Monday, 15 February 2016

CREATING LIGHT LEAKS 'IN CAMERA'


If you've been following this blog or if you watched any of our movies, you'll know that we love to try and do things as practically as possible. We try and capture as much as we can in camera, from colour to practical effects. In the age of 'Fix it in post' I have to say that I've always felt more comfortable getting as close as I can to the final product on set than I do trying to get the same effect in post production. Thats just me and how 'I' do things though. 

Ungraded shot from Hollower (2014).
I get it, digital effects and post production does a lot of good, I do use a whole heap of things from Colour correction to Masking to CG and I'm a big promoter of visual effects and post work, if it is needed,  just not if its done for the sake of it. I've saved many shots and even whole scenes in post, because something just didn't work on the day, but surely the goal is to get it right at 'showtime', or as close as you can. My 'opinion', and thats all it is, on digital effects and heavy post production is that its a great tool to help you when all else fails. You're main goal should be that all does not fail.

I started shooting my fourth feature at the end of 2014, the film, Hollower, is the story of anagoraphobic who can't leave his studio apartment. In the film there was a scene in which he attempts to leave his 'fortress of solitude' only to find that his condition won't allow it. My first thought was how I would present this visually, and I immediately jumped to what digital effects I could add in post production to represent the severity of his illness, immediately light leaks and an adding various blurs and distortions sprung to mind. I stopped myself there and just took a step back and remembered my 'Don't fix it on post' rule. How could I do what I wanted to do 'In Camera'? 

Then I realised I had the answer.

LENS WHACKING

Lens Whacking is an old school and pretty well documented photographic technique, that involves creating light leaking directly onto the cameras sensor rather than being filtered solely through the lens. The technique also adds some very interesting blurs and distortion due to the way that the lens is held in front of the camera. In terms of the effect I was looking for in the film 'Lens Whacking' was clea the way to go.


Interchangeable Lens System Camera (Canon 600d/T3i)
First of all, your camera will need to have an interchangeable lens system, this is much more common these days with the advent of DSLR'S and Mirrorless system becoming a pretty standard part of the No/Low Budget filmmakers arsenal.


Remove lens from Camera.

The effect comes from removing the lens and setting your cameras 'Operate without lens attached' to on (It called something different depending on the camera model, but its a pretty universal feature and on the Canon it just involves hitting the Video button without a lens attached) this allows your camera to shoot without having your lens attached (Obviously). 

The option looks different on the Panasonic G7.
Now you have pure, unfiltered light hitting your sensor.  You can now simply hold your lens up to the sensor, but instead of attaching it, you allow light to slip in through the gap between the contacts. Moving it around until you have the desired effect. 


Hold the lens over the sensor without connecting it. 
I've found that the effect works best with Normal or Longer focal lengths and shooting on a Canon 600d (T3i), I got the best results from using the 50mm 1.8 as the shorter focal lengths seemed to give less desirable results. It takes a little experimenting to get it right, but the results can be something fantastic. 

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THE PINSTRIPE PIGEON BAND

A few months after shooting Hollower, I was hired to shoot a video for The Pinstripe Pigeon Band to go with their new track 'Never Be Apart'. The song was a slow ballad and the band wanted something that had a restless, dreamlike feel to go with the song. I immediately thought of 'Lens Whacking' as a way to achieve the look the band wanted. I explained my approach and they loved the idea and so thats what we did, I also shot at high frame rate and played the song a double speed (So that it matched when conformed back to 25fps) to help sell the dreamlike visuals that they were going for and I was very pleased with the results.
Still from 'Never Be Apart' The Pinstripe Pigeon Band

I did hit a snag however. After we shot the story elements using the technique, we arrived on location to shoot the bands 'performance' element. Because we were based about 4 hours away  and the video had come together in relatively short notice, we hadn't seen the location outside of photographs and it was actually much smaller than we thought it would be. This was fine for close ups, but the wide shot was a vfx shot and had to be locked off, this meant that I couldn't take the lens off for the shot and so it suddenly stuck out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the video. 

This was the one place I knew I would have to 'fix it in post' and add my leaks after. It came out ok, saved by some time in the edit fixing the problem, but it really did hit home just how much difference doing something practically actually makes. It also serves a good example of both approaches. You can check out the full video for 'Never Be Apart' below. 



So overall my point is that you should rely on post to save your ass, doing things after the fact is great, but giving a little bit of forethought to how you want your final piece to look can really, doing as much as you can there physically on set can bring your stuff to life, Plus its a lot more fun :)

MJ

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