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Silent Film Technique


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#1 Joshua Tanner

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 07:06 PM

Hi im shooting a 16mm short in the style of the early 20's silent films, im shooting it hand cranked with a pathe webo but what i want to know is how to do iris in and iris out 'in camera' like they often did on these silent films. any help would be greatly appreciated
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#2 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 08:09 PM

Hi im shooting a 16mm short in the style of the early 20's silent films, im shooting it hand cranked with a pathe webo but what i want to know is how to do iris in and iris out 'in camera' like they often did on these silent films. any help would be greatly appreciated


iris in and iris out? what do you mean?
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#3 Steve Zimmerman

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 09:11 PM

I assume you could use something like these iris's for spotlights.

http://tinyurl.com/3ywx5q
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#4 Joshua Tanner

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 01:51 AM

iris in and iris out? what do you mean?


In silent films they would matte out everything except a small circle on a character for example anbd then that circle would expand to reveal the whole scene or image. same thing in reverse to iris out.
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#5 Tim Hawkins

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 06:47 AM

I saw someone who had a little metal iris for his Bolex that did exactly that. Maybe have a hunt round ebay
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#6 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 01:12 PM

In silent films they would matte out everything except a small circle on a character for example anbd then that circle would expand to reveal the whole scene or image. same thing in reverse to iris out.


I see. A zooming circular black matte (its special-effects-editors real name) in post would be easier to control in case you can't find anything that works for the "in camera" end of things. Otherwise you could find a big enough black foam core board, cut a smooth-edged circle in it and move it back and forth from the camera to the actors. I would go in and out of focus probably but I don't see a way around that, even with the little metal shutter/ iris Tim talks about (which would just stay out of focus) unless you do it in post, which is fast, control-able and easy. I would, however, shoot at 16fps to give it that fast motion look that most silent films had. Just an idea.

Edited by saulie rodgar, 09 January 2008 - 01:13 PM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 02:37 PM

Moving a circle in and away from a lens isn't going to work.

You need a physical iris in front of the lens. Some people have used ones from lights.
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