Lighting your track for video

redlinederby Sunday, 3/20/2016
Site manager

Having a good video camera and editor is really helpful when it comes to shooting video for your Hot Wheels racing. But more than anything else, lighting will make your video sink or swim. It doesn't matter if you have the best looking track, if you can't see it, it doesn't matter. And likewise, your track may be a homebrew master piece stuck in your garage, but making it shine like the sun will do wonders.

There are expensive ways to light your track if you want to get serious about it. You can go drop a couple hundred bucks on some studio lights, stands and reflectors. If you have the budget, go for it, but I don't have that type of cash to spend so I looked for a cheaper way.

My track is in my basement. It's a finished basement so there are plenty of recessed lights but they were all warm light. So the first thing I did was replace all of them with daylight white lights. That helped with the ambient light but didn't really shine on the track.

I thought about buying some long fluorescent shop lights to hang or even put on the floor but even that turned out to be a little more than I wanted to spend...but it would have been a decent option. I've use shop lights before and they work really well.

An Affordable Solution

I wanted something a little more flexible so I could light up my track in certain spots. I went to Home Depot and looked around to see what my options were. In the end, I bought a cartful of painter's clip lights and a bunch of daylight white flood bulbs. The fixtures were about $8 each. Bulb prices vary depending if you want LED or whatever...regardless, just get the white/daylight bulbs and you'll be good.

My track is also a shelf track so it's attached to one wall. This helps a bit in that I only need to light it from one side. I took some chairs, strung around some extension cords and was able to light up my track pretty well. Using chairs and clip lights also makes it very easy to clean-up and stash when I'm done, which is great when you share your space with the rest of the family.

The only unfortunate part about my setup is the wall color - it's yellow. Yellow is horrible as a background color so even though I'm well lit, the reflecting light is still pretty warm. I have plans to paint the wall but for now, I'll have to settle.

With my wall and low ceiling, I'm able to easily reflect the light onto my track. If your track is in a big open space like a garage or in the middle of a room, you'll need to put your light more directly on the track. Just keep trying different setups until you get something that's manageable and looks good.

And always - always - check your lighting through your camera. How it looks to your eyes standing in the room is going to be very different than how your camera sees it. Adjust angles and positions based on where you camera will be. You might find you don't need as much light in one area as another.

In the end, for around $75 or less, you can light your track and improve how it looks in your videos. Heck, you might have some of these things lying around your house already! You don't have to start with "pro" gear...start small and work your way up. 

How Well Does it Work?

You can check out the result of this lighting setup in the video I shot from the Pro Series tournament. You'll notice how warm it shows up thanks to the yellow wall. A white wall will make all the difference. You'll also notice the flickering which is a result of the slow-mo being used. I'm sure there's a way to sync the lighting with the slow-mo but that's way over my head (and probably costs a lot too).


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redlinederby 5/8/17
Site manager

I've been prepping my track for more video this year and spent some time evaluating my lighting situation.

In many cases, you don't want direct light hitting your target. It's hard to control and blend in with other spot lights and can create some wicked shadows too. The solve for this is usually reflecting the light off some sort of card or something. 

I still plan on using the flood lights and to paint my wall white (or maybe grey), but as I was doing some more research and looking at accessories and I decided to try another "on the cheap" method to help lighting. 

I went to the dollar store and bought some white foam board. Then I screwed some tiny hooks into the ceiling, hanging the foam board so it's behind the fixtures and reflecting a bit onto the wall with my track.

I looks pretty ghetto but it makes a noticeable difference. It's not focusing a ton of light, less than I was hoping, but it's certainly not hurting things. I'll still use my other flood lights but I plan on reflecting some of them off these boards too.

I don't have any video for comparison yet...researching video apps is another active project...but once I'll post once I get something on tape.

I'm going to test shinning light through wax paper.....a theory I've wanted to test for awhile.

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