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Miniature Photography


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#1 stephen lamb

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Posted 24 May 2006 - 05:20 PM

I am prepping for a project in which i am planning to shoot some miniatures to be used as background plates to be composited with live action footage. I have never tried this before, so it'll be a fly by the seat of my pants experience. I was hoping to alleviate some of the inevitable pain by seeing if anyone here knows a thing or two about shooting miniature photography or knows of a person/website/book that could be a good resource. Things that come to my mind that i wonder about include: lens choice differencec between shooting the live action plate, and the miniature plate, lighting the models, adding in atmosphere, camera movement, scale of the models, frame rates for shooting and of course lining up the shots correctly. We are shooting super16mm...not the best for steadyness of the image but it's the best we can do budget wise. Thanks for any info you have
Cheers
Steve
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#2 Rob van Gelder

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 12:32 AM

Get the American Cinematographers Manual, any year will do and most of the basics are in there!
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#3 Scott Squires

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 01:25 AM

You want to match the live action as much as possible.
Lens and lighting should take their cues from the live action. (i.e. match)
Camera moves are difficult unless you use motion control or are doing a post move on composte.
You can do a foreroudn minature for some scenes but it's fairly limited. Pan and tilt have to be on nodal.
Locked off camera is the way to go to keep it simple.

Lining up - Record as much info from the live action as possible including tilt, distance and lens.
depends on your camera. If it will hold a clip near the ground glass then cut a print.
Other options are to make a tracing of an enlarged frame onto acetate. Mount this in front of the camera for a guide. At the very least makea blowup of a still and eyeball it.

Scale - is the miniature moving? Does it have water or fire? If so you'll want to make as large as reasonable and to overcrank (shoot at faster fps for making the scale right). Formulas are in the ASC manual and probably online.
If there's nothing moving to give away scale then it's an issue of a size that provides sufficent detail but still can be dealt with. If there's a commercial scale that's close use that. That will provide a llot of materials/parts already made. (i.e. dollhouse scale, o-scale model railroad, etc)
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#4 stephen lamb

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 01:48 AM

Thanks so far for the tips,

the miniatures are all going to be environment/background pieces. mostly city type buildings. there is some water, but we'll do that with CG. As for lens matching, i assumed that because the scale of the miniature is obviously so vastly different than the corresponding live action shot that the lens would have to be different in some respect? or do you simple use the exact same lens for each corresponding shot?

scott, i didn't understand part of your second paragraph

"....depends on your camera. If it will hold a clip near the ground glass then cut a print.
Other options are to make a tracing of an enlarged frame onto acetate. Mount this in front of the camera for a guide...." i assume from the sentence that follows that you are refering to a method of checking the shot from the live action while you shoot the miniature or vice versa, i am just confused about what you are talking about.

the lighting seems straight forward to me, just match the live action scale wise. i assume there must be small lighting units that are desigined specifically for this? i've looked a bit, but honestly haven't delved much into that area yet.

do you guys think 1/8 inch (HO) scale and/or 1/4 inch scale is too small? again, it will be brick/concrete/wood buildings that you would find in a city. we will be getting pretty close to them. do we need to go bigger?

i do have an ASC manual, and have read the chapter about minatures. it gave good tips, but was a bit vague. the formula's though seem quite helpful for things like fire/water etc. Thanks again guys,
cheers
Steve
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#5 Alex Wuijts

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 03:37 AM

if you want hard shadows, you could make a point lighting source using small mirrors and letting it reflect light from a larger source, or you could use this large source pulled a long way back.
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#6 stephen lamb

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 12:28 AM

Yeah, that idea for using mirrors of various sizes to reflect the light is a great idea.

so tonight we built an extremely crude mock up of the scene using just cardboard, to block out some shots and see what it's like to shoot this stuff. the very first things i realized was that the close focus on the lens suddenly became a big deal. if in the real scene the camera is one foot behind an actor or object, and then in the miniature plate the camera has to be say, 1 inch from the miniature version....the camera can't do close focus like that at all. it would seem like you have to just avoid situations like that, or cheat it as best you can?

still though, after tonight, it definetly made me more optomistic about pulling off the scenes we have planned, the photo's looked great for being just cardboard, handheld, with kitchen overhead lighting. i can't wait to see what this stuff looks like with real miniatures, mounted camera, lit well. it's going to be awesome! i'll do my best to keep updates coming.
cheers

Steve

Edited by Stephen Lamb, 27 May 2006 - 12:31 AM.

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