Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Depth of Field

Okay Filmmakers, let's talk camera.  Yes, I know many of us don't have any budget to speak of and you have to either shoot with whatever camcorder drops in your lap or choose not to shoot at all.  So what can you do?

The biggest problem with cameras, is not necessarily the resolution, which is where everyone focuses (pardon the pun).  Most prosumer cameras have enough for your quirky no-budget indie film.  If you have a few dollars, don't upgrade to a higher quality camera-- instead, spend it on getting better glass (lenses). 

For instance, I just got finished watching a small budget indie movie recently and it was shot with a decent prosumer HD camcorder.  There was a shot in a school hallway and four class rooms down, you could still read the pep rally sign hanging on the back wall.  That's a HUGE depth of field-- one that screams "home movie" instead of "cinema."

And the camera they use does have a third party platform for putting cinematic lenses in front of it.  Makes a huge difference.  I'm talking about the Letus or Redrock adapters.  Of course, they do cause you to lose some f stops (especially the Red Rock), but it pays off in the look of your movie.

For "The Imposter," I had the budgetary choice of upgrading my camera, or having two lower resolution cameras, but with prime lenses.  I chose the two camera option.  I don't regret that.  (For the newest film "Rising Star", coming out in theaters on October 22, we used to Reds).

Okay, so what do you do if you have no money and a consumer camcorder?  I bet you could beg or borrow to at least upgrade to something like the HVX200-- you can't throw a rock without hitting someone who owns one.  Except most HVX 200 users are selling there's to get the 5D or 7D from Canon.  Even better if you borrow one of these.  I shot with a 7D recently and I'll blog about that soon.

Okay, so you've struck out and all you've got is this lowly camcorder.  What can you do to get a more cinematic look with it?  You need to narrow the depth of field.  Depth of Field is affected by several factors.  One of the easiest is the f stop (a wider, or more open aperture will shallow your depth of field).  So use an ND (neutral density) filter inside and light so that you can get that iris as open as possible.  There are other factors for shallowing your depth of field, but that's enough to get started.

1 comment:

  1. Dan great post, I have been eating, sleeping and dreaming (literally...sigh) Depth of Field the last couple of weeks. I am thinking about purchasing the Letus35 Mini for my HV30 (which Crank 2 used 12 of Canon HF10/100's), and have been looking at some smooth videos on Vimeo with the HV30 and Letus combo to solidify my decision. But the SLR angle is also tempting me...
    One thing I would like to share with you guys is a trick I learned and tested with my camera; first I bought a ND2 filter and put it on, then I got my daughters to stand in front of different objects but about 50 to 60 feet away from them, then I stood maybe 25 feet away from them and had someone about 3 ft away from me for the over the shoulder shot, then I zoomed into my daughters and this drastically narrowed the depth of field, making only my daughter in focus, giving the world around a great out of focused look with good looking perspective.
    Sorry to be long, but its a great trick with prosumer camcorders and it works.