Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Filters

Submitted by Peter John Ross

I have used several filters on my Canon GL1 but the main one used for New World was an enhancing filter from Tiffen. This particular filter brings out flesh tones and the gradation of the color of leaves in the fall, namely oranges, yellows, and browns. We also used neutral density filters to soften the video look, but it darkened the image, so be sure and open up your iris on the camera.

For other projects, unrelated to New World, I have used red, yellow, and blue filters to get a look similar to Steven Soderbergh's film Traffic. Using filters during the shoot saves time in post if you already know what look you want ahead of time. I also use an 80A filter when I know I am going to convert the footage to black and white. In the title sequence for a short film called Concupiscence (www.sonnyboo.com/othershort.htm) I used a horizon filter, often employed by Tony Scott and Michael Bay in their commercials and feature films to make the horizon line look a gradient colored sky. I used it for an effect I wanted on the titles. Shooting this way saved me hours of Adobe After Effects render time.

Filters may say "for daylight use" or "black and white still photography use," but experiment and try them anyway with color video. One filter can have multiple uses and give numerous looks. A circular polarizer filter is made for two things. One, it kills reflections on glass surfaces shot at an angle. You can rotate the filter until the reflections are cancelled out. A second use for a polarizing filter, which is why I bought one, is to get the richest, most realistic blue skies from whatever camera you use. I used a polarizing filter on my Super-8 film camera for a thirty second commercial I did (www.thecfc.org/movies/PSA33B.mov). Shooting in July, aiming at the sky, the filter brought out so much blue that the sky looked perfect, without compromising the other colors.

If you can't afford the cost of numerous filters for your lenses, you can use your camera's manual white balance to achieve filter-like effects. If you white balance to colors or even gray sheets of paper, you can get some really wild results and cool looks if you need something a bit more radical. If you want something subtle, try using soft yellow or off-white colors to set the white balance. Tinker around and find what works and what doesn't.

Too many digital video shooters don't study cinematography in general or bother to learn some basic techniques borrowed from still photography. Filters work on digital video lenses and come in a variety of sizes, and can be used with even the cheapest cameras. I learned about filters from Emmy Award winning director of photography Scott Spears. He taught me a lot about filters and affecting the image with light, the cinematographers best friend, even when shooting digital video. Too many people take the nearly automated process of digital video for granted and forget that the use of focus, light, filters, and zoom are brushes in the hands of artists, not buttons on a machine.

For additional information on filters check out the Tiffen page at www.tiffen.com/filters.htm.
A sampling of what the Tiffen site has to offer:

Ultraviolet Protector - Protects lens from dust, moisture, scratches, and breakage.

Sky 1A - Popular general use protection filter. Absorbs a significant amount of ultraviolet light. Slightly warm-tinted for better colors. Useful when shooting outdoors in the shade and on overcast days.

Haze 1 - Reduces excessive blue haze caused by ultraviolet light by absorbing 71% of ultraviolet radiation. Great all-around ultraviolet control.

Haze 2 - Absorbs all ultraviolet light. Reduces haze and maintains color and image clarity. Best for high altitude and marine scenes.

Polarizer and Circular Polarizer - Essential for outdoor photography. Deepens intensity of blue skies and reduces or eliminates glare. Use circular polarizers for auto-focus cameras as recommended by the camera manufacturer.

Warm Polarizer - For color imaging, a combination of an 812 filter and polarizing filter. Warms skin tones and scenics.

Neutral Density - For all film types, color or black and white. Absorbs varying degrees of light. Provides balanced exposures and depth-of-field control. Eliminates overly bright, washed out images. Great for video.

Soft - Ideal portrait filter. Softens and minimizes facial imperfections while retaining overall clarity.

Warm Soft - Combines a soft and an 812 warming filter. Smoothes facial details while adding warmth to skin tones for color imaging.

Center Spot - Clear central area for dramatic focus, surrounded by ring of moderate diffusion to minimize distracting background detail.

Warm Center Spot - Combines a center spot filter with an 812 warming filter. Clear central area for dramatic focus, surrounded by ring of moderate diffusion to minimize distracting background detail. Warms image for more vibrant results.

Pro-Mist - Most popular motion picture effect. Creates special "atmosphere" by softening excess sharpness and contrast. Creates a soft glow around highlights. Great for portraits and landscapes.

Warm Pro-Mist - Combination of a Pro-Mist filter and an 812 warming filter. Warms and softens image giving skin a healthy, natural glow.

Black Pro-Mist - Similar characteristics to the Pro-Mist filter, but providing a more subtle effect. Less lightening of shadows and a reduction of contrast.

Ultra Contrast - Recognized by an Academy Award for Technical Achievement, this filter series redistributes ambient light to capture details that would be lost in shadows. Lowers contrast evenly throughout image with no flare or halation.

Low Contrast - Spreads light from highlights to darker areas and leaves bright areas bright, lowering contrast and muting colors. Makes videos look more like film.

Star - Achieve dazzling star effects from any direct or reflected point light source. Add sparkle to water scenes, candle flames, product shots, and more.

Fog - Adds drama to your scene by producing a misty atmosphere. Lights flare while softening contrast and sharpness.

Double Fog - Creates the natural look of fog, especially on overcast days.

Sepia - Creates a warm brown tone for that old time feeling.

Grad - Half color, half clear with a graduated density transition for a smooth blending of color. The perfect solution to transform a pallid sunrise or sunset into something spectacular. Available in a rainbow array of useful colors.

80 Series - Use with daylight film to shoot indoors with tungsten lighting to achieve the correct color in your image.

85 Series - For shooting tungsten corrected film outdoors. Produces natural colors in your images.

FL-D and FL-B - Provide pleasing skin tones and corrects color under fluorescent lighting. Use the FL-D with daylight-corrected media and the FL-B with tungsten-corrected media.
812 Color Warming - Improves color of all skin tones. Absorbs blue cast often caused by electronic flash or outdoor shade. Adds warmth to pale, washed-out flesh tones. Ideal for portraits.

Enhancing - Creates brighter, more saturated reds, browns, and oranges with minimal effect to other colors. Ideal for fall foliage, earth tone rock formations, and rustic barns.

Magenta - Balance excessive green cast and produce creative effects. Great for early morning tint.

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