Movie equipment, particularly the good stuff used to make
theatrical-quality films (35 mm or 70 mm) is very heavy. You don't want
it to shake, blurring the picture, and since it has shaking parts
inside to move the film, the whole camera setup is very very heavy.
Things are less cumbersome these days, and you can shoot with a digital
camera now which helps to shrink the cameras.
In the old days, with the big, heavy cameras, the easiest kind of
shooting that could be done was inside in a big soundstage. That way
you can control the lighting, noise, and all the other variables.
People put cars in the soundstages, took the windshields out, and
filmed actors sitting in the cars. To make it look a bit as if the car
was moving, some scenery was projected on a screen in back of the car.
This gives a really really hokey effect as you well notice. The main
problems are that the actors are a little too stationary as the scenery
bounces up and down. Or worse yet, the actors are told to bounce up and
down, and their bouncing has nothing to do with how the scenery moves.
If the scenery indicates a turn is happening, and the actors don't seem
to show the effects in how their hair blows or moves, or their bodies
move, you notice the problem right away. I don't think using computer
image compositing would help, if it were done with the same kind of
thing in mind.
Even worse tricks were used in some of the lower-budget movies of
yesteryear. Sometimes if you look at the background scenery, you can
see it repeat and repeat and repeat. Yick. Or the magnification
wouldn't be right -- say the background was shot with a lens with a
different zoom setting than the people in the car.
You can make more realistic car scenes by selecting a lighter
weight movie camera and attaching it to the car as it moves. Usually
you have to remove the windows or the windshield (which introduces its
own problems). Then there's motion blur to worry about. Also, it's well
known that panning scenery around as cars turn can make audience
members feel sick.
Watch a few movies and TV shows, and see how you like the car scenes, and try to figure out how they did it!
(republished on 07/17/06)