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Miniature Cinematography


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#1 Ashim

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 10:10 AM

Hello,

How different is shooting minature sets as opposed to conventional shooting environment.
Do we need to use special cameras or lenses to capture miniature sets?
And how do these images have the same depth and feel as normal sets. I know a lot of vfx is involved
but besides that are there any special tools use to achieve the final breathtaking result. Star wars, LOR.

Thank You... Please share your 'mini' thoughts.
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#2 Ashim

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 10:41 AM

This is what Rosenberg, I guess the DoP of Star Wars says about creating a convincing look for miniature shots.

"The key to shooting a miniature so that audiences are convinced it was photographed in its real environment at its real size is shooting fewer frames per second".

But why? What difference does fewer frames per second make?
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 11:02 AM

That's a bit reductive.

When the miniature subject is moving in a manner that interacts with real world surfaces that don't "miniaturize" (water, dust flying up, falling debris, fire, explosions) then normally you would shoot at a high frame rate to give the moving object and moving fragments, flames, etc. a sense of scale and mass. In "Time Bandits" for example, Terry Gilliam shot the lumbering "giant" in extreme low-angle and slow-motion to make each footstep seem massive and cause the dust to fly up slowly. You may be talking about 100 fps for something like that, and 300 fps or higher for miniature explosions.

When it doesn't have that sort of scale problems with water, fire, exploding fragments, etc. then you would shoot at a low frame rate in order to increase exposure time to allow you to stop down the lens and thus increase depth of field. A common example would be a spaceship model shot a 1 fps at f/45 or something like that, with the camera on an extremely slow-moving mechanized dolly.

When you have to shoot at a high frame rate, then you need a tremendous amount of light to also stop down the lens.

The idea is that you need a very small f-stop (f-22 and deeper often) in order to make a small object close to the lens to have the depth of field of a large object farther from the lens. So either you need a lot of light, a low frame rate, or both.

Generally you need close-focusing wider-angle lenses, sometimes snorkel or probe lenses to move the camera in places the camera body won't fit.

When ILM switched to using Sony digital cameras on "Attack of the Clones" they had to shoot some miniatures at 24 fps because they couldn't use low frame rates (they eventually got some 950's that could).
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#4 Ashim

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 12:43 PM

David,

What is the task of a motion control camera in shooting these miniatures? What is it in MoCo that a normal camera cant do?

Thanks
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 01:17 PM

David,

What is the task of a motion control camera in shooting these miniatures? What is it in MoCo that a normal camera cant do?

Thanks


Hi,

For miniatures the camera can run at a very slow speed, that helps get a small T stop without melting the models! A matched and scaled camera move, can then be run at 24 fps or faster for live action elements.

Stephen
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#6 Will Earl

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Posted 11 October 2006 - 08:37 PM

David,

What is the task of a motion control camera in shooting these miniatures? What is it in MoCo that a normal camera cant do?

Thanks


Typically "normal" cameras are used, they just hooked up to a motion control rig, which controls all the functions normally given to an operator.

There's lots of reasons why motion controlled cameras are used in miniature photography...

Often miniatures are shot in multiple passes: Beauty, Key Only, Fill Only, Matte, Atmosphere. So you need to be able to repeat the same camera move over and over again. These passes are used to help the compositor blend the CG/live-action/miniatures together.

You may also need to shoot multiple miniature elements which all need the same camera move.

Also as Stephen point out you can shoot at a slower speed, which requires less intense lighting.

There are also cases where the required camera move is too fast for any sort of dolly or motion control system to be able to physicially perform. By having a slower moving motion control rig shooting at a lower frame rate you can shoot really fast, impossible moves.

Adding to what David pointed out about SW:Ep II, I'm under the impression (I'm not certain) they also came up with a software solution to help deal with the fact that the cameras couldn't shoot at higher or lower frame rates.
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#7 Ashim

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 12:27 AM

Thank you for your input, its helped in my understanding this topic, which I was wanting to for some while now.

I knew the "normal camera" thing wld raise raise some eyebrows.
I guess it was a very inaccurate and immature description...HaHa...Sorry Will

Alright But one thing Stephen mentioned that we usually shot at lower
frame rates for miniature to avoid an inferno...Fine....say 1 fps
But now I shoot my live action elements at 24fps...Now how do I merge these two shots with disparate speeds???
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#8 Michael Collier

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 12:35 AM

Also imagine the standard stability of an op working fluid head without the locks on (or imagine any kind of motion that an operator would impart)

Even the best ops would have small shakes. Not a huge problem in full scale, but a slight wiggle on a shot of a space ship could mean the ship moving up and down several hundred feet.

I have thought about this problem in the past, and its not limited to camera work. Imagine what would happen if humans were 1/2 the scale we are. I bet gold prices would plummet, along with a million other changes in our day to day.
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 12:47 AM

Alright But one thing Stephen mentioned that we usually shot at lower
frame rates for miniature to avoid an inferno...Fine....say 1 fps
But now I shoot my live action elements at 24fps...Now how do I merge these two shots with disparate speeds???


The miniature shot at 1 fps with very, very, very SLOW movement on the part of the camera and/or model is just played back at 24 fps. It doesn't look sped-up at 24 fps because it moved so slowly when being shot at 1 fps. In other words, you have to move everything 24 times slower than normal at 1 fps so that when projected at 24 fps, it looks normal speed.

Again, this means that the camera movement has to be very perfect and very slow in order to be sped-up so much on playback at 24 fps and yet look normal, and it means that nothing about the miniature can have something that gives away that it is being sped-up (like water), otherwise, you may have to shoot at very high frame rates instead to give it scale, and thus need much, much more light in order to stop down the lens.
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#10 Stephen Williams

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 02:09 AM

I knew the "normal camera" thing wld raise raise some eyebrows.

Alright But one thing Stephen mentioned that we usually shot at lower
frame rates for miniature to avoid an inferno...Fine....say 1 fps
But now I shoot my live action elements at 24fps...Now how do I merge these two shots with disparate speeds???


Ashim,

Normal cameras tend to be modified Mitchells as they are cheap to buy and very steady. When budget is not an issue a 435 advanced or extreme may be used.

If the rig can cope with the highest speed then it is possible to shoot at up to 120fps (Mitchell), and at any slower speed with the moves (and motion blur) matching.

David Stump's Mitchell #1344 It has TWO interference fit registration pins courtesy of camera engineer Jeff
Williamson (Ultracam Designer) and will run to 160fps! Not bad for a camera built around 1960!

For increasing DOF I have shot multi passes with the focus in different possitions, most lenses stopped down past T8 loose sharpness, not so much an issue for TV but obvious on a big screen!

Stephen
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#11 Felipe Perez-Burchard

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 06:18 AM

Not the same issue, but related...

Generally do Stop Motion films that are dealing with smaller scale puppets shot at much deeper stops than live action films today for the same reason of DOF?
Obviosly it depends on the scale and the DOF desired by the DP, but does it tend to be say a 5.6 for a night interior instead of a 2.8, or and 11 or 16 for an "exterior" scene?

Furthermore, is anyone aware of fitting an anamorphic element on a still lens for a stop motion film? or any anamorphic stop motion films for that matter?

I'm new to shooting animation...

Thanks for your input.

-felipe.
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#12 Ashim

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 07:46 AM

David

Thanks again:
The miniature shot at 1 fps with very, very, very SLOW movement on the part of the camera and/or model is just played back at 24 fps. It doesn't look sped-up at 24 fps because it moved so slowly when being shot at 1 fps. In other words, you have to move everything 24 times slower than normal at 1 fps so that when projected at 24 fps, it looks normal speed.

That was really cool
Gracias!
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 09:42 AM

Since stop-motion isn't limited to 24 fps, as a general rule they shoot miniatures & puppets at deep stops, like f/16 let's say. The lack of close-focus anamorphic lenses that are physically small, plus the lower depth of field, has meant that there hasn't been much anamorphic stop-motion that I can recall. Maybe for bits of the "Star Wars" films or other ILM stop motion and go-motion work, but they were more likely to have used VistaVision.
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#14 Felipe Perez-Burchard

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 01:54 PM

The lack of close-focus anamorphic lenses that are physically small, plus the lower depth of field, has meant that there hasn't been much anamorphic stop-motion that I can recall.


Thanks David,
That makes a lot of sense and seems obvious, I don't know why it didn't occurr to me.

Best,
-felipe.
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#15 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 01:56 PM

Furthermore, is anyone aware of fitting an anamorphic element on a still lens for a stop motion film? or any anamorphic stop motion films for that matter?


Jiri Trnka's 'A Midsummer's Night Dream' was 'scope.
There are a couple of perfecctly charming clips on this site:

http://www.darkstrid.../gallery2a.html

Tha attachment is not from the above, but the puppeten are probably the same scale.

Harryhausen's 'First Men in the Moon' was Panavision. But he didn't use his usual rear projection.
the Beast of Hollow Mountain' was Cinemascope. he rear projection shots have too shallow DOF.

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#16 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 12 October 2006 - 02:23 PM

Jiri Trnka's 'A Midsummer's Night Dream' was 'scope.
There are a couple of perfecctly charming clips on this site:

http://www.darkstrid.../gallery2a.html

Tha attachment is not from the above, but the puppeten are probably the same scale.

Harryhausen's 'First Men in the Moon' was Panavision. But he didn't use his usual rear projection.
'The Beast of Hollow Mountain' was Cinemascope. The rear projection shots have too shallow DOF.


My session expired.

Also Dave Allen's unfinished 'The Primevals' was being shot with B&L CinemaScope lenses and CU dioptres.

So not many have been done. But it's not impossible.

As to f/stops, there's a shot in 'The Giant Behemoth' where the behemoth comes out of the rhames and walks into the camera. To get the needed DOF, W.O'Brian and PetePetersen pulled the pin on the f/stop ring and stoped the lens past the marked numbers. They did tests to get the correct exposure.

& Harryhausen used blue screen for 'First Men in the Moon.'
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#17 Ashim

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Posted 14 October 2006 - 06:30 AM

THE CITY OF GONDOR... in Lor wasnt that a miniature along with live action and vfx...

Could someone kindly gimme a rundown of the way the sequence must have been shot.(I am talking about the one in which Gandalf rides to the City with merry or pippin...)
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#18 Ashim

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Posted 14 October 2006 - 06:44 AM

Specifically the steps involved to get the shots.

Thanks
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#19 Will Earl

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 02:48 AM

THE CITY OF GONDOR... in Lor wasnt that a miniature along with live action and vfx...

Could someone kindly gimme a rundown of the way the sequence must have been shot.(I am talking about the one in which Gandalf rides to the City with merry or pippin...)


I wasn't around for film three, so I don't know the absolute specifics of Pelennor fields (even for me, it's very hard to tell what techniques were used in different shots)

The city was shot as a miniature and intergrated with live-action and CG elements. However not every shot were the city appears would have been shot by the Miniatures Dept.

Reference stills of the city would have also been used as...

* textures which are projected onto a 3D model of the city.
* elements as part of a digital matte painting.

Also tile sets were shot, which allow for pan/tilt movement in post of a miniatures shot.
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#20 Ashim

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Posted 15 October 2006 - 11:15 AM

Will:

What exactly are tile shots?

Thanks
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