Category Archives: Cameras and Lenses

Hard to Believe

It’s hard to believe,  but I am finished shooting the puppet / 3D set scenes.  Finished, after almost two years of working (on and off) on these scenes.  This is a big relief, as these shoots seemed like the hardest part of the filmmaking process, with all their unknowns… but of course I also feel a bit sad, as I do enjoy the process so much. Earlier this week I said goodbye to the puppets, and all my rented & borrowed equipment.

So since I last posted here, I have shot over a minute of cabbage shots, as well as the final three scenes, which involve the family of puppets sitting at a dining room table.  For the final scene, I rented a 3 foot linear bed from Whites, which allowed for a zoom out.  Let me tell you, these things are *amazing…*  There are so many possibilities to introduce smooth, easy camera moves with these things.  So easy to use — this one was perfectly smooth-sliding yet immovable once fixed — and easy to animate, as there’s a handy aluminum strip that my ruler measurements fit perfectly onto, and the little rubber stopper bit provided just the right vertical marker.  Marcus suggested a few other possibilities for this contraption, like of course dollying through a shot sideways, either hanging the bed and camera from the ceiling and flying through, or… or… well the possibilities are endless.  Camera moves are exciting!

Here’s a little video of me playing around with it…

Here is what went on behind the scenes.  I’ll do up a little post on the lighting setup when I get the chance.

This is the way I animated the camera — made a ruler in photoshop, complete with eases in and out…

Also had to animate most of the practical lights, dimming out at the end.  So their dimmers had circular rulers as well.  The notebook was to keep track of what I needed to animate — it was easy to get confused!

And finally, here is the precious, dear equipment that I had to return…  I’ll miss you, dedo kit with projection lens, and you too, my newfound friend, the 3 foot linear bed… sniff, sniff.  Maybe one day we’ll meet again…

The final scene —

So in terms of my progress:  all 3D stop motion scenes, including cabbage scenes, are done.  Next up:  opening titles, which will also be shot stop mo, and then I’m onto my 2D / 3D ink painting effects…  This week I build yet another miniature set for the opening titles.  Hopefully it’ll turn out the way I’m picturing it; I’ve had a couple false starts so far, but I think my current idea will work.

Shift and Tilt

I feel kinda funny talking about cameras and lighting, because it’s one area (among many others) where I’m still learning.  I’ve learned everything I know, pretty much, from Marcus, including the trick of shooting with the camera upside-down, which was mentioned in the last post.

But, I’m going to talk about cameras and lighting anyway.  For this next shot, I’m messing around with the 2nd of my two lenses, which is a 45 mm tilt / shift lens.  I bought this lens because I like the wonky focus effects they allow for, and because it has the flexibility to be used as a normal 45 mm lens when the tilt / shift is set to 0.  My other lens is the 100mm macro, which definitely comes in handy for any kind of closeup.  The camera can be far away, yet appear to be close, allowing for a lot of room to work on the closeups.  (See the photos in the last post, and you’ll see how close up the puppet was in frame vs. how far away the camera was.)

For my next shot, the camera is in almost exactly the same position, yet this tilt / shift lens allows for a much wider shot.  Just for fun, I started playing around with the tilt function of the lens.

As far as I understand it, the main advantage tilt shifts have over regular lenses is in the tilt function, which allows you to create a non-parallel focal plane.  That is, with regular lenses, the plane of focus is always going to be parallel to the camera.  With a shallow depth of field, everything in the foreground is blurry, then there is a narrow mid-plane where things are in focus, and then everything in the background is blurry as well.  (Or, wherever you chose your plane of focus to be, will be a narrow window parallel to the window of the framing of the image.)

With the tilt function of the tilt / shift lens, the focal plane can be set at a diagonal — at any angle  you want.  There is no limitation of foreground / middleground / background planes.  My lens rotates so that the tilt doesn’t even have to be left-right, but it can be up-down, or anywhere in between.  The focal plane can be extremely angled, or angled just slightly.  This means you can chose exactly which elements in the scene that you want to be in focus, while throwing everything else out of focus.  Here’s a left-right extreme tilt example:


Note:  the plant and chair in the background to the left of Sabela, and the clock on the wall to the right of her.  In the first image, the chair and plant are in focus, while Sabela and the foreground stove are also in focus.  The focal plane is running at a diagonal from the back left to the front right of the scene, intersecting Sabela’s position.

In the second image, the clock and back cabinets are in focus, as well as Sabela.  The focal plane is moving from the back right to the front left.  You can see this most clearly on the floor.

Just for fun, I put together a little clip of this focal plane tilt happening in stop motion.  I wish I was crazy enough to try this while animating the puppet, but it’s actually quite tricky to animate smoothly, for one.  The tilt / shift would be very awkward to create a reference scale for.  And the focus needs to be changed manually, too.  With the puppet moving through frame as well, my head might just explode with the attempt to keep it all happening.

But, because I am just *slightly* crazy, I am going to try it out with a test walk cycle, to see how impossible it is.

Here it is happening with no puppet animation, where the lens is wide open for a shallow DOF, and the lens is tilting from one extreme to the other:

Kind of a strange effect, because it seems like the camera is panning a little, but it is not.  The only element moving here is the lens.

I will definitely be using this effect at some point in the film.  Who knows, maybe it’ll even happen in this walking shot.  😮

There is a really good explanation of tilt shift photography on Wikipedia, in case you care to learn more about it.