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Varicam/Pro35mm .Shallow Depth of Field on a wide lens?


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#1 Michael Totten

Michael Totten
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Posted 20 August 2006 - 09:27 PM

Hey everyone-

I'm shooting a short narritive in the desert in a few weeks so I'm in the process of planning out each shot and trying to figure out the best lens/equipment to use. I've been doing some research, watching a lot of films including "Once upon a time in the west" and "Lawrence of Arabia".

COMPOSITIONALLY, the look that I'm going for is sort of a hybrid between both films. Unfortunately we wont be able to shoot 2:35 like they did... but I want to try and "fake" that wide look as best I can with a lot of negative space on either side of the frame. Does anybody have any experience or ideas about how to achieve this look?

EXPOSURE:
I think it's going to be very hard to expose both the actor and background "properly". It's OK if the background goes a little hot (after all it is the desert), but I'd much rather have both in. HD's latitude won't really allow that without lighting the face of the actor pretty heavily with an HMI or perhaps some reflector boards or perhaps mirrors. We will, however be attempting to shoot the majority of this scence during the "golden hour" or softer light periods of he day.... and try to avoid the bright fllat high noonish hours, but I have a feeling that we're going to end up shooting all day anyway so I want to plan for the worst. The changing light won't be a story/continuity problem, but it could present some exposure and lighting challenges. Any thoughts? I was thinking of softening the overhead light with bleached muslin 12X12 and then bouncing some light through something soft on the actors face as a key. Then hiting the actor with more bounced/soft light with a 3/4 back skip (also key side). And then filling in to taste.
I hope this set up works? I'm nervous... we don't really have a "lighting package"... more like a couple lights and a lot of bounce. Hopefully we can bring him up with the bounce enough... I'd like to avoid the HMI.

We're shooting on the Varicam in unison with the pro-35mm adapter and several fairly wide Cooke S4's.
I believe the focal lengths of the S4's are: 14mm, 25mm, and 35 mm. We are also getting one nice zoom with a longer focal length (I believe 100mm). So I feel that we've got things pretty well covered (although I have considered an even wider lens) for this next shot (and question).

I want to get a really wide shot but also achieve a relatively shallow depth of field. The subject is buried up to his waste in the desert sand. The subjects torsoe and face will be prominently placed on one side of the frame (Medium Shot) and on the other side of the frame I'd like to have a lot of "negative space" or just sort of desert heat blur that leads into the "nothingness".
Does that make sense? In the foreground I'd like to have about 8 to 10 inches of sand/ground (and it should be in focus... or very close)

My thought is (instead of the long lens shallow depth trick I will do the exact opposite). If I move the camera really close to the subjust on a 14mm lens then I should get the same effect, right? I guess the lens would have to be maybe a foot or two away from the subject to achieve this. I don't mind a little bit of fish eye distortion as I think that characteristic lends itself nicely to the story line (he's buried in the sand and dying).
My question is:
Will this work? Do I need a wider lens? or do I need to pull back a bit and zoom in?
Any comments or ideas would be greatly appreciated.
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