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Working with miniatures


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#1 Benjamin_Lussier

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Posted 19 October 2005 - 09:54 PM

high.. Im working on a personal project.. a pilot that requires miniatures...

I cant find any info on miniatures for visual effects.. its like a well kept hollywood secret...
I know about the technical issues like the frame rate (I'll try to slow it down in post with frame interpolation as much as possible) cuz its video...

But I need to know how to build em.... little tricks and tips never hurt...cant find anything c
And also..

THe only camera I have is the DVX100A.... I dont have a lipstick cam... or motion control...

How can I do miniature photography with the dvx100a? Lense adapters...settings... focus... ect... Can you guys help me out ?

Thank you

Ben
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 12:33 AM

Get the book "The Technique of Special Effects Cinematography" by Raymond Fielding for starters. Read the pre-digital years of Cinefex magazine.

This is too big a field to answer in a few questions. Partially it requires you to imagine how you would shoot this miniature if it were full-sized. How far back would you be, how low, etc. Wide-angle lenses help make objects look larger. You need more depth of field (easier with small DV cameras) and you need to be able to focus closely. As for shooting them in slow-motion, that just depends on if they move in a way that requires scale. You can't tell the motion difference between shooting a very slow moving spaceship model at a few frames per second versus a fast moving model at a very high frame rate, hence why those miniatures are often shot at low frame rates in order to get more exposure and stop down more.

As for building miniatures, that's a little like asking for help in doing a matte painting -- it's a craft and an artform that takes years to perfect your skills. There are plenty of modelmaking books and magazines out there these days.
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#3 Benjamin_Lussier

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 01:34 AM

hmmmm
"There are plenty of modelmaking books and magazines out there these days"

Can you name a few? I can find info on miniatures for dolls and stuff like that... But not hyper detailing like visual effects...

:blink:

I'm pretty sure I'll need to slow down the shot, because its a bit foggy and the camera moves on a rig.
I heard the new panasonic.. the one coming out this winter could do 60P... is it true ?

>>You need more depth of field (easier with small DV cameras) and you need to be able to focus closely...>>

Dyu mean having everything in focus ? Would a wideangle adapter do the job ?


As for building miniatures...
Yeah it requires special skills I admit... But you'd be surprised of how crappy they often look before compositing... We've already started to build one for a long shot.. out of styro foam and it looks surprisingly okay....

BUT... we need tips on micro detailing... like Tree branches, plants, glass, bricks, grass. There's something fun, smtg enjoyable about the physicality of the whole process... that makes it easier... If u just look at most of the artists at Weta Workshop... most of them had never worked on miniatures before... In almost every aspect... I reckon it's easier to learn than Matte Painting... there're very few great matte painters in this world... U have to understand light and perspective and cheat it... with a miniature ... its already there.. thats wut I love about it. Cant wait to see wut Weta's work on king kong :)

Ben
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#4 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 07:17 AM

One good trick that was touched upon in the latest King Kong video blog was the fact that if you're trying to emulate sunshine and sunlighting, it's important to get the source far back enough to replicate the parallell beams of the sun. This is hard to do with minitures, because you need the stop, and moving the source backfor it to be near parallell, you lose the stop and need ever bigger lights. So one trick is to use multiple sources, all angled for a parallell effect.

As David said, old Cinefex is a wealth of information. You can buy them on Ebay. I used to subscribe, but I lost interest when it all went digital.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 08:58 AM

BUT... we need tips on micro detailing... like Tree branches, plants, glass, bricks, grass. Ben


Model train magazines and books (and stores like the Allied Trains on Sepulveda in Culver City) are all about those things.
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#6 Dickson Sorensen

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 10:23 AM

Several points-

Make your miniature as large as possible for your space. Its easier to build and paint larger, less problem with depth of field. less scaling factor, easier to install lighting and motor control if needed inside miniature.

Avoid if possible elements that don't scale well, water, clouds, steam, smoke, fire. Some can be put in in post more effectively.

Try to choose a scale that is used by model makers. You can get all kinds of stuff from doll house and model railroad suppliers as mentioned above. Again try to work as large as possible.

Consider using forced perspective if appropriat.

Add atmospheric haze.

Models built to be seen in the distance should not have more detail than those in the foreground.

Keep camera movements smooth. An 1/8 inch bump in a dolly move at 1/12 scale would be like rolling over a golf ball.
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#7 Benjamin_Lussier

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 11:55 AM

Thanks guys....

I saw the new video diary on kong.net... Too bad I cant afford motion control on this one...

Im definitely going to make a big miniature... a biggature because I dont have a lipstick cam... and it becomes a problem because most of the things they sell for miniatures in hobby shops... like mini trees ect. are very small.


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#8 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 04:20 PM

this is kind of a difficult thing to give advice on. it's almost like asking someone about how to surf.

one good tip is to build into your shot some motivated elements that are very scale-dependant that can be composited in, like smoke. smoke is very easy to composite in, coming out of a pipe or chimney or something, and there's lots of stock footage of it available. the same with fire and sparks.

if your shot needs it, then add depth-inducing haze with controlled smoke/fog or successive layers of wedding veil material.

if you feel comfortable with your compositing skills, then use a greenscreen background and add in real sky/background footage. in older films that didn't use green/bluescreen in their miniature shots, the achilles heel is often the painted background/sky.

there's an equilibrium of detailed craftsmanship vs. time that usually takes a lot of experience to know. but since you're shooting on your dvx100, you can easily put your miniatures in front of the camera under the lighting setup to see if it looks good enough.

trees are a no-brainer. just buy some. they're not really worth the time to make yourself, especially if you need a lot of them. you can get them (and lots of other great materials) at plastruct.com. also, for foilage/dirt/sand/rocks try a big pet store's reptile section.

for cities and buildings, get a collection of high-res stock textures intended for 3D models or take photos of the textures you want. you can print them out and paste them onto the structures. a great time saver for stuff in the middle/background, or really anything for the limited resolution of dv.

generally, miniature modelmaking is comprised of two halves: creating the structure and painting the structure. it's much easier to put most of the load on the painting than creating the structure, though i guess this depends on your painting skills/knowledge.

sophisticated lighting setups can be very challenging and require a lot of gear. the standard hollywood "pools of light" look is even more difficult to achieve when you're working at 1/12th scale.

you can see some of the aforementioned techniques here http://www.jaanshen...._ttvthumbs.html. the brickwall was photographed and printed on regular matte finish printer paper. the wood paneling in the elevator is a printout too. and most everything else would look like ass without the paint techniques.

also, there's a lot of great info at http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/

hope this helps,
jaan
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 05:02 PM

Hi,

White LEDs are you friend...

Phil
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#10 Benjamin_Lussier

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 05:16 PM

Woh thanks Jaan

Have you built miniatures before ? Can I email you if I need help ?

As far as compositing goes Im not worried... Im a compositor... slowly trying to make it as a director or DP. Ive composited miniatures before and I know what I have to do in post to make it look convincing... Im just trying to gather as much info about the process of actually making them... We're a small team... about five people.. and none of us have actually made a miniature... But they're all talented and creative people... So Im not worried.

What will I find in a pet store's reptile section that could help me... ? lol


THanks

Ben

Edited by Benny_the_kid, 20 October 2005 - 05:19 PM.

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#11 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 06:31 PM

Have you built miniatures before ? Can I email you if I need help ?

What will I find in a pet store's reptile section that could help me... ? lol


i did that stuff for those thumbs commercials in the link i posted and a lot of miniatures for my own project i'm doing. the pet store has some great stuff-- reptile bark looks like miniature rocks and paint sticks to it very well. there are many different kinds of sand and gravel, and since it's intended for pets, it's all non-toxic and it comes in manageable quantities, is varied in size and texture, and is clean (factors that aren't that easy to come by when looking for such things from industrial suppliers). also, the various reptile foilage stuff is great since it's so unusual looking that veiwers won't be able to spot the scale as easily. one thing about reptile sand... if you need your ground or a model to have some organic tactility, you can spray it with super77 and cover it in the sand and shake off the excess. this particular technique has saved me a lot of time.

i'm not really a seasoned pro at this stuff, but feel free to email me... jaan(at)jaanshen.com
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#12 Dimitrios Koukas

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 06:29 AM

Hi,

White LEDs are you friend...

Phil


Phil Is right here,
and also fibre-optic lights.
Also try to use some lenses infront of your lens upside down (head to head), maybe you get make your own macro lenses this way.
C mount lenses at 25mm are good for things like this or try if you can find any panfocus lens at 10mm.
C mount too for 16mm.
Dimitrios Koukas
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