Filtering through the Fog

This was the next exercise in the Advanced Cinematography class on camera filters.

I found the ND filters to be very useful, especially the gradient ND filter. I was not sure why the polarizer was not working when we used it the day of the exercise but later was informed that the sunglasses we tried to polarize were already polarized, which is why the polarize did not work as well. I am not sure if that is the reason or if we did not get the right angle of rotation with the filter – whatever the reason the filter did not work effectively in our exercise.

Another one that did not seem to work well was the four point start filter, again I have no idea what we did wrong but we could actually see the filter over the lens.

The soft FX filter worked well and I would readily use it again if I were trying to shot a romantic scene or to cut down on the harsher features on an actors face due to the age of their skin. I also liked the Pro Mist filters as they could be used to create a haze over a shot to add atmosphere in camera on a horror or suspense film. I am not sure of the full application of the later but I am inclined to think that using such a filter in low light could aid in distorting shadows to play with the audience half seeing movement in darker areas of the composition.

Well, those are my thoughts for the week – please, feel free to leave me your thoughts.




This week in the Advanced Cinematography class the exercise was focused on us creating one High Key/Low Contrast lighting set-up and a second lighting set-up that was Low Key/High Contrast. I have edited the two sequences so that you may see the two lighting set-ups with the High Key/Low Contrast first and the Low Key/High Contrast set-up second. The main difference to remember between the two set-ups is that the Low Key has less fill light on the talent so that there are darker shadows throughout the image, much like you may see in a film noir movie. The High Key/Low Contrast has a much more fill light and creates a lighting set-up that you may typically see in a TV Sitcom.

Another thing that you may or may not be aware of is that if you back light the talent, the back light gives your talent a halo of light that separates them from the backdrop of your setting.

Overall, this exercise was pretty straight forward and was just a matter of using the light meter to make sure that the fill light was at the correct levels for each set-up.  Note that by using the light meter you may also guarantee the same quality of light if you were to need to have the same lighting in a different location of the set.  You would just need to make sure that your reading from the light meter matched the settings and adjust the levels accordingly.  Personally, I would rather stay in the same F-stop for purposes of consistency of light for continuity then change the level of lights but that is me.

Well, those are my thoughts on this exercise.  Please, feel free to leave your feedback.



Greetings fellow cinephiles-

This is another short exercise shot in the advanced digital cinematography class at Indiana University.  The goal of the exercise remained the same, to shoot a sequence that looked as cinematic as possible.  This time we were able to use up to six shots so again I decided to do something a little more challenging.  I have never worked with adding in laser beams or any CGI into a shot so I thought I would try my hand at it.  I also used three of the shots to do a small stop motion test as well; you may be surprised with the results.

I think this attempt turned out much better than my four shot sequence.  The biggest advantage was I was shooting in a controlled lighting environment.  Granted, I did not use any light other than the ambient light sources but using the location that I found worked perfectly to create the moody shadows of an “Alien” type experience.  What I learned from this is that lighting from the side of your subject with only a few lights, creates a very moody effect with high contrast.

To try and create a more cinematic look in this footage, I did a couple different things.  The first thing I played with was camera movement in my opening shot and the use of perspective/angles to subconsciously set the scene.  I then used a rack focus between the subject and the object in the scene and canted the shot to give a sense that something was off to the viewer.  The stop motion shots were also canted and had a shallow depth of field.  I opened up the depth of field in the last shot but kept the shot canted and those were the ideas I employed to create the cinematic look of this sequence.

You may think that you can’t really create effective stop motion with only three shots BUT what I did to maximize this was to use a temporal blur between the shots to approximate the missing frames and movement.  I also used fifteen frames on the first two shots and twenty frames on the last shot so that I had a little more time to play and establish the laser beaming being shot from the gun.

I then added in the laser beams from the gun.  This was achieved in three steps.  I first added in a layer of particles to approximate the smoke coming out of the barrel of the gun.  Next I added a flash when each laser beam was fired and hit an object.  Lastly, I added in the laser beams via 3D Stroke.  I should also note that adding the movement of the CGI effects also helped to sell the stop motion sequence.

I’ve again uploaded the final sequence and the raw footage so that you may see the results after and before my efforts.  Overall, not too shabby for my first attempt at stop motion and CGI.

As always, your feedback is appreciated – cheers.



Greetings fellow cinephiles

This short was shot as a four shot exercise in the advanced digital cinematography class at Indiana University.  You may think that this was shot in more than four shots due to the edits but I have also included the raw footage that I used after the scene so you may see how I edited the film from just four shots.  I also wanted to push myself beyond the limitations of the four shot exercise so this is also my first attempt at day for night.

Here are a couple of reflections on this first exercise. First, it helped being the last in our group to shoot as it gave me time to really think out how I wanted to craft the shots so that I could make them as dynamic as possible. The rack focus worked pretty well but I wish I had been able to get one more take as the other two did not work well and I wasn’t completely happy with the shot I used in the edit.

Another thing that I tried to create more of a cinematic look without a jib was to hand-hold the first shot and follow the action of my protagonist into a over-the-shoulder shot. Being limited to four shots really made me think out how to maximize my shots with the blocking of the actors so that I wasn’t left with nothing but static shots that would not look very cinematic.

Lastly, I wasn’t 100% happy with the end results of the Day For Night as I had to crush the blown out areas of the footage and I do not feel that it reads well as a night shot due to the higher contrasts of the lighting where the sun bleeds through the trees. I am not sure if I could have played around with the F-stop some more and wish that I was dealing with an overcast day. Overall, I am pleased with my first attempt because I was able to play around with layers while I was editing to try and give the blue hue a more natural look.

Let me know your thoughts and by the way, this is my first official blog.  I’ve posted in a few other blogs but this is the first time that I have had my very own blogpost.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video and I look forward to your feedback.


Russell McGee