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Need help with an FX shot (pull out from actor's iris)


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#1 Peter Reynolds

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 01:18 PM

Hi there.

We're shooting a short fantasy film, and there's an FX shot that's proving to be a challenge. In this scene our actor is talking about the universe, which is represented on screen as blackness with a few stars. We then want to transitition to the actor's iris and pull out from the iris to a full shot of the actor's face.

My DP and I figure that the move from the iris (full frame) to a medium shot of the actors face can't be done in one move.

We'd love to get anyone's thoughts on how to get this effect and what gear (lenses, diopters, etc) we would need to accomplish it. Can it be done in one move? Do we need to do an FX morph between two moves?

We'll most likely be shooting with an Arriflex BL4 with a green screen backdrop.

Thanks in advance.

Best,

Peter
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#2 adam berk

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 07:54 PM

Don't even bother with the move... Get the neg scanned at a minimum of 1920x1080, give it to your compositor and let him or her add the move in post.
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#3 Peter Reynolds

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 09:35 PM

Thanks Adam.

Just to be clear, you're suggesting no camera move at all. We would just shoot the actor speaking (in close up) and have the move done as a digital "zoom" by our compositor?

Would the image hold up under that much zoom? We'd be starting from a full shot of the face and zooming to the black of the actor's iris. I'm not that familiar with the resolution of 35mm, so I'm interested to know if it would work.

I look forward to your response.

Best,

Peter

P.S. Just so you know, the film will ultimately be transfered to HDCam for editing.
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 10:06 PM

Doing it completely in post isn't going to work.

You're talking about a shot that begins so close that the black portion of the eye fills the frame -- that's MUCH tighter than even an insert of a single eyeball. So even if you did a zoom-out from a full-frame shot of a single eyeball to a CU of a face, you're still going to have to digitally enlarge by 100% just to get inside the black portion of the iris, which is pretty grainy even in a 35mm frame.

"Star Trek: First Contact" begins with exactly this shot; I think they had to digitally replace the eyeball with a digital still photo or large-format shot of an ECU of an eyeball so they could then zoom out digitally from the black center, then matted the whole eyeball over the actual eyeball of Patrick Stewart's face, which had a camera pull-back (this pull-back on the face was then matted over a CGI version of Stewart's body so they could keep pulling back to a wide shot of the Borg ship.)

This way there was no change in grain size when they digitally zoomed out of the iris. The old-fashioned approach would be to just get as tight as you could with the zoom for the beginning and enlarge further in post to begin tighter, but then you have a very grainy shot at the beginning, which gets less grainy as you end up with actual frame, which begins the optical zoom, which then usually feathers into a dolly move back. Of course, you could try digitally degraining the beginning of the shot.
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#5 Peter Reynolds

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Posted 07 December 2007 - 10:57 PM

Thanks David.

I am familiar with "First Contact" and you're right, it's exactly the look I'm going for.

I had considered taking a high resolution digital photo of the actors eye (which can be zoomed digitally) and then matching it to a standard camera move from the eye to the face. Our compositor should be able to do this.

Quick question. If I wanted to dolly from a close up of the face (say the eye with some nose) to a head-to-toe shot. What kind of lens would you recommend? Also, how far would I have to dolly out to?

Thanks again for the feedback.

Best,

Peter
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 12:02 AM

I think you're going to have to use a zoom, hopefully one with a decent close-focus so you don't have to go too telephoto.

Think about it -- the best prime probably would be a 50mm macro, but you can't get close enough to get just one eye without practically bumping the camera into the actor, or shadowing the face with the camera. But even a 50mm would be a pretty long track to get to head-to-toe.

Looking at a field of view chart, in standard 1.85 35mm, you have a vertical field of view of about 3" on a 50mm lens if the camera is 1' away (the chart doesn't get closer than 2', which sees 6" vertically in 1.85, so that's a guess). So to get a vertical view of 5' 11", you'd have to dolly back until you were 25' away from the subject.

So you see the problem if you try doing it on a wider-angle lens so the dolly move is shorter -- it gets even harder to get as tight on the eye without the lens practically touching the face. And if you put a better lens for the insert, like a 100mm macro, then you're dollying back 50' now to get head-to-toe.

So if you want to use a prime, try the 50mm macro and be prepared to track back 25'. If you want to use a zoom and bury a zoom out as you dolly back, you could try something like a Cooke 20-100mm, which focuses to about 2'4", which is maybe 4" vertical view at minimal focus - then if you ended up at 25mm at the end of the move, your dolly move might only be a little over 12 feet.

You may have to consider having the crew break-up and disconnect the first section of track as you pull back so that you won't see it at the widest position. Or you could use a jib arm or dolly offset to stick the camera out further from the end of the dolly, but you might not be able to get it steady enough when you are at the tightest position on the long end of the zoom. Or hide the track by throwing a carpet over it as you pull back, or a piece of furniture in the foreground snuck in as the camera pulled back.

If you're really going to need to start tighter on the eye, more like full-frame, you may need to use a 25-250mm zoom. Since most of those won't focus closer than 5'6", you may need to use the lightest diopter filter, which will make focus-pulling really, really harder.

I recommend lighting to the highest f-stop you can.
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#7 Peter Reynolds

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 09:47 AM

Thanks again David. Your post was a veritable cornucopia of useful information.

I'll pass along your recommendations to our DP, and post any questions he may have. I agree that it makes sense to go with a zoom lens, it's just a question of cost at this point. Rental houses (at least here in Toronto) like to charge a small fortune for them.

We're going to try a test on Monday. I see about posting the results on this forum.

Have a great weekend.

Peter
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#8 Michael Nash

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 11:46 AM

I've assisted these kinds of shots in various capacities, and David pretty much hits the highlights. You usually do need to arm out from a dolly; you usually do need to hide a zoom in the pullback. Focus pulling is a MAJOR pain because it requires a lot of smooth rotation up close and exponentially less as you pull back. If you chose to do the move more slowly and undercrank just to give your focus puller a fighting chance, you run the risk of the move or the actor's movements looking jerky at normal speed. It's best to have one person do focus and another do the zoom.

Lighting and photographing an eyeball up close is a whole other subject, as the surface of the eye is a convex mirror that reflects everything.
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#9 Peter Reynolds

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 11:52 PM

Thanks Michael. Looks like it will be a challenge all around but I confident with my team. I'll be sure to post the results.

Have a great weekend.

Peter

P.S. Any recomendations for lighting "up-close-and-personal" with our actor's eyeball?

Edited by Peter Reynolds, 08 December 2007 - 11:52 PM.

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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 December 2007 - 11:59 PM

Keep the camera, dolly, operator and AC draped in black, put a black background behind them, and light from the side and flag the light off of the camera as best you can. If this is a real world setting, have the person sit right next to a window or table lamp (or a piece of furniture with a hot patch of sunlight on it) and use that to light the face, so the reflection in the eye is of a real practical source. Otherwise, either use a hard side light and have that hard sparkle in the eye, or a large frame of diffusion, again from the side, which will create a white square reflection in the eye. Some people put a grid of black tape on the diffusion frame to make it look like window panes.
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#11 adam berk

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Posted 09 December 2007 - 04:00 PM

I wanted to offer up the most simple solution possible. I have done plenty of "zoom-out-from-the-eye" shots, and some of them have been more complex than others. Some of them were shot just as I had described before consulting with us (the post facility). If the pull-out is fast enough, and the compositor applies the appropriate amount of motion blur, an HD or 2k transfer will generally hold up just fine assuming the subject was lit appropriately, in focus, with a sharp lens. I also like David's idea about replacing just the eyeball with a higher res image. This, of course makes the comp more complex but would definitely be worth a shot. It could allow you to start the pull out slowly, then snap back with motion blur.
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#12 Doug Zajaczkowski

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 02:07 AM

Read this article today and thought it might be of use:
http://www.theasc.co...ks/tip-glf1.htm
Good luck with the shot!
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