Sunday, June 05, 2005

Lenses...

Bohus Blahut (BOH-hoosh BLAH-hoot), the director of one of Tree Wave's videos, writes:
I've tried posting on the blog under the name "Gulag Picture Radio" BTW, and while I'm all registered and everything I don't see any of my posts anywhere. Just thought I'd mention that.


Anybody else having trouble posting comments? I'll check on it... -W


A few items that I've used in front of the camera are as follows:

Anamorphic lens taken from a WWII gun camera (?). It weighs around 20 pounds and has a mount unlike anything I've ever seen - it's about 6-8" across. Needless to say I never actually mounted it to the camera, instead holding it. I also seem to remember devising some sort of mount on a mic stand. I've used it with several video cameras (Canon L-1 and XL-1 come to mind) and with a Bolex 16mm camera.



Fresnel magnifying sheet originally manufactured as a cheap magnifying glass for older folks. Because it is thin plastic and flexible, you can get a lot of cool distortions that way. I've also seen similar flexi sheets with a bunch of little miniature fresnel patterns on them. They are sometimes used as privacy screens that you paste to your bathroom windows to let light in, but not let anyone see in.

Thin (but stiff) mylar squares - often used as mirrors in kids toys or books. Mount this in front of your camera at a 45 degree angle, then shoot your subject with the camera pointed sideways in relation to them. Flex the mirror for weird effects, remembering to flip the picture orientation in your editing software. The BBC used to use this effect for Doctor Who for when the Ice Warriors shot anyone. They used something called "Mirrorlon" which I would expect to be much thinner than the mirror I'm talking about which would give you some nice ripply distortion.

I've also used a lot of still photography filters with video cameras. Here in Chicago there are massive photography swap meets where you can get tons of special effects filters for next to nothing. Many of them can be useful for video. I've used a star filter, fly's eye filter (image in middle surrounded by 5 identical images, and filter can rotate - great for 60's pop singer look), polarizing filter (great for cutting glare when shooting through a window, or for making a car look less scratched up), center focus, some gradiated filters for dramatic skies...

The problem is that with my current video cam (the Canon XL-1) the lens is so massive, it's so hard to find filters to fit it at these swap meets. Common filters for still photography are 45-55mm (probably other sizes too), and the XL-1 clocks in at a massive 72mm. You can get adapter step-down rings to compensate, then zoom in a little to avoid vignetting.

There are also some great gadgets that I've used with old film cameras in front of the lens that aren't filters. My Bolex has had an iris attachment (for transition effects), a clock work device for a variety of animated wipes, titling rigs, and my personal favorite... a 3D lens set for shooting 3D films. Before you ask, yes I've shot some 3D footage, but I'm missing one important part of the projector arrangement to see if my experiment worked. :)

12 comments:

Nick said...

Sounds fantastic. If you have time, perhaps make a page with samples and descriptions for this?

yair said...

great ideas.
thank you for sharing

paul said...

Ah, that's just the tip of the iceburg as far as his knowledge of video/film tricks, obscure media formats, doctor who, etc. ;o)

Wiley said...

I just ordered one of those IR pass filters. I think I'm going to use it for my slow-mo video if I get it in time.
Anyway, now I am totally going to look for some fresnel lenses.

paul said...

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bclee/lens.html

alex said...

don't forget teleidoscopes, although they mangle the picture beyond recognition.

http://www.nbscopes.com/scopes/teleidoscope.html

Wiley said...

That's an idea... someone should make a kaleidascope with a camera lens mount.

Of course it would probably be easier/better looking to just do this in software, but that's not as much fun...

Bohus Blahut said...

TV's comedy pioneer genius madman Ernie Kovacs did a number of bits using a sort of kaleidoscope that they'd affix to the front of those giant old Orthicon cameras. He was really proud that it cost them something like 29 cents. He used these to create what could be considered some of the earliest "music videos" to stretch a point... :)

Seriously I feel that Kovacs' work should be required viewing for anyone interested in doing anything interesting with TV. There's a great 2 DVD "best-of" set that might seema bit pricey, but is worth every penny in what you'll learn from it. Kovacs is probably why I try to sneak oscilloscopes into my work whenever possible. :)

Bohus Blahut said...

Oh, and "Gulag" above is just me - Bohus! :)

Wiley said...

Bohus, please post info about your 3D project as it develops!

Bohus Blahut said...

Thanks for the support, guys! I do keep threatening to put up a website one of thee days... :)

As for the 3D project, I wrote a short film ideal for 3D a while back. The thing is that the 3D system that the whole project has to be realized and projected on film. Since Bolex took an unorthodox approach to their 3D film system, it all has to be done the old fashioned way. I _really_ don't want to have to cut soundtracks on film again, nor would I want to go through the expense of having the finished film made into a final print as this can cost thousands of dollars.

I do know a guy who has 16mm film scanner so theoretically I could shoot the project, scan it all into the computer, edit and produce the soundtrack digitally, then have it professionally output to film. It would sure cost a hell of a lot less.

Here's what makes this all funny. I got the 3D lens set years ago, but it didn't fit my Bolex camera. I had to actually find a super-old Bolex. Then I had to find tons of weird accessories for the Bolex to make it all play nice. I have the special projector lens, and also the lenticular screen for the 3D phenomenon to work. I've even got a Bolex projector from the era which are really rare.

So what's stopping me? There's a little adapter sleeve that makes the projector lens fit into the projector and I don't have it. In five years of monitoring Ebay auctions, none have ever had this sleeve. Alignment is crucial to make the 3D effect work, so it's not something I've been successful improvising. I'll just have to find someone who can manufacture one for me, and that doesn't sound cheap.

So basically, all I need is unlimited finances and the manufacture of a part with no template. How hard could that be? :)

The story BTW is a love triangle between a mechanic, dentist, and a hairdresser. There's an off-screen narrator since the camera can't shoot synchronized sound so it'll all be post-dubbed. The camera doesn't have through-the-lens focussing, so you have to actually use a tape measure for each shot to make sure that focus is right, and you just have to guess on alignment. So if I ever do this, it'll be a real adventure - probably the hardest thing I've ever tried.

Now I wish that I could just remember the damned title...

Wiley said...

Sounds cool. I wanna be in it if it ever gets made.

It seems like some of the newer HD 3D stuff is taking off with Cameron, Rodriguez et al. adopting it, but the price seems pretty prohibitive. Seems like you could do some interesting things with 3d though.. all my ideas would be non narrative though... columns of water with floating objects in them, stuff like that.