the “glowing dashboard” look – experiment until you get a believable amount of light for your scene. A spot light with a green gel over it will work well.