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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Hall


I recently did a project with a tremendous amount of creature effects as well as one very extensive makeup and prosthetics.  The first concern for the teams is always “How can we make it look more organic?”.  Knowing that we didn’t have the option to shoot film, I opted for the Arri “Alexa”  for a number of reasons but ultimately due to the fact that its image structure and natural falloff is the most “film-like” of all the digital systems I have seen.  However, even with this system it is still limited by the fact that it is an electronic image, everything is sharp and uniform (you dealing with 1’s & 0’s and not randomized organic film grains).  In order to help take the digital “edge” off of HD cameras, cinematographers have done a number of things over the years- the first of which was filtration, but in beginning (2002) the only options available were the classics (Classic soft, Glamour glass, Fog, Soft FX, White/Black Pro-mist, and Netting the back of lenses with pantyhose…).  Another action taken was to shoot with very old lenses- basically the ones you didn’t want to shoot film with because they had lost their sharpness and maybe had an unusually shallow focus.  The last option was to downgrade the image in post (adding “grain”, lowering the sharpness, or adding a layer of diffusion), but we all remember how good the post filter world was back then right?…not the best.

Focusing on filter specifically, we have come a long way.  The glass I mentioned above always seemed to either do way too much or nothing at all, until now.  I got the chance to finally test the new Tiffen Black Satin® filters and was very happy with the results.  The major differences between the these and the former Pro-mist Tiffen line are:

  1. The amount of blooming of highlights

  2. The absence of mixed contrast fogging

  3. The naturalized fine detail smoothing

This is an example I found (I can’t upload any of my film yet, sorry) that shows an example of with and without filtration.  The LEFT frame is filterless and the RIGHT is with a Black Satin 1.

What I liked about the filters is their ability to lower the contrast of skin texture without loosing detail in major areas like eyes and hair.  This did very good things for our makeup FX.  Prosthetics and skin blended more harmoniously as did creature FX and puppets.  There is still a little work to be done in the DI to help match everything perfect, but this certainly helped us get very close.  What I would like to do (and hope to do on the next one) is to have these filters fit into rear mount kits for the Alexa system.  So basically an easier, more contemporary version of netting lenses.  I will keep you in the loop on that.

Below is a video example that shows the filters on two different skin pigments as well as with a raw light source.

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